5 ideas about a movie: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Movie reviews

Hello!

One of the early potential awards contenders has premiered, thus, let’s evaluate its chances. This is the review of Goodbye Christopher Robin.

IMDb summary: A behind-the-scenes look at the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne.

  1. Goodbye Christopher Robin was written by a novelist and a British TV/movie writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and a TV producer Simon Vaughan and directed by Simon Curtis (who previously directed My Week With Marilyn – one of my favorite films about the movie business). Curtis’s directing was very competent. He paced the movie neatly and made it feel like an old-school classical drama. The way he shifted the focus from one character to the next (from the father to the son) in the two halves of the movie was also an interesting choice.
  2. The script tackled a lot of topics and concept that all made up the incredible real-life story behind Winnie-the-Pooh. To being with, although, ultimately, this narrative was one of hope and happiness, it was framed by a feeling of dread and loss: the filmed opened with a scene that made the viewer believe that the real Christopher Robin had died at war, thus, the following long flashback (the rest of the film) felt like it was destined to end badly. However, the opening scene turned out to be bait-and-switch and the picture indeed had sort of happy ending – as happy as you can get in the real world.
  3. Additionally, Goodbye Christopher Robin had a lot to say about the middle/upper-class family relationships in the 20th century (and also now). First, the role of the nanny as ‘the true parent’ was portrayed explicitly. Also, an engaging message about motherhood was stated: how giving birth does not equal motherhood – one has to earn the right to call oneself a mother. The film also did a good job of portraying Milne’s PTSD and his ideas about/against the war(s).
  4. The film also examined the issues of creativity and commerce. The sequence of the writing of the books was really pleasant and sweet: it was also nice to notice the real-life details that inspired the plot-points in the books. The movie also did a good job of portraying the jealousy and the damage that comes with fame at a young age. Billy’s childhood was similar to that of contemporary children on reality TV (Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, etc.). Did the father appropriate his child’s childhood for profit? Was he right to do so in order to bring happiness to the masses? Is the happiness of many more worthy than the happiness of one? Robin’s experiences as a child and his desire for anonymity in the army as an adult sure made for a heartbreaking example cause and effect.
  5. Fox Searchlight has definitely assembled a stellar cast for this film, which delivered impeccable performances. Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina, The Revenant, Star Wars, American Made, Mother!, Brooklyn, Unbroken) shined as the frustrated artist and the difficult father. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, Tarzan) was equal amounts likable and despicable as Daphne. Kelly Macdonald (T2: Trainspotting) was amazing as the voice of reason and the source of heart (the nanny). However, all three of them seemed like they barely aged over the 3 decades – better make-up or some CGI would have been beneficial. Christopher Robin was played by two actors: the young Will Tilston, who looked like a real-life version of his character’s book counterpart (just brilliant casting), while Alex Lawther handled the more challenging grown-up scenes and displayed his acting talent that some of us have already had a glimpse of on Black Mirror (the ‘Shut Up and Dance’ episode).

In short, Goodbye Christopher Robin was well-made biographical drama, whose subject-matter was complex, layer, and fascinating. I’ll never look at Winnie-the-Pooh the same (a.k.a. as optimistically)….and I have its face of my duvet cover (waking up wrapped in depression?).

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Goodbye Christopher Robin trailer 

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Movie review: mother!

Movie reviews

Hello!

While I’m definitely more of a mainstream pictures kinda cinephile, I’m not against more arty/experimental films. Darren Aronofsky represents both: while his style is very much unique, his name is well-known to even the most casual moviegoers. Let’s see what his latest movie – mother! – has to offer.

IMDb summary: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Writing

mother! was written by Aronofsky himself. Now, going into the film, I knew what to expect and what not to expect. I didn’t think I was going to see a simple story – neither in its structure nor message. I was right: mother!’s narrative was quite complex (and looped) and it had an abundance of layers of meaning. While I think I understood some of the ideas the script was trying to portray, I’m sure a tonne of others just went completely over my head. Also, the meaning I got might not have been the meaning intended by the filmmaker or understood in the same way by the other viewers. This begs the question – if one makes a movie that is super hard to understand, isn’t he/she just being pretentious? Also, if one makes a movie that only a small percentage of audiences can understand, isn’t one damaging his/her career prospects (art films don’t pay much).

Anyways, let me tell you what mother! was about as explained by people smarter than me online (I’ll tell you my personal interpretation afterward). Supposedly, mother! was a metaphor of a film about the relationship between the mother nature (Lawrence’s mother character) and Judeo-Christian god (Bardem’s Him). The crowds symbolized Christians, while Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel also appeared. Lawrence’s and Bardem’s child was a symbolic version of the baby Jesus. When put in relatively simple terms and while looking back at the picture, I do get that general idea and how it was portrayed. However, while watching the movie, only the Jesus similarly came to my mind. I’m not a religious person (actually, an opposite of that), so I don’t actively search for sacramental imagery or metaphors in the films I watch, so that’s probably why I missed it.

I, personally thought that mother! tried exploring the topics of inspiration and creation of both life and art. I also believed that its main concern was the differences between the female and the male creation (which kinda goes in line with the female mother nature and the masculine God portrayal).

Additionally, just looking on a surface level, I was quite frustrated with the main character of mother! because I perceived her to be a very much traditional (old-school) female figure. She was depicted as needy, dependent, and solely family orientated. If not for the later realization of the mother nature connection, I would have been (still kinda am) disappointed by this portrayal that didn’t achieve much in terms of moving the female characters forward. Why couldn’t mother nature be seen as strong and powerful and completely able to discipline its children a la humans?

Lastly, the commentary that I comprehend the most and was the most intrigued by was the one about fame, cult following, and celebrity worship. These things were portrayed as addictive and damaging: a cautionary tale. However, it looks like I misinterpreted the belief in god for the obsession with celebrities (and, honestly, they aren’t that much different). Besides, if one thinks of mother! as portraying celebrity culture, it’s interesting to note than Aronofsky would then be seen as being both cautious of and partaking in it by going to the film festivals and the premieres, by signing autographs or taking pictures.

Directing

I have highly enjoyed some of the previous films by Aronofsky (The Wrestler and Black Swan, specifically), respected others (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) and been angered by some too (Noah). Now, mother! encompassed all of the feelings mentioned.

I really loved the way the movie was filmed – by following the titular character and keeping the focus of the camera mostly on her.The handheld style and the mobile frame are generally very much indie/small budget films’ staples but here, they seemed refined, high-end, glamorous and expensive. mother! did not have a score, only diegetic sounds were heard. This added to the overall distinct ambiance of the film. The close-ups of eyes, the heart-imagery, and the fire/life effects were all interesting and disturbing visuals too. Lastly, there were quite a few tonal shifts in the film. In a heartbeat, mother! would go from low energy creepiness but almost normalcy to complete exaggeration and total escalation.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem delivered stunning performances and basically carried this movie. It was so nice to see Bardem finally starring in a film worthy of his talents, instead of wasting them on Pirates 5. Lawrence was also really good. I loved her look – her grayish blonde hair both made her seem older, more sophisticated but also somewhat timeless/ageless too. I think she should just probably continue doing art/indie films (Joy) because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy the more mainstream work (The Hunger Games, X-Men, or Passengers). Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer were also really good. I’m so happy that they too finally got a chance to showcase the full extent of their acting chops. Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant, Star Wars, Brooklyn, Anna Karenina, Unbroken, American Made), his actual brother Brian Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters) all had cameo appearances as well.

In short, mother! was a unique film that both frustrated and intrigued me with its metaphors. Just now, while finishing this review, I came across another potential symbol in the movie and I imagine that I’ll find new ones the longer I think about it. If that’s your forte, then mother! is for you. If you want an easier but no less smart scary thriller, watch It again or for the first time.

Rate: ?/5 (I can barely put this film into words, let alone a single number)

Trailer: mother! trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Detroit

Movie reviews

Hello!

The race issue has always been a prominent theme for the awards’ season. Nowadays, this problem has re-established itself as a contemporary issue and, with the street riots and the public displays of violence back in the news, Kathryn Bigelow’s cinematic return – Detroit – is more topical than ever.

IMDb summary: Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers responds to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

  1. Detroit was written (and produced) by Mark Boal, who has also written Bigelow’s two previous features. The script was based on real events, while the characters were also inspired by real people. The film opened with a 2D animated sequence, which gave a brief history of the larger issue. However, the picture itself focused on the specific events in Detroit and on a group of people, in various positions, who got caught up in the event. This limited focus helped to go deep into the matter, while the inclusion of a wide variety of characters presented multiple sides of it. The film didn’t paint one said as inherently bad or good. Both of them seem to be operating in a gray area. For one, not all the police officers were abusive. Similarly, not all the rioters were actually fighting for anyone’s rights – they just looted and spread chaos for the sake of it.
  2. I really appreciated the human perspective on the riots, meaning that the personal lives of the characters took the front seat, while the riots were only the background setting. These two layers came together in the middle of the film, for the main sequence in the hotel, which was really hard to watch because of the blatant police brutality as well as stupidity (e.g. not even knowing how intimidation tactics work). One of the most despicable moments in the picture was a police officer tampering with the crime scene to spin the story in a positive light for him. It was also interesting to see how those police officers weren’t necessarily painted as racist but just simply awful people in general.
  3. It was also fascinating to see the differences in the portrayal of the local vs the state police vs the national guard and made me question the training and the background checks of the lowest tier of the police officers. There were some policeman in the film (from all levels) who actually attempted to help the people and I wish that there was maybe more of that type of representation for a more balanced view to be formed (unless there weren’t actually many police officers helping IRL instead of doing the damage). And the damage has been done in excess: by taking lives or ruining them; by making incorrect assumptions; by painting the innocent as the enemy because of their skin color; and by distorting and perverting justice. The ending of Detroit drove home the point that, while life goes on, the consequences – both physical and psychological scars – remain.
  4. Although Kathryn Bigelow hasn’t made a movie since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty (and 2008’s The Hurt Locker before that), she has not lost an ounce of her style. Detroit’s visuals had her signature mobile frame and quicks zoom ins/outs – basically, a narrative picture’s interpretation of the documentary style. The structure of the film was good too – I liked how she relocated the main event from its usual 3rd act into the middle of the film.
  5. Detroit had a great cast full or both familiar and fresh faces. John Boyega (Star Wars VII, The Circle) was really good as the intermediator between the two sides, while Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, The Revenant, War Machine) was absolutely stellar – while Poulter has already played bullies, I have never hated him as much as I did in this film. The singers Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore (Collateral Beauty) had small roles, while Jason MitchellHannah Murray (GOT’s Gilly), and Kaitlyn Dever also co-starred. Jack Reynor appeared as well: he has been doing quite good, career-wise, by booking pictures like Sing Street and Free Fire – that Transformers 4 gig, thankfully, hasn’t done a lot of damage. Lastly, Anthony Mackie (Marvel, Triple 9) had a borderline cameo role too, he has previously worked with Bigelow on The Hurt Locker.

In short, Detroit was a great crime drama and also a great biographical picture, that told both the personal stories of the people and the communal facts of the event. The watching experience itself was quite heavy on a heart but incredibly engaging to the mind.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Detroit trailer

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Movie review: Logan Lucky

Movie reviews

Hello!

Steven Soderbergh is back from retirement but the audiences don;t care much. This is Logan Lucky!

IMDb summary: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Writing

Logan Lucky was written by Rebecca Blunt – either a newcomer writer or somebody, working under a pseudonym. There has been speculation online that Blunt lives the UK, while some critics thought that Soderberg himself is hiding underneath that name (because he does that when crediting himself as a cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). Anyways, whoever this Blunt person is/was, they did a good job on the script. While the core narrative was quite familiar (Hell or High Water-esque – stealing for one’s family), its execution in details was brilliant.

The movie opened with a good set-up of the mundane lives of its characters and established them as people, whose lives did not turn out the way they planned (one of them peaked in high school, the other was suffering from the little brother inferiority complex).

Then, Logan Lucky moved on to showcasing the American culture (the kind that foreign people wouldn’t even dare to call culture), which consisted of children beauty pageants and rural county fairs. However, the star of the said culture and the film was NASCAR – a very American brand of motor-racing. The cherry on top was the prolonged anthem scene. Logan Lucky seemed to be driving home a message, that stuff like this, for better or for worse, happens only in the USA. This type of portrayal could have easily come across as annoying but the underlying sense of irony and satire made it work.

Speaking about the comedic side of Logan Lucky – it was great if not as extensive as I hoped, after watching the trailer. I loved the different pairings of the criminals (The Hitman’s Bodyguardesque) as well as the jokes that were central to the characters (one-handed bartender, the dumb brothers of Joe Bang). Logan Lucky also had a really funny sequence with Sebastian Stan’s driver character (who didn’t seem like he had much to do with the actual plot of the film). Another magnificent and hilarious sequence was the prison riot and the prisoners demanding all GRRM books, getting frustrated that ‘The Winds of Winter’ has yet to be released, and hating the fact that the TV show is going off books. The ‘explosive device’ sequence and the decision to stop midway and explain the chemistry were extremely funny too.

Logan Lucky also had a surprising and really heartfelt scene involving the main character’s daughter’s beauty pageant and the song ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ (by John Denver). That scene should have been the closing images of the picture. However, Logan Lucky did continue and had a concluding detective story that felt like an afterthought. The investigation itself was not that interesting or neccesary. However, that closing sequence did provide some revelations about the main character’s secret dealings and did have a nice ending (well, for now) with all of them sitting in a bar.

Directing

Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean’s trilogy, Magic Mike series, Haywire) did a good job with Logan Lucky but I don’t think that this was his best film. The pacing at the start was a bit slow, however, the movie did pick up its pace, when the action began. However, it started dragging again with that detective-story afterthought. What I appreciated the most about Logan Lucky (and the other films by Soderbergh) was that it felt real. Not necessarily realistic but real, grounded, self-aware, and sprinkled with irony. While the scripts that he directs (or even writes) are usually mainstream, Soderbergh addresses them with unique auteur/indie perspective.

This time around, Soderbergh also approached the distribution of the film uniquely and decided not to partner with any of the big studios. Well, that backfired. Big time. Logan Lucky didn’t win its weekend, nor it showed any staying power by dipping lower and lower in the TOP 10. I really want to know who/what is to blame. Are the audiences just not interested in Soderbergh’s work anymore? Was it the lack of advertisement? Where were all the NASCAR fans? Where were all the grown-up Pixar’s Cars fan (the ones who saw the 2006 film as children and are now adults)? Where were the fans of movies, involving cars, a la Baby Driver?

Acting

Logan Lucky had a really strong cast, lead by a new favorite of Soderbergh’sChanging Tatum (they worked together on Magic Mike, while the other recent Tatum’s films include Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight, Jupiter Ascending, Jump Street). His brother was played by Adam Driver, who is constantly working on smaller, more art-house pictures in between his Star Wars gigs, like Midnight Special, Silence, and Paterson. Daniel Craig (Spectre) also had a very fun role in the film that he seemed to be having a blast while playing. He never appeared to enjoy being Bond that much and, yet, he still signed on to continue being the 007.

The supporting cast included Riley Keough (Mad Max), Katie HolmesKatherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts), and Hilary Swank (would love to see her going back to the Million Dollar Baby type of projects and the level of success). The majority of them didn’t really play real characters but were used as devices for world-building or the lead’s character development. Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Sing) and Sebastian Stan (Marvel stuff, The Martian) also had cameo roles and their whole separate thing going on in the background.

In short, Logan Lucky was an enjoyable mixture of mainstream and indie, but it didn’t offer anything too special. Neither a disappointment nor really a win for Soderbergh.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Logan Lucky trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: American Made

Movie reviews

Hello!

Tom Cruise is back in the air in American Made, 30 years after he flown in Top Gun. Let’s see if he still has what it takes!

IMDb summary: A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

  1. American Made is a real-life story of an American pilot Barry Seal, which was adapted to screen by Gary Spinelli – quite an inexperienced writer (his only other produced picture is 2012’s Stash House). The narrative of the film was extremely crazy and so far out there that it had to have happened (and the only place it could have happened was the dear old U.S. of A.). The plot presented in the movie felt a bit choppy but that was intentional. By the end of the picture, it was revealed that there was a framing device of the cassette tapes, full of memories that Barry recorded after the events had happened and recounted for the viewer in this film, so the different segments of the movie corresponded to the separate tapes and, thus, weren’t really connected.
  2. Doug Liman, known for a few things, like starting The Bourne franchise with Identity, creating the former power-couple Brangelina with Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and producing the 2014 film with multiple names that audiences didn’t know how to feel about – Edge of Tomorrow, directed American Made and did a good job. The pacing was fine if a bit slow, while the comedic timing was nearly perfect. The reaction shots of the characters, responding to the insane events around them, were super funny, while, by far, the most hilarious scene in the film was the sequence, where all the different law enforcement departments were fighting over the right to arrest Barry.
  3. The visuals and the cinematography of American Made seemed a bit confused to me. The frame would be super mobile one minute and then transition into a steady shot. A lot of handheld tracking shots and extreme close-ups were also used. Then the camera would switch to a long or even extremely long exterior shot. Lastly, there were cutaways to the actual homemade films that Barry made, that broke the fourth wall. It seemed to me that American Made was partially filmed as an indie documentary and partially as a classical Hollywood biopic. The era appropriate Universal logo at the start was a nice timely touch, though.
  4. Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible series, Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher series, The Mummy) starred in the lead role of Barry Seal and did an amazing job. While the real Barry Seal looks nothing like a Hollywood celebrity Cruise, I still believed his performance. How couldn’t I, when I still find Cruise extremely charismatic? It was also interesting to see him doing a more emotionally rather than physically demanding role. I don’t think I remember the last time, I saw Cruise in a dramedy like American Made, instead of a straight up actioner. His next film is MI6 as well as Edge of Tomorrow 2, where he will reteam with Liman.
  5. The supporting cast of the film didn’t stand out much but served their purpose. Sarah Wright was mostly just an eye-candy for the male viewers, while Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant, Brooklyn, The Force Awakens, Anna Karenina, Unbroken) had quite an interesting role as a CIA agent – his nervous twitch and constant blinking were memorable parts of the performance. Glee’s Jayma Mays and Fargo’s Jesse Plemons (who also was in Black Mass) had cameo roles, while Get Out’s Caleb Landry Jones appeared in a similarly crazy role like the one he had in the highly regarded race-relations picture.

In short, American Made is a really funny take on a story that has insane twists and turns and a fairly sad ending. Tom Cruise, once again, flys high in a role that should be despicable but is likable instead.

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: American Made trailer

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Movie review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Movie reviews

Hello!

Do I even need to introduce this movie?! ‘It’s RogueRogue One‘. Let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Before we start, if you are interested, this is my The Force Awakens review from last year and this is my more personal post regarding Star Wars. Also, I should probably give you a Spoiler warning, although, if you have seen the original trilogy, you know what was/is the end game for the characters of this story.

Even though the hype for Rogue One was much smaller than for The Force Awakens, I was still excited for it. So, let’s get the short version of the judgment out of the way first: Rogue One is not only the best Star Wars prequel but also might be my favorite movie of this year. It also makes me rethink the top spots on my personal Star Wars preference list.

Writing

Rogue One’s script was written by a duo of screenwriters: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. Weitz has mostly worked on comedies and YA adaptations, like The Golden Compass and the Twilight franchise. He also wrote last year’s Cinderella. Gilroy wrote the majority of the Bourne films, Armageddon, and the critically acclaimed Michael Clayton. Judging Rogue’s One’s narrative, in relation to the scriptwriters’ previous work, I think that this film had the best writing I have seen from both of them.

The story

I immensely enjoyed the story of the film: the plot was cohesive and clear and yet the narrative was complex.  All of the 3 acts blended seamlessly – the movie never slowed down. It had the perfect mixture of action and quieter character moments. The picture was also suspenseful and exciting, it compelled me both emotionally and intellectually. I loved the lines about how rebellions are built on hope and the one about taking all the chances. I also adored the world building: the screenwriters respected the canon but also expanded it.

The characters

Rogue One begun as a story of Jyn Erso, but it soon blossomed into a more of an ensemble based movie. I believe that all the characters received a chance to shine and that their presence in the film was more than justified. I also appreciated the fact that the rebel characters were not portrayed as pure heroes but as realistic individuals, who have been through a lot and sometimes had to make the tough decisions, which were not always good. The fact that the alliance was presented as divisive also added more intrigue and realism into the story. Lastly, as we all predicted, the main rebel characters of the film all died. They were basically the real Suicide Squad of this year. The characters were really well developed through small and seemingly unimportant interactions in just one movie that their passing was quite emotional. I was invested in their lives and in their story and I’m quite sad that we only got to spent a few hours with them. All of them were unique and interesting in their own way and I don’t actually think that I can name another recent film with such rich (with potential) characters.

Directing

Godzilla’s director  Gareth Edwards helmed Rogue One and did not disappoint. I loved the scope of the film and all the exciting action in space. I also enjoyed the fact that this film visually looked like a Star Wars movie but had its own unique setting and locations – the fight on the beach and in the water was so cool. I also liked the fact that this movie was grittier and more sophisticated than the other recent fantasy films. The grit was appropriate, effective, and well balanced with funny moments (not like in BvS). The way the new characters were realized visually was super cool too: Ben Mendelsohn’s Krennic’s white cape was impeccable, Donnie Yen’s character’s look was amazing and Forest Whitaker’s Gerrera‘s appearance added so much to the character.

The film also had a few familiar faces popping up in cameos and small roles. At first, I thought that the inclusion of Darth Vader was not necessary as he did not have much to do. However, a couple of scenes with him at the end were so amazing that they made me change my mind. Grand Moff Tarkin also appeared with the help of CGI. The effects looked okay but I, since I knew that the original actor who portrayed the character sadly passed away 20 years ago, I instantly noticed the computer imagery. Leia also cameoed in the film and I think that her CGI face looked better, maybe because we only saw it for a couple of seconds. Lastly, the new droid K-2SO was a really nice addition too. He finally seemed like a fully rounded up character, because all the previous droids would mostly have one purpose. C-3PO is mostly in the films to be an annoying comedic relief, while BB-8’s main job is to be cute. R2-D2 is probably the one who is closest to being a full character, but since the audience can’t understand its speech, it is quite hard to connect with him. K-2SO, on the other hand, seemed like a real person with a distinct personality and yet he was still efficient as a droid.

Music

Michael Giacchino scored the film but my favorite aural parts of the film were, of course, the original soundtrack and the empire’s theme. Hearing that music didn’t make me as emotional as it did last year when The Force Awakens came out, though. Last December, I could not believe that I got to see a Star Wars movie in the cinema. This time around I was just enjoying the experience of watching the film, without paying much attention to the brand under which it was made.

Acting

  • Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso was fabulous. I wasn’t entirely sure how she will do in an action film but she blew me away. She was likable and inspiring but still had the level of darkness inside. I loved Jones’s and Luna’s chemistry and all their scenes together as well.
  • Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. Andor was my favorite character of the film, and Luna’s performance – my favorite performance of the whole cast. He was just so compelling and intriguing. Would love to read a book or a comic with his character’s background. I absolutely loved how damaged and tortured he was inside, but how he still managed to make the right choice. Cassian Andor as character reminded me a bit of Poe Dameron too. I wonder if I’m the only one who saw the resemblance. 
  • Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic was superb. Not only his appearance was cool, but his behavior as the nonchalant bad-ass villain was amazing as well. His whiny brat moments also added a lot of vulnerability to the character. 
  • Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe was so amazing. I loved that we got to see the force from a different perspective though his character and I also loved his action scenes. Yen’s back and forth scenes with Wen Jiang’s character  Baze Malbus were fun too.
  • Mads Mikkelsen played Galen Erso and was really good. I liked him in this film way more than in Doctor Strange. I just think that he got to show more of his dramatic acting skills in this film. 
  • Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook was also a marvelous addition to the cast. I loved his character’s arc and the transition.
  • Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera was spectacular too. His look and behavior were interesting both visually and from the narrative standpoint.
  • Alan Tudyk as K-2SO. Tudyk did a magnificent job with the motion capture as well as with his voice work: he made K-2SO’s dry sense of humor immensely entertaining. 

In short, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was/is another strong addition to the brand. The story was engaging, the characters unique and original, and the space action – spectacular as usual.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Rogue One trailer

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Movie review: Stars Wars The Force Awakens

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of Star Wars The Force Awakens! I have never thought that I will be able to write about a Star Wars film and a new one, nonetheless. Once again, my review will be from a newcomer’s perspective – I have already explained all of this in my preview, which you can read here. So, without further introduction, let’s celebrate Christmas early and review Episode 7!

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

IMDb summary: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Atmosphere

Only a few times in my life I have seen the whole cinema cheering and applauding the film even before it has started. That’s exactly what happened in one of the premiere screenings of The Force Awakens in my hometown – as soon as the words ‘A long time ago in the galaxy far far way…’ appeared on screen, the energy of the crowd doubled and it just kept on increasing throughout the whole film. We all said goodbye to this film with another round of applause, of course.

George Lucas

George Lucas is the creator of this universe and he also directed a lot of the Star Wars films. From what I can gather from the Internet (not the most trustworthy source), the fans have this mixed opinion about him: they like him for creating this amazing galaxy but hate him for re-releasing and re-editing the films over and over again. He also doesn’t seem to understand that the fans prefer the practical effects and a great story and not the CGI monsters and walking/sitting/standing exposition. Lastly, the huge difference in quality between the originals and the prequels is also a dividing factor in the fandom and in the image of George Lucas.

My own personal opinion is also mixed. However, I am happy that Lucas was involved and will be involved going forward with the sequel trilogy as creative consultant. It’s his world – let’s let him expand it and make it even cooler. Just don’t give all the power to him.

Directing + Visuals

J.J. Abrams directed the film and he did an amazing job. I was expecting him to nail it and he did not disappoint. The action was great, the establishing shots – breathtaking and the close ups – suspenseful. I loved both the big battles in spaces and the more personal lightsaber fights. The final duel in the woods was wonderful! I hope that Abrams continues to work on the Star Wars films going forward, at least as a producer. He has directed some of my few favorite films (Star Trek and Mission Impossible) and I can’t wait for his next film. BTW, I practically did not notice any lens flares if that bothers you.

Writing + Story + Dialogue

Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt wrote the script for the film with the help of Abrams himself. Kasdan has written Episode 5 and 6 back in the 1980s and is writing the script for the Han Solo spinoff for 2018. Arndt has written a screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine (one of my favorite movies ever) and has worked on a few Pixar films as well as Hunger Games Catching Fire and Oblivion. I really enjoyed the story that they wrote. It was both fresh and familiar. To be fair, quite a few plot points were very similar to the original films – they might have referenced Episodes 4 to 6 a bit too much (especially in the 3rd act), but I still loved every minute of it. I liked how they set up the new characters but were still able to incorporate the old ones. The new characters were just similar enough to the old ones to induce nostalgia, but fresh enough to be interesting. I loved the funny moments as well. They were organic and fit the occasion. My favorite ones were the thumbs up and the reveal of the Millennium Falcon. The revelation of the family relation was not as surprising this time (we were all expecting something similar), but it was amazing nonetheless. In addition, the film left lots of gaps in a story, which the fans can fill in themselves and speculate – that’s part of the fun. The prequels hit the viewers with tons of boring exposition, but the sequels do not seem to be following the same path. Also, on a side note, John Williams’s score was glorious once again.
Acting/Character by character

The new trio:

  • Daisy Ridley as Rey – she is definitely my favorite female character of 2015 (even better than Furiosa, although I really loved Theron in Mad Max). Rey was young and independent, strong and vulnerable, a bad-ass fighter and a good friend. If I ever need a costume for Halloween or if I ever get a chance to go to a comic con, I’m definitely dressing up as her. Lastly, I cannot not speculate – I think she is Kylo’s sister and a Rey Solo – how else could the force be strong with her? However, she also might be a Skywalker or a Kenobi. I guess we will just have to wait and see. Daisy Ridley  has not starred in any big films before but she played an amazing lead. I couldn’t be happier that this actress will be the one taking us on the journey in the galaxy far far way in the near future and I also am excited for her other projects (if she has any time for them).
  • John Boyega as Finn – another amazing lead. I liked how we finally were able to have stormtrooper (or a former one) as a lead. I, personally, have always thought about stormtroopers as soulless tools of the Empire (or the First Order), so it was really nice to be proven wrong. Boyega did a really good job with his action scenes – he was just the right amount of clumsy and funny. Boyega does not have a long list of films on his resume as well, however, I think he has a bright future ahead.
  • Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron – another amazing character who I can’t wait to know more about. He was extremely likable and a really efficient pilot. I hope he gets a bigger character arc in the sequel. I also want more scenes with him and Finn (bromance shippers- the Tumblr is yours). Isaac was the most experienced actor out of the new trio. I have seen a few of his films – Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina – I especially loved the second one. Oscar Isaac will also play Apocalypse in the upcoming X-Men film – I can’t imagine him as a villain and can’t wait to see that film because of that.

The old trio – it was amazing to see all of them coming back for this film – and they actually had some stuff to do and weren’t just there for emotional purposes (although, for that also).

  • Harrison Ford as Han Solo – I liked Ford’s take on Solo one last time. He played an older, wiser Han, however, he was still the smuggler that we all knew and loved. The scene on that bridge broke my heart and I think I wasn’t the only one weeping in the cinema.
  • Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker – while he personally didn’t have much to do, he was the thing driving the plot. His meeting with Rey at the end of the film was really great – it had no dialogue but was still very powerful. I hope he comes back for another film (he probably will and will have a much bigger part in it).
  • Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa – while Fisher is known online for being a tough actress to work with, I still love her as Leia. She also played a different kind of Leia – Leia in her next stage of life. Fisher’s and Ford’s scenes together were as amazing as 30 years before – they haven’t lost any chemistry.

Villains:

  • Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was a really good antagonist. He received a lot of development and had lots of emotional depth. He has defeated his father and I can’t wait to see his confrontation with his uncle and a former teacher. I was really surprised that they  allowed Kylo Ren to take his mask off in the first film – I was expecting them to keep this reveal for at least the sequel. Speaking about the actor portraying Kylo – I am not really familiar with his work but can see him getting lots of work after this movie.
  • Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke – the king of motion capture captures not only motion but our attention once more. I think he will be a great ‘big bad’ for the sequel trilogy. I am also really looking forward to other motion capture roles by Serkis – the 3rd Planet of the Apes film and Jungle Book.
  • Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux – was a surprisingly big character. I think Gleeson did a really nice job, although, I don’t see his character surviving till the last film. I have seen a few of Gleeson’s films and liked all of them (mainly Anna Karenina and Unbroken). He has also starred in Brooklyn this year and will also be seen in The Revenant.
  • Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma – the only disappointment of the whole film. I was expecting her to have a bigger part but she had like 3 lines and a few insignificant scenes. I hope they fix her character in the sequel. This is the 2nd time that I expect Christie to have a proper role in the film and am left only with disappointment – the first time was Mockingjay Part 2.

Supporting cast:

  • Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, a pirate – although there have been rumors floating around that Nyong’o was almost cut from the film, because her motion capture skills were not good enough, I believe that she did an amazing job. I really like the design of the character, especially the eyes and the goggles, but even the most amazing visual design would have been worth nothing without the amazing acting of Lupita. I hope we get a chance to visit Maz in the other movies going forward. Next year, we will hear Lupita in The Jungle Book.
  • Also, I really liked the new droid – BB-8 – it was so cute. In addition, I liked seeing the familiar faces of R2-D2 and C-3PO. Lastly, I am not that familiar with biology or anatomy of the Wookiees, but Chewbacca has not aged a day – could you imagine Chewie with gray hair – I mean all of it…

Future

In 2016,  we will be getting the first standalone/spin-off film – Rogue One and a year after that Episode 8 will reach theaters. While I am definitely happy that Star Wars franchise is back, I am a bit worried that if the market gets over-saturated with Star Wars films, they quality will diminish once more and that they will become a less special event – just an ordinary sci-fi film. However, I want to keep an open mind and hope for the best.

All in all, Star Wars The Force Awakens was a great film. I felt included in the experience of watching it, although I didn’t have any nostalgic connections with the previous films. I still can’t believe that it’s Star Wars and it’s back! Everything – the story, the visuals and the characters were just the right amount of familiar and newly exciting. If you have any worries that this film won’t be good, just drop them and go to see it with a calm heart and mind. It is amazing and is definitely worthy of breaking all the box office records.

Trailer: Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer

Rate: 5/5

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Movie review: Mockingjay Part 2

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

A year ago today, I and one of my friends went to the premiere of the Mockingjay Part 1 as we have done with all the previous THG films. 12 months later, I have graduated high school and have moved to a different country and I am seeing this film alone,thus, breaking the 3-year-old tradition. And although to an outsider this seems like a laughable occasion to be sad about, I can’t help but feel like another part of my life, the careless teenage years, has ended. I had the same happy/sad/proud/self-reflection moment back in 2011 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out – only then I said goodbye to my childhood. Anyway, enough of my sappy complaining about life, let’s review the closing chapter of another YA series – The Hungers Games Mockingjay Part 2.

IMDb summary: As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Book and Movie

I have read all the Hunger Games books more than 4 years ago, so I definitely do not remember all the details of the story. However, I do feel that the Part 2 was extremely faithful to the book, because I knew all the twist in the story and I could also easily predict the moments of death of a few of my favorite characters – if the filmmakers would have wanted to change that aspect of the story, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that.

The problem I had with the film and its predecessor is the fact that I do not think they needed to stretch out Mockingjay into 2 parts. I have  2 reasons for this:

1.By stretching out the story and then dividing it into 2 films, they made two very uneven movies: one was practically action-less and had a serious, more grown-up tone while the second one had more action (still, not as much as the mainstream audiences expected) and a more youthful, rebellious tone.  If they would have joined the two halves, maybe they could have evened out the tone.

2. THG series has a lot of characters and all of them should have definitely received more screen time. However, half of the characters that were developed in Part 1 were dropped in Part 2 and vice versa – some characters were completely forgotten in Part 1 and reappeared out of nowhere in Part 2. If they would have joined the two parts, the development of the supporting characters would have made more sense and the individual screen time of the characters would have been more even.

Writing/Directing

Francis Lawrence directed the last entry into the franchise. He also did the Part 1 (obviously) and Catching Fire. I think he did a great job – I especially liked the long around/circle panning shots of Katniss hugging Prim and Katniss arriving at the front lines and the crowd greeting her with the hand sign.  I also really loved the shots of Katniss and Cressida running or working together as well as the pairing of Finnick and Peeta.

The screenwriters for the film were Peter Craig (who wrote Affleck’s The Town)Danny Strong (who wrote The Butler) and the author of the book Suzanne Collins herself. I loved the dialogue of the film: it was heartbreaking and extremely sincere.  I also really enjoyed the conversation between Peeta and Gale and the moment that Haymitch and Effie shared (I ship it, do you?).

I heard some people say that the ending of the film was extremely stretched out – similarly to the Lord of the Rings Return of the King. I can see where they are coming from and why they might have a problem with it. However, I did like the ending ,because it was lifted straight from the book. The last words of Katniss, about making a list of all the good things and ”there are worst games to play” came from the book, from the very last pages of it.

Lastly, since I don’t remember the book that well, I wonder whether the Plutarch’s letter was in the book or did they screenwriters made it up so as to deal Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death.

Visuals/Action

Part 2 had more action than Part 1 but not as much as people expected it to have. I did not have a problem with that but it might damage the film’s reputation in the eyes of the mainstream viewers. I really liked the action scene with tar and, of course, the final arrow to the chest.

Music/Soundtrack

We all still remember the hauntingly beautiful song by Lawrence/KatnissThe Hanging Tree (it even reached the top list of various radio stations) from the Part 1. However, Part 2 had amazing music as well by James Newton Howard. I liked the instrumental score which accompanied the action and the ending/credit song –Deep in the Meadow (Lullaby) sung by Lawrence – it triggered this hopeful and optimistic feeling – like everything will be right in the world one day. The fans will remember that this was the song of Rue’s death in the 1st film. Only back then, it caused a very different feeling, followed by tears.

Reality

The Hunger Games has always been praised for reflecting the contemporary events of real life and Mockingjay Part 2 is no exception. It was definitely a version of exaggerated reality and portrayed what happens when personal (selfish) goals get in a way of the public ones. In addition, it showed that fighting violence with violence is not a good idea. The saying ‘Revolution eats its own children’, which I believe originated during the French Revolution, comes to mind.

Acting/Character by character/Themes

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss: It is not a secret to anyone that Lawrence is an amazing actress. I knew nothing about her before her first outing as Katniss in 2012, but now I watch all of her films. Once again she did an amazing with her monologs and speeches as well as all the arrow shooting scenes (made me miss my bow, which I had to leave in my home country). Also, am I the only one who thinks that as the franchise’s themes got more depressing and darker, her hair also became blacker? Or maybe they just used a different wig.

Although the THG franchise is over, Lawrence’s career is only getting started. Next year, she will star in her next big franchise – X-Men Apocalypse and quite highly anticipated science fiction drama Passengers with Chris Pratt.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta: I have never been a huge fan of Peeta but I really liked him in this film. The conversation ‘real’ and ‘not real’ were amazing. Since THG is now over, Hutcherson is moving onto different projects. In 2016, he will be in James Franco’s film In Dubious Battle and in 2017, we will see him in another of Franco’s films – The Long Home.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale: I liked the moments he shared with the other characters and I just wish that we could have spent more time with him not only in this film but in the whole franchise. I also wonder what could have happened if Gale would have taken Peeta’s place in the First Hunger Games? Next year, Hemsworth will star in the Independence Day sequel – Independence Day: Resurgence.

Sam Claflin as Finnick: The scene in the tunnels was the one I was dreading since I knew what was going to happen to him and Finnick is my favorite male character out of the franchise. Claflin was a perfect choice for this character: charming and extremely likable even if he plays a cocky or full-of-himself type of character. I loved how they gave the line ‘Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games’ to Finnick as well! Claflin has a few upcoming movies: he is reprising his role of William in 2016’s The Huntsman and starring in a few smaller projects – Their Finest Hour and a Half and Me Before You opposite Emilia Clarke.

Natalie Dormer as CressidaI love Dormer on Game of Thrones and I really liked her in THG films. I loved the fact that she was a bad ass with both the camera and a gun. In 2016, Dormer will be in a few horror films- The Forest and Patient Zero.

Woody Harrelson as HaymitchElizabeth Banks as EffiePhilip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch were all really great additions to the cast. I don’t have anything specific to say about their characters since they had only a few scenes. However, I can mention that I am really excited for Harrelson’s next film Now You See Me: The Second Act since I loved the first movie. Banks’ career is also on a high note with Pitch Perfect and various producing as well as directing gigs.

Julianne Moore as President Coin and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. Two antagonists which are worth each other. Perfect casting choices. I have never been a huge fan of Moore’s but she won me over in Part 2. I also recently saw the film called The Hours – she was wonderful in it. Sutherland’s Snow’s last laugh was also perfect – straight from the book too.

Willow Shields as Primrose had only 3 scenes. If we would have spent more time with her, the emotional impact of her death would have been much stronger. Shields’s career is also just beginning – I think we will see more of her in a near future.

Jena Malone as Johanna had only a few scenes which she killed. The dialogue between Johanna and Katniss in the hospital was heartbreaking and funny/witty/sassy at the same time. We will see more of Malone next year in one the most highly anticipated films – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Stanley Tucci as Caesar, Jeffrey Wright as BeeteeElden Henson as Pollux also had tiny roles or cameos. They did a nice job with what they had. Tucci will start in Beauty and the Beast in 2017, Wright will voice one of the characters in The Good Dinosaur later this year and Henson still has Netflix’s Daredevil’s Season 2.

Gwendoline Christie as Commander Lyme and Patina Miller as Commander Paylor also had really tiny roles, although both of them had nice/inspiring speeches. Christie will also be in Stars Wars The Force Awakens in a few weeks and Miller in the TV show – Madam Secretary.

In summary, Mockingjay Part 2 was a great film, although it could have been much better if joined with the first part. The acting was really nice, the dialogue – heartbreaking and the action – exciting. The fact that the film reflected the real world didn’t hurt either.

If I was asked to line-up all the films in the franchise, this would be my list:

  1. Catching Fire
  2. Mockingjay Part 1
  3. Mockingjay Part 2
  4. The Hunger Games

Goodbye, and for the last time- May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer

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