2017: 100 Book Challenge

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Hello!

Welcome to another 2017 round-up post. I’ve already done a post about my favorite and least favorite movies of the 2017 and now it is time for my list of book for this year. I don’ really post about books on this blog (I write short comments about them on Instagram as @sharingshelves) but since a lot of the books I’ve read are movie related (novels and comics that are adapted into films or non-fiction works about movies), I thought that some of you might be interested in my suggestions/recommendations. Also, I wasn’t planning on repeating the challenge but I managed to finish 100 books again this year (did the same in 2016). I have to promise myself that I’m not even going to attempt to read this many books next year, as when I have a certain numerical goal in mind, the reading experience does become more about quantity than quality.

Before I give you the list, here are a couple of general notes about it:
• From the 100 books this year, 10 were in Lithuanian (my native language) and 90 in English – I’m reading less and less in my native language every year.
• Most popular authors were Galbraith/Rowling for novels and Ennis, Bendis, and Snyder for comic books.
• I’ve read more graphic novels this year but fewer non-fiction books. My most often read comic book characters were Batman and Wonder Woman.
• I didn’t do an author break down by nationality but a general overview is this – I mostly read books by English-speakers. I didn’t even read a single book by a Lithuanian author (one by an author of Lithuanian descent was on the list, though).
• I’ve read mostly stand-alone books this year: if we’are not counting the comic book series, I’ve only read one full novel series.
• The 20th and 21st-century books were my most preferred for leisure reading, while for my English course, I’ve jumped around all time periods, but mostly focused on the literature of the 19th century.

Anyways, here is my list of books divided into the different genres. In every part, I’ve highlighted a couple of my favorites! I have also linked some movie reviews next to the relevant books. Enjoy!

Non-fiction:

  1. S. Cain – ‘Quiet: The Power of the Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
  2. W. Isaacson – ‘Steve Jobs’ (adapted to film)
  3. R. Roll – ‘Finding Ultra’
  4. P. Pfitzinger and S.Douglas – ‘Advanced Marathoning’
  5. F. Hufton – ‘Running: How To Get Started’

Fiction:

  1. D. Brown – ‘Digital Fortress’
  2. M. Zusak – ‘The Book Thief’
  3. W. Carther – ‘Death Comes For The Archbishop’
  4. Z. N. Hurston – ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’
  5. N. Gaiman – ‘American Gods’
  6. N. Gaiman – ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’
  7. S. Meyer – ‘ The Chemist’
  8. A. Huxley – ‘Brave New World’
  9. A. Huxley – ‘Island: a novel’
  10. I. Welsh – ‘Trainspotting’ (adapted to film)
  11. J. Moyes – ‘ The Girl You Left Behind’
  12. L. Groff – ‘Fates and Furies’
  13. R. Galbraith – The Cuckoo’s Calling’
  14. R. Galbraith – ‘The Silkworm’
  15. R. Galbraith – ‘Career of Evil’
  16. L. Moriarty – ‘Big Little Lies’
  17. A. Burgess – ‘A Clockwork Orange’
  18. G. Orwell – ‘Animal Farm: a fairy story’
  19. G. Orwell – ‘1984′
  20. D. Eggers – ‘The Circle’ (adapted to film – review)
  21. J. le Carre – ‘The Night Manager’
  22. E. Morgenstern – ‘The Night Circus’
  23. L. Evans – ‘Their Finest’ (adapted to film – review)
  24. M. Bulgakov – ‘The Master and Margarita’
  25. D. O’Porter – ‘Goose’
  26. C. Palahniuk – ‘Fight Club’
  27. C. Bukowski – ‘Post Office’
  28. N. Larsen – ‘Passing’
  29. G.R.R. Martin and G. Dozois (as editors) – ‘Rogues’
  30. D. Gibbins – ‘Crusader Gold’
  31. R. Sepetys – ‘Between Shades of Gray’
  32. B. Ridgway – ‘The River of No Return’
  33. F. Molnar – ‘The Paul Street Boys’
  34. T. Parsons – ‘Starting Over’
  35. T. Capote – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
  36. A. Christie – ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (adapted to film – review)
  37. A. Thomas – ‘The Hate U Give’
  38. P.K. Dick – ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (adapted to film – review)
  39. S. King – ‘It’ (adapted to film – review)

Cinema related books:

  1. G. Jenkins – ‘Empire Building’
  2. J. Luceno – ‘Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel’
  3. A. Freed – ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ novelization (film review)
  4. C. Fisher – ‘Postcards From The Edge’
  5. C. Fisher – ‘The Princess Diarist’
  6. C. Fisher – ‘Wishful Drinking’
  7. D. O’Neil – ‘The Dark Knight’ novelization
  8. C. Clark – ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’
  9. C. Clark – ‘My Week with Marilyn’
  10. J.K. Rowling – ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ script (film review)
  11. A. Kendrick – ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’
  12. S. Nathan and S. Roman – ‘Frozen’ novelization
  13. S. Bukatman – ‘Blade Runner – BFI Film Classics’

English 3rd year degree books:

  1. Aeschylus – ‘Prometheus Bound’
  2. C. Marlowe – ‘Doctor Faustus
  3. J. Milton – ‘Paradise Lost’
  4. M. Shelley – ‘Frankenstein; 1818 text’
  5. R. Henryson – ‘The Testament of Cresseid’
  6. D. Defoe – ‘Robinson Crusoe’
  7. N. Shephard – ‘The Quarry Wood’
  8. N. Larsen – ‘Quicksand’
  9. A. Carter – ‘The Bloody Chamber and other stories’
  10. C. Bronte – ‘Jane Eyre’
  11. E. Bronte – ‘Wuthering Heights’
  12. A. Bronte – ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’
  13. G. Elliot – ‘The Lifted Veil’
  14. G. Elliot – ‘The Mill on The Floss’
  15. C. Dickens – ‘Great Expectations’
  16. H.G. Wells – ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’
  17. B. Stoker – ‘Dracula’
  18. W. Collins – ‘The Woman in White’

Graphic novels:

  1. Various authors – ‘Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Doctor Strange’ (film review)
  2. D. Abnett – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the galaxy’ (film review)
  3. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Gone To Texas’
  4. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Until The End Of The World’
  5. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Proud Americans’
  6. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Ancient History’
  7. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Dixie Fried’
  8. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 1’
  9. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 2’
  10. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 3’
  11. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 4’
  12. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 1 The Lies’ (film review)
  13. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 2 Year One’
  14. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 3 The Truth’
  15. M. Finch and D. Finch – ‘Wonder Woman: Resurrection’
  16. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Court of Owls’
  17. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Nights of Owls’
  18. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The City of Owls’
  19. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: Endgame’
  20. J. Tyrion – ‘Batman Detective Comics Rebirth: Volume 1 Rise of the Batmen’
  21. G. Morrison and A. Kubert – ‘Batman and Son’
  22. T. S. Daniel – Batman: Battle for the Cowl’
  23. A. Conner and J. Palmiotti – ‘Harley Quinn Rebirth: Volume 3 Red Meat’
  24. J. Hickman and C. Pacheco – ‘Ultimate Thor: Volume 1’ (film review)
  25. M. Wagner – ‘Trinity’ (film review)

And that is it for the books I’ve read this year! What was your favorite book(s) of the year? What are you planning on/excited to read in 2017?

Leave a comment below and Have a Happy New Year!

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Movie review: Dunkirk

Movie reviews

Hello!

A movie, that needs no introduction, has reached theaters, so let’s talk about it. This is the review of Dunkirk.

IMDb summary: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Before we start discussing the film, I’d like to remind you that there already is a picture about Dunkirk, released in 2017 – Their Finest. It’s a completely different but as interesting take on the ‘event that shaped the Western world’. Also, my previous review of a Nolan film is the one for Interstellar.

Christopher Nolan

Both written and directed by Nolan, Dunkirk is the highly acclaimed director’s 10th feature film. It has already been labeled as his best film as well as a ‘masterpiece’ of modern cinema. With all of these accolades in mind, my expectations have also been really high. And while I certainly wasn’t let down, I haven’t been blown away either.

Writing

Dunkirk’s writing is unique (as should be expected from Nolan – the master storyteller) in that the film doesn’t tell a story of the evacuation but rather recreates the evacuation. The staples of the narrative, like the extensive dialogue or the character development, are mostly absent from the movie and the glimpses of the personal stories are scarcely dispersed throughout the intense action scenes. I believe that the lack of the character development actually serves the movie right because that makes the viewer see the characters as nobodies – a faceless mass of interchangeable soldiers – which is what they actually were. I did miss Nolan’s great dialogue, though, even if this film’s setting didn’t really call for it.

Even though, the picture doesn’t have much in terms of narrative, the plot that is in the film is told in a non-linear way (again, as it should be expected from Nolan). However, there isn’t too much of jumping around (Dunkirk is no Memento). The three main plot threads – the land, the air, and the sea – provide different and interesting perspectives on the evacuation but I wish that these viewpoints were wider within themselves. For example, I wanted to see the faiths of more than a few soldiers, or more than two planes, or more than just one civilian boat.

Another interesting choice that is made in the script is the decision to never call out the nationality of the enemy. Never once in the picture, do we hear the words ‘Germans’ or ‘Nazis’. It’s always ‘the enemy’. Is that the political correctness of today bleeding into a WW2 film or is the eternal shame and guilt of the German nation is slowly coming to an end?

Directing

Christopher Nolan has always been amazing at visuals and he proves that again with Dunkirk. The whole film feels, more or less, like the expanded version of the Saving Private Ryan opening beach sequence, with the levels of dread, fear, and destruction, never dipping below the maximum. The intensity is palpable, while the emotions – heart-wrenching. From a purely aesthetic view, the shots are masterfully composed, both in the air, on land, or in the water. To my mind, Dunkirk might not be his best film, but it is certainly a great-looking one.

Music

An element of Dunkirk that sometimes rivals the visuals as its best part, is the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (a longtime creative partner of Nolan’s). The master composer (I feel like I used the word ‘master’ too much already) surpasses the sky high expectations and delivers an emotional, eerie, thrilling, and haunting score. The sounds of the bombs are so crisp and clear that one can definitely hear if their cinema’s sound system is lacking in quality (I’m not pointing any fingers).

Acting

Dunkirk has an extensive ensemble cast, full of newcomers as well as seasoned A-listers. All of them deliver excellent if brief performances. On land, we follow Fionn Whitehead (in his first film role), Aneurin Barnard (a Welshman playing a Frenchman disguised as an Englishman) and an ex-1D member and a successful solo artist Harry Styles. Nolan has claimed to not have known about Styles’ fame before casting him in the film. I find that doubtful because Nolan has a teenage daughter who might (must) have known who he was. Also, even if she (or he) wasn’t a fan, the 1D craze a few years back far exceed the limits of the fandom and was absolutely everywhere, so Nolan should have definitely at least have heard about him. Anyways, for whatever reason Styles was cast in the picture, he did act as a somewhat box office draw, as evident by a mother-daughter duo, who sat next to me in the cinema and could not shut up when his face showed up on screen. On a side note, I didn’t see anyone complaining about his involvement in the film or that his ‘famous face’ took the viewer out of the movie, but, somehow, Ed Sheeran signing three lines on Game of Thrones is a disaster that breaks the fictional world’s continuum?

Back to the cast I was discussing in the first place, the ‘land’ portion of the plot also had Kenneth Branagh (director of Cinderella and the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express) and James D’Arcy (Agent Carter) as two officers of exposition and trailer one liners. The ‘on the sea’ perspective had Mark Rylance (whose career really took off only in 2015 with Bridge of Spies, then The BFG, and soon Ready Player One), accompanied by a screen newcomer Tom Glynn-Carney and a bit more experienced Barry Keoghan. A longtime creative partner of Nolan’s  Cillian (Free Fire) also appeared in the film, in the probably the most fleshed out role. The ‘air’ part of the plot was acted out by Jack Lowden and another of Nolan’s usuals – Tom Hardy (Mad Max, Legend, The Revenant) with his face half-obscured as always.

In short, while I might not think that Dunkirk is a masterpiece, I unquestionably agree that it is a great film. The visuals are stellar, the acting is effective, and the writing – full of bold choices that I might not like but can and do appreciate.

Rate: 4,3/5

Trailer: Dunkirk trailer

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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: Life

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the annual space movie. For the year 2017, it’s Life.

Life follows in the vein of the sci-fi space films, like 2013’s Gravity, 2014’s Interstellar, 2015’s The Martian, and, I guess, 2016’s Passengers. It’s also kinda similar to the earlier pictures, such as 2009’s Moon and 2007’s Sunshine. Life is the most similar to the last one because both films feature diverse groups of astronauts stuck on a space ship and have horror/slasher elements in addition to the sci-fi themes.

IMDb summary: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Writing

Life was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo previously co-wrote Zombieland and Deadpool). Story wise, the movie was not the most original but the narrative was still interesting and exciting. The two major themes were human intervention and survival. The character development was minimal but there were still a few nice character moments dispersed throughout. In fact, the movie’s main star was the alien – all the set-up focused on it rather than the humans. Life definitely depicted life beyond earth in an old-school way: the creature was instantly violent rather than communicative like the ones in Arrival. Whether the actual alien of this movie was just the rip-off of the Allien, I don’t know. It definitely appeared similar to that one and it was probably a good idea for this film to come out before Allien: Covenant.

In addition to there being some scenes to depict the character’s backgrounds, the picture also had a couple of sequences of the astronauts doing both scientific experiments and publicity for ISS. I really loved those parts and appreciated the fact that the scriptwriters attempted to show a variety of activities done by the astronauts. The ending of the movie was also interesting. I don’t know whether they didn’t explain what actually happened with the pods (how did they switch?) because they are hoping for a sequel or because they wanted to leave it open for speculation/discussion?

Directing

The Swedish director Daniel Espinosa directed Life. This was his second US-based picture, but he has also directed Child 44 in the UK (really enjoyed that one) and made a couple of films in both Denmark and Sweden. I quite liked what he did with Life. The visuals were just absolutely gorgeous and not once did I think that we weren’t in the real ISS. The pacing and the intensity were also great. The horror elements of the action weren’t cheesy either and didn’t rely too much on the jump scares but used the technique of suspense building and the visceral imagery to elicit a reaction. In fact, some of the scenes were quite gruesome and uncomfortable to watch but they were effective so I can’t fault a movie for that. The camera work was also pretty impressive, especially one of the early long shots that seemingly went all through the space station. The alien POV was also a neat effect.

Acting

The film had a very diverse cast for a narrative reason rather than just for a financial one. The astronauts were played by Jake GyllenhaalRebecca FergusonRyan ReynoldsHiroyuki SanadaAriyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya.

Seeing Gyllenhaal on screen in yet another movie made me realize that he is one of a few actors who is constantly working. He never seems to fall off the radar even if his pictures don’t earn much. A few of his recent films that I enjoyed are Everest, Southpaw, and, especially, Nocturnal Animals. It was also really nice to see Ferguson in yet another American film (she began her career in Sweden, but has already appeared in MI5, Florence Foster Jenkins, and The Girl on The Train) and I’m excited to continue following her career. For Reynolds, this was his first post-Deadpool film and I think that his role in the marketing campaign for Life was expanded because he is the man behind the Merc with a Mouth. The ad campaign led me to believe that he will be an important part of the picture so I was quite surprised with his character’s story arc.

Sanada, weirdly enough, portrayed a character in Life who very closely resembled his character in Sunshine – a movie which I already mentioned in this review because of its and Life’s similar stories. What a coincidence that these films share an actor too. Bakare has mostly done TV work before now, but he also had cameos in big films like Rogue One and The Dark Knight. Lastly, Dihovichnaya is a newcomer to the Western mainstream cinema but is an established actress in Russian-speaking indie cinema market. I hope that her work in Life will provide her with more opportunities in the West.

In short, Life was a well-made space horror flick. It had a great cast and neat, suspenseful action, which will entertain the majority of the cinema -goers, and an open ending for those who appreciate the intellectual layer in their sci-fi.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Life trailer

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Movie review: Sully

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a film, which the majority of the world saw in September, but here in the UK, we had to wait for it until December. It’s Sully!

IMDb summary: The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

Sully has already received and won some smaller awards and I also think that it will get nominated for a few of the bigger ones too (because of who is involved in front and behind the camera). This film might also be the most mainstream and the most financially successful awards contender this year. Also, one last note before I actually start reviewing the film – I don’t recommend watching it before a flight – I did that mistake and I’m now kinda nervous about my trip next week.

Writing

Sully’s script was written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the memoir book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger (Sully himself) and journalist Jeffrey Zaslow. I absolutely adored the writing for the film – I loved the not entirely linear narrative structure. All the flashbacks were not only interesting by themselves but super effective in raising the emotional stakes of the story.  I liked how the film focused more on the investigation rather than the actual event. The themes and commentary that sprung up from this incredible story were amazing too: the focus on the humanity or the human factor in the age of technology and computerization was refreshing and appealing to me as an anthropologists-in-training. In addition, the dichotomy between the facts and the context the was great too. The way the film showcased and explored the feeling of self-doubt was interesting as well.

Even though the event/the accident was not the main focus of the film, the picture still managed to represent it from a variety of both inside and outside perspectives. I enjoyed seeing the stories of some of the passengers (forming an emotional connection – raising the stakes). It was also cool to see the reactions of the flight attendants, the NY waterways workers, the policeman, and etc.

Lastly, I loved the dialogue of the film, particularly two clever and subtle lines. One of them came at the end, as a joke, when Eckhart’s character mentioned that he would do everything the same but in July rather than January. Other clever and much more serious mention was the one about the good news, New York, and airplanes – I took it as a reference to 9/11.

Directing

Clint Eastwood directed the picture and, not surprisingly, did an amazing job. I, personally, haven’t seen a lot of his films: I’m neither familiar with his work as an actor on a variety of highly regarded Westerns, nor have I seen his earliest films as a director. However, I did enjoy two of his recent award winners Million Dollar Baby and American Sniper. His newest film – Sully – might be my favorite out of the three, though. I loved how emotional and intense the drama was without being obvious. The pacing and the build-ups, as well as the sequences of the actual water-landing, were great. I enjoyed that scene so much and I’m super happy that they showed it twice. Plus, the hearing sequence was as intense as the accident. I also appreciated the accuracy with which this event was recreated – the film’s shots looked exactly like the real life photos which were displayed during the credits. I also liked the fact that the filmmakers managed to included the real life Sully, the crew, and the passengers in the videos during the credits. Sully was truly n emotional rollercoaster of a movie but at least it did have a sort of happy and satisfying ending.

Acting

  • Tom Hanks was brilliant in the role, which is not surprising. I think I already mentioned this but I will repeat it again – to me, Hanks seems like one of the greatest and the most reliable actors of our time. It would take me a whole separate post to list his movie recommendations, so I’m just gonna name a few: I’ve noticed that lately the majority of his films have been inspired by real events, so I suggest you watch them: Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks, and Bridge of Spies (whose review I published exactly a year ago today). A Hologram for the King and Inferno, both based on books, weren’t bad either.
  • Aaron Eckhart was also really good in the picture, I especially liked his scenes with Hanks, as they had great chemistry. This is probably one of Eckhart’s best performances that I have seen, if we are not counting his work in The Dark Knight. He was quite good in the Olympus (and London) has(ve) Fallen franchise.
  • The supporting cast of the film was also really good, it included: Laura Linney (Genius, Nocturnal Animals), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), and Mike O’Malley (Concussion, Glee) among others.

In short, Sully was an emotional and entertaining drama, with great writing, good directing, and amazing acting. It is definitely my favorite non-franchise film of this year.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Sully trailer

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Movie review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 

Movie reviews

Hey Hey Hey!

The wait is finally over! We now have a movie that shows the two greatest superheroes fighting one another. Without further ado, let’s dig-in into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

IMDb summary: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

Before we start: I have done a preview post for this film, in which I discussed my hopes for the movie and gave you my thoughts on the casting choices, Snyder’s previous work and DCCU in general. I won’t be repeating those things in here, so I highly suggest that you check out that other post first!

Since I’m posting my review on Saturday and the movie has been out for a couple of days, I will be talking about SPOILERS!

Audience

Before BvS was released, a lot of news sites reported that the majority of the presale tickets were bought by men. Saturday, 9am screening that I went to (definitely the earliest screening I’ve ever been to) was also predominately male. I think there was only around 30 people watching the film with me, and only 4 of them were female (me included). The audience was also very adult-centric – there were only 3 or 4 kids in the cinema.

I don’t really know what to make out of this. I refuse to believe that women don’t like comic book movies. Moreover, I cannot believe that children are not interested in a film like this one.

Also, before the movie, they showed The Lego Batman teaser – it was very appropriate and extremely funny (definitely a lot funnier than the film that followed).

Story: Writing, Tone, and Plotlines

BvS’s script was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Terrio is best known for writing the screenplay for 2012’s Argo, while Goyer has written all the Blade movies, all of Nolan’s Batman films and Man of Steel. With such an accomplished duo, it’s quite strange to see that Batman v Superman did not turn out that great, when it comes to story. Let’s go over all the different story and plot points (the good, the average and the bad) one by one:

  • To begin with, BvS was a more Batman-centric movie and that’s perfectly understandable – they needed to establish him as a character. The opening of the film nicely dealt with Bruce’s backstory – the death of his parents and his obsession/fear of bats.
  • – The film had a lot of dream sequences and it was extremely hard to understand, which scenes were set in reality and which ones – only in the minds of the characters (I still don’t know who was the person in Bruce’s dream that told Batman that Lois Lane is the key – I read that it was probably the Flash, travelling back in time. The other dream sequence (Nightmare one) was also an Easter Egg for Darkside (maybe)). Anyway, the decision to blend the reality and the dreams together might have been a creative choice, however, it made the narrative unclear and hard to understand/follow.
  • – The film was more than 2 hours long but all the characters lacked development – I wanted to spend more time with all of them and wasn’t satisfied with a few scenes that I’ve got.
  • – However, there were characters that we spent way too much time with and the pay-off, concerning these characters, was not that great. Those senate hearings and Lex Luthor’s and Senator Finch’s scenes seemed to last forever and didn’t really accomplish much.
  • – Basically, the movie had way too many plotlines and was jumping around way too much. In short, there was at least 5 great movies inside this 1 (average) film. The first two parts of the picture also lacked action and the whole set-up for the final act was generally a bit boring, although it had a few exciting moments.
  • The mother-son relationship was really important in this film and it was actually nice to see this particular family relationship explored on screen. Movies usually tend to focus on father-son or father-daughter relationships. I also enjoyed the clever idea to use both Clark Kent’s mother’s and Bruce Wayne’s mother’s name – Martha – as a linguistic plot-device that not only united them but helped to show their humanity.
  • -/+ While I enjoyed seeing Batman and Superman united in battle, I think that they became ‘friends’ too quickly. It would have been more believable to see them calling each other ‘partners’ or something like that.
  • – Speaking about the believability – BvS (like all others DCCU films) really want to be grounded in reality, that’s why they are so dark and gritty. However, I do believe that real life also has lighter moments. Reality doesn’t automatically mean darkness and depression. Sophisticated and serious superhero films can be at least slightly funny as well (I’m not saying they all have to be comedies like Deadpool). I wish that we would have gotten at least a few more lively/amusing-ish moments to balance out the darkness – the only scenes that had a lighter tone were the romantic ones and I had a lot of problems with them separately.
  • Also, while the first two acts of the film were somewhat realistic and very dark, the final act of the film left the reality behind. And you know what? THAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE FILM. The more over-the-top and comic book-y it became, the better the film was. That last act improved my opinion on the whole film and definitely increased the rating.
  • +/- More on the final act: Doomsday’s birth and evolution were cool scenes to look at, but felt a bit rushed. Also, the portrayal of the government forces was very one-sided aka negative.
  • – The lighter aka romantic scenes involved Clark Kent and Lois Lane. While the scenes were cute to look at, they did feel out of place. Also, Lois Lane was such a damsel in distress – she was incapable of doing anything by herself and that annoyed me quite a lot.
  • +/- The ending of the film was quite a brave choice on the filmmakers part. However, since the audiences are quite familiar with the ideas of resurrection not only in comic book films but in movies in general, it was quite hard to feel really emotional about the death of Superman. As soon as he died on screen, my mind started racing on how he will be brought back to life. And even before we got that slight teaser (just before the film cut to black), we all knew that he is coming back. So, basically, it was really hard to think that Superman’s death will stick and that it will have any real consequences.
  • I enjoyed the fact that the characters’ alter-egos were as important as their superhero identities. This idea was nicely portrayed in the double funeral of Clark Kent.
  • + BvS also gave us more than a few very on-the-nose teasers for all the other Justice League members as well as the Justice League itself. We saw: the Flash, stopping the store from being robbed, Aquaman, attacking or threatening someone, and Cyborg, just in the process of creation.
  • Lastly, I might be nitpicking, but it seemed that this time they destroyed more stuff aka two cities – both Gotham and Metropolis. The damage that Man of Steel has done now seems minuscule.

Visuals: Directing, Action, and the Costumes

Zack Snyder did a very nice job directing the action scenes. I only wish that we would not have needed to wait for the said action scenes for more than 1.5h. The picture’s color scheme was also very Snydery – dark and shadowy (unnecessarily grim, like the story). The action scenes that we got in the 3rd act of the film were definitely enjoyable,so let’s discuss them a bit more:

  • The titular fight between Batman and Superman was really cool: the Batman’s protective costume was nice, while the usage of the Krypton – a clever solution. I also loved how Superman just slightly pushed Batman with one hand and Bruce went flying. The only thing that I didn’t like about that fight is the fact that Lois Lane just had to appear out of nowhere in the end.
  • The DC’s trio vs. Doomsday was also an exciting battle. This one was very comic-book-y, thus, very unbelievable, thus – the best part of the film. I loved Superman and Doomsday, flying in space, I loved Batman, trying to come up with a solution (because he knew that he can’t fist-fight the devil), and Wonder Woman, just charging into battle.

Costumes and Props

The characters’ costumes are of course very iconic and there is really no point in talking about them in detail, since, they have been revealed long before the movie was released. However, I do want to mention a few things about them:

  1. I loved Batman’s eyes in all of his costumes. I loved how bold his real eyes looked in his normal costume and how threatening were the light-up eyes in his armor.
  2. Superman’s cape game was strong. He looked amazing while flying or just floating in the air.
  3. Lastly, Wonder Woman’s light-up lasso was super cool – it looked amazing on screen.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Junkie XL has previously worked on music for Man of Steel and a bunch of other films (Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Mass, Point Break and Deadpool). Zimmer needs no introduction – he is the king of movie soundtracks in Hollywood (Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, Nolan’s Batman films, Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Inception, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, Man of Steel and a plethora of other movies have been scored by him).

Acting

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Affleck was really good in both the action scenes and the dramatic ones. He probably is the most accomplished actor of this cast, so it is no surprise that his performance was the best one. 2003’s Daredevil should just be wiped out of his resume. We will see Affleck in a cameo role in Suicide Squad, but if you want to watch a non-comic book movie, starring Affleck, I highly suggest both Argo and Gone Girl.
  • Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman. I did enjoy Cavill’s performance but his facial expressions were a bit one-note. He was amazing in the action sequences, though. Last year, we saw Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Currently, he is working on a war drama Sand Castle.
  • Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Adams was good in the role and it’s not really her fault that the character of Lois was written in the way it was. Basically, I felt that her character was out of place during the majority of the film. I would have liked to see more of her actual journalist side, maybe in scenes opposite Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White – the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. As an actress, Adams has had quite a long and rewarding career. I especially liked her newer films – American Hustle and Big Eyes.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. My favorite lines of dialogue were spoken by Irons. I really liked his portrayal of Alfred as more of a partner, less like a servant. Also, I recently saw Irons in High-Rise and I also want to watch his other 2016 film – Race.
  • Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman was my favorite character in the film. Gadot was amazing in the role. She shined in the action sequences and I only wish that she would have had more lines because, for the majority of the film, she just reacted to the events that were happening around her. I can’t wait for her own stand-alone film, coming out next year!
  • Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (?) – I forgot to talk about Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor in the preview but that was because I deliberately wanted to forget this development. From what I saw in the trailer, Eisenberg  did not play the true Lex Luthor – at least not the one that I grew up watching in the cartoons. There was also this rumor floating online that Eisenberg was playing Luthor Jr. but that just seemed like a cheap explanation. Also, Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor Jr. haircut reminded me way too much of the look that his American Ultra character had and it’s safe to say – I did not enjoy that stupid stoner action comedy. Now, having watched the film, I still have mixed feelings about Eisenberg in this role. I enjoyed the fact that he played very modern, young and hip entrepreneur. However, at the same time, my mind was screaming: ‘This is not Lex Luthor, neither Jr. nor Sr.’. His voice was also a bit squeaky throughout the film, so that did not make him seem as a threatening and serious villain. Nevertheless, I liked both his look and the way he acted at the end of the film, in the cell (he has finally lost that stupid hairstyle). So, maybe BvS was just an origin story for the true Lex Luthor? We will probably find that out in the Justice League films.

Lastly, the movie didn’t have a post-credits or end-credits scene, so there is really no point in waiting through more than 5 minutes of credits.

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a good film that could have been so much better. It unnecessarily wanted to be real and grim. The first two acts were messy and had too many plotlines, while the third act embraced the comic bookiness of the characters and made the ending of the movie – the best part of it. The acting was really good, Gal Gadot’s and Ben Affleck’s performances were the best. I went into this movie really wanting to like it and, to be truthful, was kinda let down. I am excited to see the standalone films of the characters, but I don’t think that they should rush with the Justice League movies, like they are doing right now. Maybe WB will prove me wrong next year.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

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Movie review: Interstellar

Movie reviews

Hello!

On Monday, I went to see Interstellar – the newest film by the genius Christopher Nolan and this is going to be my review. Sorry that it comes out 4 days later than it should have – my PC crashed once again. SPOILERS AHEAD.

IMDb Summary: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

First of all, let’s begin by saying that I knew almost absolutely nothing about the film before going to see it. I have watched the trailer but deliberately didn’t read any of the reviews or articles about it. Only piece of information I had was that this was a Nolan movie and that was enough for me to get excited. Moreover, I enjoyed last year’s Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (you cannot not talk about Gravity when talking about Interstellar; everybody will compare them because they came out so close to each other).  I also wanted to see if McConaissance is continuing and was curious, whether this was Anne Hathaway‘s role that will finally stop all the hate she is getting.

Directing

As I have previously said and you have already probably known if you live on this Earth and go on the Internet regularly, this movie is directed by Christopher Nolan. I called him genius in my introduction because I really admire his work, The Dark Knight is a peak of superhero movies and simply a masterpiece, Inception is a psychological mystical thriller that questions reality and Interstellar is a bit of both.  It has the ability to question people’s existence like Inception and also an emotional impact of The Dark Knight. I really want to watch other, older Nolan movies, like Memento, Following, and Insomnia. He is probably the only director that big studious trust with huge amounts of money (Interstellar has cost $165 million) and a lot of creative freedom. This movie is an original idea in a reboot, sequel and spin-off world. I hope that this Warner Bros-Nolan relationship will continue because it has been working great so far.

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Acting

Matthew McConaughey was amazing in his role as Cooper. The McConaissance continues. I hope he will receive at least an Oscar nomination. While I might think that the whole movie won’t get a Best Picture nomination (more about that later) he definitely deserves another Best Actor nomination and/ or another win (however, the competition is really strong this year – actually, it is getting stronger every year). The reason why I believe he should be nominated is that he sold the emotional connection between the father and daughter. You were really rooting for him to come back to his family. His scenes in space while piloting a ship or crashing one were also really well acted and believable.

Anne Hathaway’s character Brand wasn’t my favorite in the film and you know why? Because she just reminded me so much of Sandra Bullock. They both even look kind of the same. And I didn’t really understand some of her decisions when they were in space, they seemed a bit stupid. Although, her character was right in the end: They should have gone to the third planet because that one was survivable. I love Anne as an actress (even did a whole post about her), but they could have casted someone else instead of her.

INTERSTELLAR

Mackenzie Foy, who you might remember as Renesmee from Twilight saga, was really good in her role as young Murph. She sold the other part of the father- daughter relationship and I believe that she will go far as an actress. Jessica Chaistan who played the adult Murph was also really good; I could believe that Foy could grow up looking someone like Chaistan, so good casting of that role. I wasn’t familiar with Chaistan’s work before but I really want to know more about her and to watch more of her work – she got me hooked.

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Michael Caine wasn’t a particularly likeable character and I didn’t really connect with him much. He wasn’t used enough as in his other recent film – Stonehearst Asylum (review).

TARS voiced by Bill Irwin was such a likeable robot, I loved his humor.

Wes Bentley was quite good in his role as well but, when SPOILER they killed him off,  I wasn’t really surprised. They definitely weren’t planning to kill off Oscar winners or fan boy favorites in the first hour of a 3 hour film.

Murph’s science partner/ love interest (?) was also a so-so character; he kind of appeared out of nowhere two hours into the film. He was played by Topher Grace and, after googling him, I had found out that he was Murph’s husband,.

Cooper’s son played by “the other Affleck” (Casey Affleck) was also an undeveloped character. It seemed that his father forgot all about him or even didn’t care much in the first place.

Matt Damon as Doctor Mann was really good in his role but his intention were unclear to me.

Addressing the longevity of the film, it didn’t seem too long for me because I was really engaged in the story. However, I do believe that the first two hours felt quite disconnected from the final act.

Story

The film tried to connect 2 different plotlines: family drama and astronomy/end of the world crisis. I believe that they really succeed for the bigger part of the film. At first, they started with a family story that quite coincidentally turned into a space odyssey. Then they moved to a science fiction part of the film and exposed the viewers to a tremendous amount of real scientific facts about the universe. But then, the movie kind of lost it for me because it ventured into mystical and supernatural territory. Everybody, who has seen the movie, knows which part I am talking about. While I do love physics and astronomy and believe that people will be able to understand dimensions and space-time as physical elements and will reach huge scientific heights someday, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at that very moment. I had the same problems with Luc Besson’s Lucy with Scarlet Johansson. Do you remember the scene where she is transferring her brain, which is working 100 percent, into a computer? And that computer turns into…. I don’t even know how to describe it. But in both cases, I felt that the ending was too detached, too unrealistic and too unimaginable for a human mind and even a bit illogical. And the concluding idea that love is the most powerful and, moreover, a quantifiable element tried to turn movie back to a family drama storyline but didn’t succeed. It sounds like I am nitpicking the movie but I actually really liked it and I am only thinking how Nolan could have made it even better. I had the same problem with another Nolan movie The Prestige
– the mivie was so grounded and the ending was completely out of the ordinary. Still, it’s a great film that messed my mind up (in a good way.)

I don’t have a favorite scene of the film because there were just so many great ones both visually and story wise; I do have a favorite scientific part of the motion picture – relativity theory. The running of time and different speeds of it fascinate me. I like to imagine that people will learn how to manipulate time and that we will learn how to live forever by travelling to places were time runs slower.

Visuals

The visuals of the space were breathtaking and that flying thought the wormhole scene was one of the most beautiful shot scenes I have ever seen. They also did an amazing job with Earth’s scenes and really established it as a horrible place to live.

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Music

I loved the musical score of the film by Hans Zimmer. It was even more memorable for me than Inception’s dunnnnn (Inception sound effect).

All in all, I had a great time watching this film, though some people didn’t like it as much (it has the lowest score of all Nolan movies on Rotten Tomatoes and critics aren’t super nice – that’s why I think it won’t get a Best Picture nomination). Personally, it appealed to me with the portrayal of unbreakable bond between father and daughter because I have a strong relationship with my dad. It satisfied the nerd side of me with the whole scientific stuff and once again made me believe in humanity and showed that we can go far as a species if we just work hard. I had issues with a few actors but the great performances of McConaughey and Chaistan as well as Foy made up for all the problems. Lastly, while the conclusion of the story was unbelievable and a bit insane, I really do hope that we will find a way to achieve inter-dimensional communication one day.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Interstellar trailer

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