5 ideas about a movie: The Promise 

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

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

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Promise trailer 

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Movie review: War Machine

Movie reviews

Hi!

As the counterprogramming to Pirates 5 and Baywatch (review coming in a few weeks cause international release schedules), Netflix released its newest original picture – War Machine. Since I’m not seeing Wonder Woman till Monday, I decided to make War Machine my movie of the weekend. I have already reviewed a Netflix film before and given you my general thoughts on Netflix’s attempt to break into the movie business. Weirdly, that picture was also a war drama – Sand Castle. I didn’t enjoy it much but I’m still hopeful about War Machine.

IMDb summary: A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon, leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé

Writing 

War Machine was written by the director of the film David Michôd, based on the non-fiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. I quite enjoyed a variety of aspects of the writing for this film. To begin with, I loved the acknowledgment of the internationality of the war and the importance of the involvement of the other NATO nation’s as well as of the Afghans themselves.

I also was intrigued by the satirical air of the movie. It was so refhreshing to see a serious issue, like war, being examined with a level of irony, especially nowadays, when everybody gets offended by everything. More importantly, the satirical approach was so suitable for the topic of war because of the inherent hopelessness and even stupidity within it. The lack of final resolution to the narrative was also very appropriate as there isn’t actually a final solution to the war(s) in the Middle East.

In addition to the movie being bold in its choice of tone, it was also very daring in its message. That message sounded simple and yet it is so hard for a lot of Western nations to comprehend: ‘you cannot build a nation at gunpoint’ and ‘don’t invade a country you want to make friends with’.

War Machine was also unique in that it did not focus on the physical fighting of the war but rather looked at the paperwork, the planning, and the advertising side of it. I also loved how the team behind the general was spotlighted – I never did think how much is happening behind the scenes or behind the leader. Moreover, the divide between the military and the polity and all the miscommunication that was occuring was fascinating to see.

The writing for the main character (who is based on a real person) was also really good. I loved how idealistic he was – a sort of guy who makes you believe that there is good in the world. And yet, there were still layers to his idealism and I liked the fact that the movie questioned his motives. Were they trully as altruistic as they seemed? The conclusion to the narrative was also complex. I felt that, even though the article, written by the Rolling Stones journalist (who acted as the movie’s version of the real life author, who wrote the book the script was based on), destroyed the General’s career, this film was quite respectuful of it and him. Ultimately, he was painted in a good light, so to say.

Lastly, to end this long passage on the writing, let’s critique one aspect of the screenplay which was lacking – the structure of the narrative and the way it was presented. Of course, I am talking about narration. I do understand that the narration in this film could be sort of justified by saying that it’s the author/the journalist who is telling a story (and that actor did narrate the whole thing). However, the narration is such a cheap story device. Yes, it makes the plot very clear and is easy to understand. But it also makes it boring. I really wish the story could have been conveyed more organically and cinematically rather than just being spelled out for the viewers verbally.

Directing

David Michôd, a director of shorts and documentaries, helmed War Machine and did a good job. The movie was well-paced and the comedic/satirical atmosphere – well handled. The film did not have a lot of sequences of fighting and they weren’t missed – the dialogue and the character interactions were engaging enough. Having said that, the third act’s action sequence was well-crafted and suspenseful. Another sequence which I really liked was the conference in Germany and the stand-off between the German politician and the General. I also loved the ending shot of the film and how it represented the idea of hopelessness and the closed-loop of war. Same place, same job, different people. Doesn’t really matter who, though.

Acting

Brad Pitt (The Big Short, Allied, By The Sea) delivered career-defining performance as General Glen McMahon. The best I have seen from him in years. The performance was so complex, involving all the parts of the body and the face (especially, the eyebrows and the eyes). Also, he did some amazing voice modification for the role – the play with the accent and intonations was spectacular. I also loved how he delivered a comedic performance without being disrespectful. He should definitely get at least a Golden Globe nomination. Pitt also served as a producer – he does that a lot nowadays. He also produces films he does not star in.

The aforementioned team behind the General consisted of a bunch of actors of varying caliber, including Anthony Hayes, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Daniel Betts, and Topher Grace. They all were good and their chemistry and comradeship seemed believable.

The journalist, who was inspired by the real-life writer, who wrote the book the script was based on, was played by Scoot McNairy. He also narrated the whole movie. Will Poulter and Keith Stanfield played two soldiers ‘on the ground’ who actually did the fighting. Stanfield’s character’s confusion about the war was an interesting aspect. I wish it were explored more.

Tilda Swinton also appeared in a single scene as a German politician. While I can’t comment on her German accent, I thought that she was absolutely amazing in the 5 min she was on screen.  Ben Kingsley also had a small role in the film – a quite typical one for him – that of a leader/person from an Eastern country.

In short, War Machine worked well as a biographical drama and as a war film. More importantly, the commentary provided was not only thought-provoking but presented in an entertaining way.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: War Machine trailer

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Movie review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Movie reviews

Hello!

The 15th MCU movie and a sequel to the 2014’s Marvel gamble – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 – has premiered on my side of the world, so, I’m going to talk about it!

IMDb summary: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Before I review the actual film, here are the links to my previous Marvel reviews, starting with GOTG Vol.1Doctor Strange, Civil War, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Captain America 1 + 2.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing

The writer and director of the first film – James Gunn – also penned the screenplay for the sequel. Overall, I very much enjoyed seeing the continuation of the Guardians story but I did feel that the first act of the film was a bit wonky. I thought that the set-up involving The Sovereign was choppy. In addition, The Sovereign were not utilized in a useful way throughout the rest of the movie (they just popped up in the third act because the film needed to have an even bigger space battle – they were basically the sequel’s Nova Corps). Plus, the fact that Aysha was interested in Peter’s heritage and, in the very next scene, Peter’s dad Ego suddenly appeared seemed as just too much of a coincidence.

The jokes and the banter at the beginning also seemed a bit forced. They were the bad kind of cheesy. However, as the picture progressed, the humor got way better and the narrative also found its footing and started to unfold quite cohesively. GOTG 2 just needed those first 30 minutes to get going and it could afford that, being a 2h+ movie.

I also really liked the character development in the film. I loved learning more about Peter, his past, and his dad. Ego was a wonderful addition to the cast and I also really enjoyed the fact that they turned him into a villain. And he actually was a good Marvel villain – menacing and threatening! I liked the fact that his and Yondu’s backstories fit together quite organically as well. I’m just worried that the filmmakers might have overpowered Ego – I can’t imagine what will Thanos be like?

A character which surprised me a lot was Yondu – I did not think much about him in the first film but the reveal of his backstory and true feelings towards Peter made him into a wonderful character. Sucks that he met his end as soon as I started to like him. The other new addition to the Guardians (well, sort of) was Nebula – I did enjoy learning more about her and thought that her and Gamora’s relationship progressed nicely. The definite newcomer – Mantis – was also a fun new inclusion. I loved the duo she and Drax made.

Lastly, I loved the thematical core of the film – the Guardians coming to terms with the fact that they care about each other and are a family. Yes, the family angle is cheesy and overdone (Fast and Furious in space) but it still works and has a universal appeal.

Directing

James Gunn, once again, directed the movie (and he also just recently announced that he will be back to helm Vol. 3). I believe that he did a great job. The visual design was just extraordinary, especially the visual realization of Ego in his various forms. I loved the landscapes of his planet as well as his appearance as a human. The visual sequence of Ego rebuilding his human body from a skeleton to being Kurt Russell was really impressive. The fact that they actually put a face on a planet was also really cool and a neat nod to the character’s representation in the comics. Another great visual sequence was Yondu’s ‘Ravager’s funeral’: it was so colorful and actually emotional. An extremely funny visual was the space travel facial distortion – it was such an unexpected but really brilliant gag.

The ‘money shot’ – the round shot of all the Guardians standing together was also just glorious. The camera work, in general, was very vibrant and elaborate – and it made the action look amazing. The opening shot was really great too – the focus on the Baby Groot with the action happening in the background was a really inventive and funny way to kickstart the film. Generally, Baby Groot was a complete scene-stealer. Huge props to the CGI department for realizing an animated (basically) character and adding so much personality (much more than the adult Groot had) to his movements and facial expressions. I also loved the fact that his size was an asset to the team and that Baby Groot was part of a final solution, not just the cuteness relief (a cute version of comic relief). Lastly, I loved the two visual gags and how they were both part of the story and fun references to the real life – I, of course, am talking about the cameos by David Hasselhoff and Pac-Man.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also really good – equal to the soundtrack of its predecessor. Tyler Bates was responsible for the music but I think Gunn also had a hand in picking the songs. I also appreciated the fact that the music was half-diegetic and a part of the story.

Acting/Favorite Character Moments

  • Chris Pratt (Passengers, Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven, The Lego Movie) as Peter Quill / Star-Lord. Pratt was really good in the role – he has that infinite charm of a leading man and I can’t wait for him to appear on screen with other MCU leading men, like Robert Downey Jr. I also though that Pratt’s and Kurt Russell’s/Ego’s (The Hateful Eight) chemistry was believable. I bought them as father and son for a while and that scene with the ball was really touching and a nice callback to Peter missing out on this type of activity during childhood because of a lack of father figure.
  • Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Beyond) was also good as Gamora, my favorite shot with her was when she picked up that oversized gun. Her and Karen Gillan’s/Nebula’s (The Big Short, The Circle (premiering this weekend in the US as well)) chemistry was good and the banter – really enjoyable.
  • Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Bautista’s acting abilities have improved since the first film and his unapologetic and unironic comic relief was amazing. His budding relationship with Pom Klementieff’s Mantis was also lovely. Their scene on the steps was really moving. Klementieff was a nice addition to the cast and her performance was appropriate for the character.
  • Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta. The scene-stealer of the film. I loved the sequence where he used the arrow to escape from the Ravagers. It was just spectacular. I would have loved to see more of Rooker’s performance in subsequent films, but, oh well.
  • Vin Diesel (Fast&Furious) as the voice of Baby Groot  I have no idea why Diesel returned to voice Groot when Baby Groot sounds nothing like Vin Diesel. Well, at least they can put his name on the adverts and posters and that will get them a lot of money in China. 
  • Bradley Cooper (War Dogs, Joy) as the voice of Rocket. Cooper’s voice somehow fits Rocket’s appearance and behavior. I loved how the actor depicted the character’s dry sense of humor.
  • Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Aysha. While Debicki did look cool with all that gold make-up on, I don’t think she took the role seriously enough. Her acting seemed a bit cheesy but I am excited to see where her character’s story goes next, cause my favorite moment with her, performance-wise, was her delivery of a few lines during the mid-credits scene. In that scene, she sounded way more ominous and authenticate than she did in before.
  • Sean Gunn as Kraglin. I really liked the fact that we got to see more of Sean Gunn’s on-screen character during the sequel. If you didn’t know, he also does the motion capture for Rocket.

5 CREDITS SCENES

As James Gunn promised, the film had 5 scenes during the credits (that has to be some kind of record). 2 scenes played before the credits, 2 in the middle and 1 after. They were very well dispersed and the credits themselves did not feel long at all. The scenes were mostly related to the predeceasing film but they also set up some minor but long awaited stuff.

  1. The first pre-credits scene depicted Sean Gunn’s character Kraglin learning to work with Yondu’s arrow and failing at it. It was both funny and developed the story further.
  2. The second pre-credits scene showed Sylvester Stallone’s (Creed) character reforming the Ravagers out of the characters who were the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics. Their inclusion during the credits probably means that they will have a role to play in MCU or at least in GOTG Vol.3. It was also nice to see another scene with Stallone as he only appeared in a handful of them during the main runtime of the movie. It was basically just a cameo and if the role would not have been played by a big name talent like Stallone, no one would talk about it.
  3. The first mid-credits scene was a conclusion to The Sovereign’s plotline and a potential set up for the arrival of the long anticipated character – Adam Warlock! I really hope he finally shows up in the next film!
  4. The second mid-credits scene was probably my favorite out of all of them: it showed the teenager Groot acting as a typical teenager, while Peter attempted to be the Dad. Groot is kinda the child of the Guardians. What a dysfunctional yet lovable family.
  5. The last scene which came at the end of the credits was another Stan Lee cameo. He had a cameo in the main part of the film but it was also nice to see him again. I read online that they film a lot more scenes with Lee than they actually use, so it was quite neat that they found a place to use some more of that material.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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Movie review: La La Land

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

Writing

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

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

Directing

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

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

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

Music

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

Acting

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

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

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

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

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: La La Land trailer

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Movie review: Allied

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

Writing

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

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

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

Directing

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

Acting

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

Actors’ film recommendations:

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

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

Rate: 3,75/5

Trailer: Allied trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Accountant 

Movie reviews

Hello!

An original thriller – The Accountant – finally premiered in the UK, so, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

  1. The Accountant is an original thriller, written by Bill Dubuque, who has previously penned the script for RDJ’s The Judge. I absolutely loved the narrative of this film from a thematical point of view. The movie felt fresh because it had a unique character – an accountant – in the lead (usually, thrillers tends to focus on ex-military personnel, former spies, even politicians). Moreover, the personal background of the character was out of the ordinary and new. The story also had a good mix of personal and professional narrative ideas. Plus, I loved the fact that they made accounting seem interesting, similar like The Big Short made the housing crisis exciting rather than dull. The twists and turns were also unexpected but much appreciated. My only gripe with the screenplay is that I wish the movie would have explained some stuff sooner. There was around 10 min of expositional dialogue full of information just before the 3rd act started and I think that if the scriptwriter would have dispersed that info into a few scenes, the plot would have flowed a bit better.
  2. Gavin O’Connor, whose last two films were Warrior (one of my favorite sports films ever) and Jane Got a Gun, directed The Accountant and did a magnificent job. I loved how subtle his directing was and how he found a good balance between drama and action in a thriller. The visuals, as well as the handling of the mise-en-scene (props and setting used for the purposes of the narrative ) were nice and neat as well. The picture unraveled slowly but was extremely engaging.
  3. Ben Affleck (BvS, Gone Girl) played the lead character and did a spectacular job. I believed that he had the highly-functioning autism and I also appreciated the fact that they spotlighted this type of an individual in a movie. I also applaud the film for trying to show that autistic people are not lesser than everyone else – they are just different and special in their own way. Huge props to the movie and to Ben Affleck for attempting to break social stigmas associated with this supposed illness/condition. I, personally, could also relate to the character, because even though I’m not autistic, I’m quite shy and anti-social, so seeing all the problems that the characters had while communicating with people made me cringe a bit as well as sympathize since it hit so close to home.
  4. Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Mike and Dave, Trolls) and Jon Bernthal (WAYF, Sicario) played two supporting characters that had relations to the main character. Kendrick did a nice job with the few scenes she had and I did love her optimism in contrast to Affleck’s calmness and serenity. Bernthal was also great – I did not predict his character’s twist. His character shared some similarities with The Punisher, so I could see why Bernthal wanted to play this role, as I think he really enjoyed playing The Punisher. His solo series is coming out next year.
  5. J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson played the government personnel and brought a different perspective into the movie. For Simmons, this is one of his 10 movies this year. Two other notable pictures which have premiered at festivals, but haven’t had wide releases are La La Land and Patriot’s Day. I’m also excited for Simmons’s role in next year’s Justice League.  Addai-Robinson was also really good in her role – I was excited to see her on a big screen, as she has mostly done TV until now. I first became a fan of her after she appeared as Amanda Waller on Arrow before Suicide Squad‘s storylines had to be scratched from the small screen.

In short, The Accountant was a great original film that didn’t deserve to be panned by the critics as much. It had good directing, amazing acting and a thematically strong and important story.

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: The Accountant trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Money Monster

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of one the smaller and more serious films of the summer – Money Monster.

IMDb summary: Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.

  1. Money Monter was written by a TV writer Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf, who has written a lot of independent films and Dear John’s writer Jamie Linden. This diverse group of screenwriters has crafted a really interesting narrative, full of amazing and intense dialogue. The story was simple enough to understand for those who don’t know anything about economics (me) and yet still complex, intense and exciting. The comic relief and the jokes were organic and not forced. The themes: ‘value of the human life’ (refusing to help Clooney by not buying the stocks), ‘the broken capitalism’ (‘business is just business’) and ‘life goes on’ (shot of the table football) were also interesting. The plot seemed to be of a very small scale,  but in truth, the overarching story was much bigger and broader. At the end of the film, it seemed that the notion that ‘the rich can get away with anything’ will be proved once again, but the inclusion of the online backlash really subverted this notion and made the movie more connected to the contemporary world.
  2. The film was directed by Jodie Foster, who went the Elizabeth Banks route – from acting to directing. But, to be fair, Foster started directing TV shows and movies way earlier than Banks – back in the 90s. However, then she took a couple of decades break from directing and only started getting behind the camera in the 2010s. She did a great job with Money Monster: the stakes felt high, the pace was fast and the visuals – colorful and unique. I also enjoyed the small time frame – the movies plot started and was resolved in a single day. In general, the film was well-constructed and a solid economic thriller – it actually felt like an action movie but made with dialogue instead of explosions. The end credits song – What Makes the World Go ‘Round (MONEY!) – was also really appropriate and a neat way to finish the film.
  3. I also really enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes or the production side of a TV program. I would like to be a producer or even a director one day and Money Monster showed how the professionals deal with difficult situations.
  4. Money Monster also had a great cast, full of accomplished actors: George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!, Tomorrowland), Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), Dominic West (Testament of Youth), Caitriona BalfeChristopher Denham, and Giancarlo Esposito (The Maze Runner). All of the actors performed their lines really well, especially Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell. O’Connell’s character acted believably desperate and Clooney’s and Robert’s snappy back-and-forth bickering was one of the best parts of the picture. The way Clooney’s character was trying to talk himself out of the situation was also pretty nice.
  5. If you  enjoyed Money Monster, a few films that I’d like to recommend are The Big Short – a really funny economic drama and The Ides of March – a political thriller, starring and directed by Clooney.

In short, Money Monster was interesting, intense, complex but easily understandable economic drama. The performances, as well as the directing, were both solid but the film’s writing was the best part of it.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Money Monster trailer

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FILM AWARDS SEASON is OVER

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to the last (finally) post dedicated to the awards’ season. This time, I won’t be reviewing any nominated motion pictures (I have done that already), but I  will tell you my own personal winners and will list all the others films in a very subjective order in each category. I am listing all the films because it was very hard for me to pick a definite number 1 spot. In addition, a lot of these films would have probably made my Best movies of 2015 list if I had seen them before January 1st, so I feel the need to at least mention them here.

Now, my categories won’t have a definite number of spaces in them. I have actually picked 20 films in total that have been nominated for either a Golden Globe, a SAG, a BAFTA, an Oscar or for all 4.  Also, I will be joining adapted and original screenplay categories into one. The distinction between lead and supporting roles will also be treated subjectively and not necessarily the way that the studios wanted. At the end of each category, I will also give my more objective prediction of who will probably take home the Academy Award.

P.S. The reviews of all these movies are linked to the names of the films only once – in the first category because it just seemed irrational to link you to a single post 5 or 6 times.

Best Picture

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian
  4. Spotlight
  5. Creed
  6. The Big Short
  7. The Hateful Eight
  8. Steve Jobs
  9. Room
  10. The Danish Girl
  11. Bridge of Spies
  12. Brooklyn
  13. Ex-Machina
  14. Concussion
  15. Joy
  16. Straight Outta Compton
  17. Trumbo
  18. Beasts of No Nation
  19. Carol
  20. 45 Years

Prediction: As much as I would love for Mad Max to get the win, it seems very unlikely that this will happen. Although, with all the backlash against the Oscars online, the Academy might want to calm the fanboys/fangirls down by giving the award to the fan favorite. If they do decide to go the traditional route, The Revenant will probably be their top pick.

Best Directing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
  2. The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu
  3. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino 
  4. Room –  Lenny Abrahamson
  5. The Big Short – Adam McKay
  6. Creed – Ryan Coogler 
  7. Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga
  8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg 
  9. Straight Outta Compton – F. Gary Gray
  10. The Martian – Ridley Scott
  11. Steve Jobs – Danny Boyle
  12. Ex-Machina – Alex Garland
  13. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy
  14. Concussion –  Peter Landesman
  15. The Danish Girl – Tom Hooper
  16. Brooklyn – John Crowley
  17. Trumbo – Jay Roach
  18. Joy – David O. Russell
  19. Carol – Todd Haynes
  20. 45 Years – Andrew Haigh

Prediction: Again, I would love for George Miller to take the award home, but I kinda think that Iñárritu will get his second win in the row. I would be willing to let Iñárritu win if Mad Max gets the Best Picture statue.

Best Writing

  1. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
  2. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino
  3. Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin
  4. The Martian – Drew Goddard
  5. Creed – Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
  6. The Big Short – Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
  7. The Revenant – Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
  9. Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  10. Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
  11. Ex-Machina – Alex Garland
  12. The Danish Girl – Lucinda Coxon
  13. Room – Emma Donoghue
  14. Trumbo – John McNamara
  15. Concussion – Peter Landesman
  16. Joy – David O. Russell
  17. 45 Years – Andrew Haigh
  18. Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga
  19. Brooklyn – Nick Hornby
  20. Carol – Phyllis Nagy

Prediction: this is the hardest category to predict. My best bet is that the original screenplay statue will be awarded to Spotlight, while the adapted one – to The Big Short.

Best Male Performance in a Leading Role:

  1. Leonardo Dicaprio for The Revenant
  2. Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl
  3. Tom Hardy for The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. Matt Damon for The Martian
  5. Jacob Tremblay for Room
  6. Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs
  7. Samuel L. Jackson for The Hateful Eight
  8. Michael B.Jordan for Creed
  9. Will Smith for  Concussion
  10. Bryan Cranston for Trumbo
  11. Tom Hanks for Bridge of Spies
  12. Christian Bale for The Big Short
  13. Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight
  14. Domhnall Gleeson for Ex Machina
  15. Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation
  16. O’Shea Jakcson Jr. for Straight Outta Compton
  17. Tom Courtenay for 45 Years

Prediction: this is one of the few categories where my objective and subjective side think the same thing. If Leo does not win this year, he should just stop trying altogether.

Best Female Performance in a Leading Role:

  1. Brie Larson for Room
  2. Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl and Ex-Machina
  3. Charlize Theron for Mad Max Fury Road
  4. Rooney Mara for Carol
  5. Jennifer Lawrence for Joy
  6. Rachel McAdams for Spotlight
  7. Cate Blanchett for Carol
  8. Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn
  9. Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years

Prediction: once again, I both objectively and subjectively think that Brie Larson should get the Oscar, although, I would be pleasantly surprised if Vikander gets the win. On a side note, the saddest part about this category is that out of the 20 films, I could only find 9 actresses in  leading(-ish) roles, while there 17 male leading roles.

Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role:

  1. Ryan Gosling for The Big Short
  2. Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies
  3. Sylvester Stallone for Creed
  4. Nicholas Hoult for Mad Max Fury Road
  5. Domhnall Gleeson for The Revenant
  6. Bradley Cooper for Joy
  7. Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation
  8. Oscar Isaac for Ex-Machina
  9. Matthias Schoenaerts for The Danish Girl
  10. Walton Goggins for The Hateful Eight
  11. Michael Keaton for Spotlight
  12. Alec Baldwin for Concussion
  13. Corey Hawkins for Straight Outta Compton

Prediction: while I would like Gosling to win, I think that the award will go to either Mark Rylance or Sylvester Stallone. I wouldn’t be sad in either case.

Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role

  1. Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs
  2. Jennifer Jason Leight for The Hateful Eight
  3. Jessica Chastain for The Martian
  4. Tessa Thompson for Creed
  5. Amber Heard for The Danish Girl
  6. Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Concussion
  7. Diane Lane for Trumbo

Prediction: I would like the win to go to Kate Winslet, but the actual award will probably find itself in the hands of Jennifer Jason Leight. On a side note, this was probably the hardest category to fill, because I put a lot of actresses in the leading role category, while the Academy and the studios said that they were playing supporting roles.

I really hope that you enjoyed this post because I worked really hard on it. I felt the most challenged not when I was compiling the actual final lists, but while I was watching and reviewing all the films. Tell me in the comments your personal winners! Bye!!

Movie review: The Big Short

Movie reviews

Hi!

This is another movie review of the Oscar season. I had a chance to see The Big Short, nominated for 5 Academy Awards, just before I left my home country, so this is another review, written in an airport, on my way to the UK. Hope you will enjoy it.

IMDb summary: Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Writing and Story

The Big Short’s script was written by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, who also directed the picture. The only film, created by Randolph, that I have seen is Love & Other Drugs – not that original romantic comedy. McKay has also mainly worked in the comedy business alongside Will Ferrell. And although I am not the biggest fan of comedies, I believe that the comedic background of both of these screenwriters helped them a lot, when tackling such a dry and boring issue as an economic crisis. The way they would explain complicated parts of the film by inserting a funny clip of famous people (Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Richard Thaler and Anthony Bourdain) was a very interesting choice, however, it took me out of the film a few times, because the narrative cohesion disappeared. The constant breaking of the 4th wall also did not help the viewer to stay in the film’s world.

The film provided a very sarcastic critique of capitalism. All of the people represented in the movie were quite horrible, even our supposed ‘heroes’ of the story – the crisis was a very hypocritical business and that’s how it was presented in the film. Human vices like greediness and just a plain old stupidity were also portrayed. I also enjoyed the film’s idea that money never helps people but ruins them: money does not make the world go round, it destroys it. I strongly agree with this statement and was glad to see it depicted on screen. The only minus for me in the narrative was the fact that the film was very US based, while the actual aftermath of the crisis had a global reach. Only in a single scene has a character mentioned that some European countries are also crumbling because of the things that Americans did.

I also enjoyed how the narrative was organized and divided into 3 separate stories, all revolving around and building up to the same event. The event – the actual start of the economic crisis in 2008 – was a very depressing and unpleasant ending to the film and it kinda made me feel sick after watching the movie. So, despite the fact that this picture is really funny, this is not a Friday night type of a chill comedy. The part that angered me the most was the fact that rich people never had to pay as much as poor people. And that’s why we need to come up with a new way to organize economy because capitalism clashes with our human nature. And don’t think that by saying things which are against capitalism, I somehow believe in communism – I have lived in a post-communist society and it is not pretty. Basically,  I think we need a new and completely fresh ideology.

This script was based on the 2010 book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Lots of people’s and companies’ names have been changed in the film, however, all of the characters are still based on real people and the overall film and book are inspired by real events, whose presence is still felt today to some extent.

Directing

At the beginning of the film, I thought that the cinematography and constant shifting of the camera and the focus were a bit amateurish as I am used to smooth panning of the camera. However, as the film went on, I realized that this type of filming was a creative choice. I cannot say that I liked it but I definitely respected this different type of filming.

Editing

Editing is not usually the part of the film, which I discuss, however, The Big Short’s editing was quite important to the overall film. Not only did the creators of this movie used inserts with celebrities, explaining difficult economic terms, they also over-saturated the film with montages of random everyday life clips, media coverage, and music videos. However, the opening montage (history recap) and the quotes, appearing on screen, were both nice finishing touches. The other montages were definitely a lot to take in and a bit crazy to watch but they helped the film to prove its main point. In short, the film was both an example of continuity and discontinuity editing. It had discontinuous inserts in the continuous narrative.

Acting

1st story:

  • Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry – a neurologist who has become the manager of the hedge fund Scion Capital. Bale hs always been an amazing actor, starring both in the mainstream films like The Dark Knight trilogy as well as awards contenders, like American Hustle. I also liked him in Exodus, despite the whole whitewashing scandal, but my favorite movie of his is Nolan’s The Prestige. He was also really good in the role of Burry – I liked his confident personality and over-the-top work aesthetic. Bale has a few movies coming out this year and he will also voice one of the characters in Serkis’s Jungle Book: Origins coming out in 2017.

2nd story:

  • Steve Carell as Mark Baum – a manager of Wall Street hedge fund FrontPoint Capital. Carell was also really great in the role, he was probably the nicest character in the whole film, because he actually felt bad for other people. The first time that I’ve seen Carell in a film was back in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. He has also starred in one of my favorite comedies Crazy, Stupid, Love alongside his The Big Short co-star Ryan Gosling. Carell has had a few good years regarding the awards season – he was nominated for Foxcatcher last year – and this streak might continue, because he is starring in a Woody Allen’s film this year and Allen’s films tend to get recognition from the academy. 
  • Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – a self-interested salesman at Deutsche Bank and the narrator of the film. Also, the most charming character of the film – Gosling did an amazing job and should have gotten more recognition for this role. I have recently watched a different film, starring Gosling, called Drive (my dad actually recommend it to me). He was really good in it and delivered a very nuanced performance. The Ides of March is also a great political drama with Gosling in a lead. I am also very interested in Gosling’s next project – La La Land – it’s a musical coming out this summer.

3rd story:

  • John Magaro as Charlie Geller and Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley – founders of Brownfield fund. They did a good job in the roles – I really liked the fact that they were new to this game and still were able to figure out the lie. I am not familiar with both of these actors’ work, although, I can tell you that Magaro has been in another awards’ contender Carol and Wittrock has starred in Noah and Unbroken (he will also be in the aforementioned La La Land).
  • Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert – Charlie and Jamie’s trader and mentor. Pitt was also one of the producers of the film and did an amazing job as always. He was one of the most humane characters, since he was an outsider of the system. I have recently seen Pitt in Jolie’s By The Sea. While I was quick to dismiss that film at first, it kinda grew on me, so I definitely recommend it.

All in all, while economics was the most boring subject for me at school and while I always skip economy news on TV or online, I had a great time watching The Big Short – it was a bit random and weird at times, but all the different pieces somehow all worked together. The narrative and the action were amazing. The directing and the editing – cool but not to my taste. The film definitely was a bit depressing, so keep that in mind when going to see it. I do not think that it will win any Academy Awards, but it certainly deserves the nominations it has received.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Big Short trailer

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