Movie review: Alien: Covenant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of Alien: Covenant – an apology for Prometheus or its continuation?

IMDb summary: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Writing

Alien: Covenant was written by John Logan (The Last Samurai, The Aviator, Hugo, Spectre, Genius) and Dante Harper (a production manager), based on a story by Jack Paglen (Transendence) and Michael Green (Logan and Green Lantern – what a combo). Similarly to how the previous filmography of these screenwriters is a mixed bag, Covenant is also a movie of mixed quality. It just mostly rehashes the plot of the original Alien and throws in some Prometheus themes. I, personally, liked the ideas of the film Prometheus but didn’t feel like they were executed particularly well. Same happens in Covenant – the potential is there but the attempt at the backstory of the xenomorphs just convolutes the plot too much (how many unpredictable experiments have to happen for their final version to appear?). The idea to have a crew/cast of 10+ people also means that none of them receive any development. We do find out some traits of a few characters, but I am not even sure what roles did the majority of the crew members had on a ship. They all could have been scientists or sheep herders. The couples idea is also just plain stupid. Why would you have a bunch of couples on a dangerous space mission? Wouldnt’ they judgement in a difficult situation be impacted by the fact that their significant other is also on board?

Having bashed the plot, I would now like to praise a few good moments of the film. The discussion about creation was an interesting and promising concept. The faith and rationality divide was also a good idea to introduce. The decision to include another character played by Fassbender was the best judgment that the filmmakers made. While I am not sure when did David turn so purely evil, I liked seeing the David v Walter interactions, even if they were quite creepy.

Directing

Ridley Scott has made some amazing (Blade Runner, original Alien, and Gladiator) and less than amazing (Prometheus, Exodus) films throughout his career. His last picture – 2015’s The Martian – was one of my favorite movies of that year. Alien: Covenant falls somewhere in the middle on a quality scale. Visually, the film was gorgeous: the landscapes, the scope, and the scale were just breathtaking. (Prometheus was also visually stunning – I actually visited the filming location of the opening sequence – Isle of Skye). However, I felt that the action scenes could have been better – more suspenseful and intense. There also could have been more of them to replace some of the creepy dialogue sequences. And yet, at least Covenant was way grittier, gruesome, and more stylistically in line with the original two films than the squeaky clean Prometheus.

Acting

The cast of the film was quite big but not a lot of the actors delivered memorable performances (which was partially the blame on the script). Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Assasin’s Creed, Steve Jobs), not surprisingly, was the standout in his double role, while Fantastic Beast’s Katherine Waterston was also quite good. Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Jackie) and Danny McBride (Sausage Party) were the only two other actors from the cast who I remember as doing something of significance in the film. James Franco was probably featured more in the extra promo materials than in the actual film, while Noomi Rapace had a picture cameo only.

In short, Alien: Covenant was mostly disappointing. It had some good elements, but, ultimately, everything was ruined by the awful script full of laughable but not funny moments. If you want to watch a straight-up sci-fi horror, check out Life instead (even though it is just a knock-off of the original Alien), or if you want a more PG space movie, Passengers should do.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Alien: Covenant 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: The Great Wall

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the movie that is either groundbreaking or just a continuation of the oldest Holywood tradition. It’s The Great Wall!

IMDb summary: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

My introductory point about this film possibly being groundbreaking has to do with the circumstances of its creation. The Great Wall is the first major co-production between US and China (Kung Fu Panda 3 was also a co-production and came before this movie, but it was an animated project rather than a live-action one). And yet, this movie has also been accused of whitewashing – the old trend for Hollywood, which only recently started receiving some backlash. So, can this film be a start of something new or is just the same old thing?

Writing

The picture’s script was written by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro (writers of the Prince of Persia movie), and Tony Gilroy (writer of the first 4 Bourne films and Rogue One). The combined previous filmography of these screenwriters is of mixed quality and the writing for The Great Wall is also kinda mixed, mostly leaning towards mediocre.

To begin with, the whole decision to have a white lead was not explained that well during the runtime of the picture. It made sense to have a white lead and a supporting cast, full of Chinese actors, from the business standpoint, but it didn’t make much sense story-wise. The film, at least, stated that Matt Damon was not supposed to be playing a Chinese character but a European explorer, who is looking for gunpowder, so Damon’s casting cannot necessarily be called whitewashing. However, the decision to focus on a European hero, who saves China, brought up the whole ‘white savior’ debate. The fact the character’s arc begun with him wanting to steal the gunpowder didn’t paint the best picture either. Is the film, then, only reaffirming colonial thinking or is trying to tell a historical story accurately?  In short, I, personally, didn’t think that the picture gave a good enough explanation for having a European lead (played by an American) in a foreign setting. Even the film The Last Samurai came up with a better reason.

Speaking about the other aspects of the writing – I did enjoy quite a few of them. I liked the world-building and the mythology that the film was inspired by. I loved the idea to have a variety of specialized parts of the army. I liked that the lead character was written as an archer, because of my personal fondness of archery. I appreciated the fact that two languages were used in the film – it made the movie seem more as a co-production in contrast to it appearing as if Hollywood just hijacked another foreign story. I also loved that so many female warrior characters were written into the story. I don’t actually know if that is historically accurate, but I didn’t care much, in the moment of watching the movie. The picture’s attempt to have an underlying important theme – the opposition between paid participation and the true loyalty – was also commendable. While this debate wasn’t really treated as fully as it should have been, I like the fact that the film at least tried to be something more than it ended up to as.

And that final something is the fact that the film’s story was just kinda meh. The narrative was simple and straightforward – nothing one hasn’t seen before. It had two obvious plotlines – the first about fighting the monster and the other about stealing the gunpowder – which converged in the end. The main character’s change of heart during the finale was predictable and cliche. Basically, for a movie that did something very different with its financing and production, The Great Wall should have also done something new and interesting with its story.

Directing

The Great Wall was directed by Zhang Yimou. The majority of his films act as Chinese submissions for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language category, so he is an accomplished director. His direction for this movie was quite nice too and I do think he did the best he could with the given material.  The action scenes looked cool and I liked the massive scope of them. The film had some impressive long takes too. The historical setting, as well as the different sections of the army, were also realized well enough. Plus, the design of the monsters was varied and quite interestng (they kinda reminded me of the zombies from World War Z because of their movement and the sounds they emitted). However, the CGI definitely could have been more photorealistic, especially in this day and age.

My favorite action sequence was the first battle, mostly because it was reminiscent of the final battle from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, although not as good. I also really liked the smaller corrida-type (Spanish bull-fighting) fight scene, in which Pedro Pascal’s character was luring the monster and Matt Damon’s character was trying to shoot it with an arrow. I also loved that the battle scenes had a diegetic beat – the drumming within a story provided a rhythm for both the characters, who were fighting, and the viewers, who were just enjoying the soundtrack. Lastly, the scene with the Chinese lanterns also looked lovely but, as weird as this sounds, it didn’t felt unique. These lanterns are now used all over the world for various celebrations (or in movies, like Tangled), so their usage in an actual Chinese setting didn’t seem as unique as it should have.

Acting

Matt Damon played the lead and did as good a job as he could have. Honestly, he has never been my first choice for a historical movie but he did make the role work. Even with all the whitewashing backlash, Damon will be fine, as his career has been going great. While his return to the role of Jason Bourne wasn’t as positive as it could have been, his work on The Martian is still on everyone’s minds. Besides, in addition to acting, Damon’s producing work has been going great, as the film he recently produced – Manchester by the Sea – is a big awards nominee this season.

Pedro Pascal played a supporting role and brought a tiny bit of a different kind of diversity into the picture. Pascal impressed everyone on a single season of Game of Thrones and I am kinda surprised that his work on GOT didn’t lead to more roles for him. Nevertheless, I really liked his The Great Wall’s character’s sass – it pleasantly reminded me of Oberyn.

Willem Dafoe also appeared in the movie and didn’t have much to do, while the Chinese part of the cast delivered great performances. Jing Tian was amazing as the female lead, while Andy Lau and Zhang Hanyu did a good enough job with what they were given as well. I really wish that I knew more about these actors and their previous filmography.

In brief, The Great Wall was a film, whose behind the scenes story was more interesting than its on-screen plot. While it might have broken grounds from the business standpoint, it was nothing more than average from the creative one.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: The Great Wall trailer

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Movie review: Passengers

Movie reviews

Hello!

I am closing the holiday season by watching and reviewing the last big movie of 2016 – Passengers.

IMDb summary: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

I have been really looking forward to this movie, as it stars two of the biggest stars of today. However, then the paycheck news overshadowed the film and, later on, its critical scores, as well as the box office haul, were lesser than expected, so, I started having some reservations. These reservations were also the reason why I didn’t go out of my way to see this film before I made my best film list for the year. It was probably a good thing, as this movie, most likely, would have ended up on the worst list since  I had quite a few problems with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Writing

Passengers was written by Jon Spaihts, who also wrote Prometheous (one big plot hole of a movie), co-wrote Doctor Strange (how?) and is penning the upcoming The Mummy reboot. The majority of the problems I had with the film were because of its narrative. Let’s just go straight to the case: while the big reveal was not surprising to me, as I find out about doing my research before the film, it was still infuriating. I don’t know if I am the only one who finds the fact that Pratt’s character picked a gorgeous young female to keep him company more than unsettling. So, should we all make important decisions that our survival might depend upon based on purely physical attraction? Having read that sentence back, I suddenly realize that this actually happens in the real world constantly. Well, I still don’t want to see that in the sci-fi movies that are supposed to portray the better and brighter future.

Moving aside from the big spoiler-y reveal, the story by itself was not the most original. The movie was mostly a slow and sappy love story, so don’t expect to find any elements of a sci-fi thriller in Passengers (if you want an engaging space opera, just watch Gravity, Interstellar or The Martian). The plot was super predictable for the most part and the action really only picked up when one of the crew members woke up. But, yet again, the movie went back to its romance aspect and had a cliche ending.

The writing for the main female character was not the best either. I didn’t find her to be a particularly likable – she was a bit annoying and pretentious. I know I have championed unlikeable characters before but only if they were interesting. I didn’t find Aurora interesting at all. Her name, in reference to the Sleeping Beauty, might have been the most exciting thing about her.

Despite me hating the bigger part of the story, I want to mention at least a few things I liked. First, the whole discussion about humanity and culpability was interesting even if not handled efficiently or correctly. Secondly, the set-up, the backstory of the ships and the company its belongs to, and Pratt’s Jim’s character development were all quite good. Thirdly, the movie did have a few cute moments and a couple of funny lines that didn’t make me cringe or facepalm.

Directing

The director of The Imitation Game (absolutely adored that picture) Morten Tyldum directed Passengers and did a good job. I loved how the film looked visually: the design of the ship (both the inside and the outside) was stunning and the CGI effects of space and the stars were gorgeous too. All the space walk scenes, as well as the gravity loss at the pool scene, were my favorite (because they didn’t involve a lot of talking, just the visual part of filmmaking). The pacing could have been neater, but overall, I felt that Tyldum did the best he could with a flawed script.

Acting

Chris Pratt (The Magnificent Seven, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) was magnificent in the lead. He was charming and likable and made that awfully misogynistic character of Jim seem passable. I liked the fact that his character was an engineer, though, at least that added some logic to the film.

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, X-Men, Joy) was also good in the film but that’s a no brainer. What baffles me is why she even took on this role: it wasn’t challenging at all, just a role of a cliche female love interests. It just seemed way bellow Lawrence’s, Academy Award WINNER’s, level. If she only took it for the massive paycheck – well, that is even more problematic, as she doesn’t really want to add the adjective ‘greedy’ to her already sinking image. In addition, the movie’s opening weekend’s domestic box office didn’t even cover her paycheck! If she is not a draw for the movie goers, why would you pay her this much, especially, when this role could have been played by any other young actress.

The film didn’t really have a supporting cast, it was mostly a two people show. Nevertheless, Michael Sheen (Nocturnal Animals, Alice 2, Far From The Madding Crowd) was great as the android bartender, while Laurence Fishburne was also okay in the few scenes he had. His story and passing were probably more emotionally appealing to me than the whole romance of the two leads.

In short, Passengers was an okay movie with some problematic ideas (if you just think about it longer than a minute), stunning visuals and great performances from the overpaid cast.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Passengers trailer

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Movie review: Doctor Strange 

Movie reviews

Hello hello hello!

The newest Marvel film – Doctor Strange – has premiered in some places around the world, and since I’m lucky enough to live in one of the places that got the movie real early , I can already give you my thoughts on it! Since this review is ahead of the wide release of the film, some of it will be spoiler-free and then I’ll give a big spoiler warning for those who want and can continue to read further. Let’s go!

IMDb summary: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

First, I will begin this review by stating that I’m a Marvel fangirl, so that could color my judgment (I would love to be a DC fangirl as well, it’s just that DC doesn’t allow me to be one yet – praying that Wonder Woman will be good). I have reviewed more than a couple of Marvel films already and gonna link them for those who are interested: Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Civil War.

Also, I would like to briefly mention that, once again, the screening that I attended had a predominately male audiences, like the majority of the comic book movie screening this past year. This kind of audience breakdown explains why Marvel doesn’t want to make a Black Widow movie but I do hope that Captain Marvel will bring more girls/women to the cinema.

I was really looking forward to Doctor Strange for quite a while, I was really excited to see magic being introduced into the MCU. I was also interested to see if Marvel Studios will be able to launch another successful franchise, which revolves around a weird character. So far, their gambles (Guardians and Ant-Man) have paid off, so Doctor Strange will probably follow suit, because, let me state this loud and clear – it is an amazing movie. I will go through the different aspect of the film in and give you an informative but a spoiler free overview. Then, I will give you a spoiler warning and talk about interesting story points. Lastly, although the first part of the review will be spoiler free (I’ll try my best), I would still advise you to read it at your own discretion. It’s gonna be a long post, so get some snacks or drinks.

Writing

A few people worked on the script as well as the story of the movie, including the director Scott DerricksonC. Robert Cargill (writer of the Sinister movies) and Jon Spaihts (wrote Prometheus and these upcoming pictures: PassengersThe Mummy and Pacific Rim: Maelstrom)I wasn’t that familiar with their previous work but they impressed me a lot with the story and dialogue of Doctor Strange. Although the movie’s narrative revolved around the origin story, it was executed really well, without making it cliche or stereotypical. The dialogue and the jokes were also marvelous. All of the comic relief worked and tied the movie to brand that is Marvel (in contrast to DC). The familiar types of jokes were a reassurance that one was watching a Marvel movie since the visuals were so unique, different and nothing I’ve seen before in a Marvel film, or in any film for that matter. The dialogue and the character interactions were snappy, emotional and clever. The seeds have also been sown for future sequels and the references to the wider universe (Avengers and Infinity Stones) were also present.

My only gripe with the writing was, and I cannot believe I’m saying this, the villains. AGAIN. Marvel, come on! Either cast more appropriate actors, or have better writing for your villains. Don’t get me wrong, they were not that bad, just not quite right and as high of a quality as the rest of the film.

Directing

Scott Derrickson, who has mostly worked on horror films, directed the movie and did a spectacular job. However, half of the praise should also go to the cinematographer Ben Davis (A Long Way DownGuardians, Age of UltronGenius), because the visuals of the movie were its strongest point. They are really hard to describe and deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Despite the visuals being indescribable, I will attempt to explain them somehow. Basically, all the warping and shaping of reality gives off feelings of madness and has a slight Mad Hater/Wonderland aura. All of the folding buildings do remind a bit of Inception, but I would also say that Doctor Strange takes this type of visuals to an extreme. The mirror effects, the kaleidoscopic folding, the clockwork-like structure and the domino-like movements really make the film a sight to behold and marvel at.

The variety of different locations were also really great – they added a global aspect to the film and even more flavor. I absolutely loved the fact that the Ancient One lived in Nepal – it kinda tied the sorcerers and magic to Buddhism and monks (at least that’s the connection I made in my mind). Doctor Strange was also one of the only films in which magic and the modern world worked well together because I usually enjoy fantasy films that are set in the past more, but this picture broke that tradition. The action was also great – the movie found a balance between physical and magical fights as well as their mixture.

Lastly, I loved all the costumes of all the characters, but especially Strange’s. His cape was wonderful – not only a costume but also a tool, a living tool – so cool! Other gadgets that he had were also neat and have a lot of merchandise potential (read the spoiler part to find out what I’m definitely buying).

On a separate note, Doctor Strange was the first movie to feature the new Marvel Studios logo. This one looks more cinematic than the last one and it also has a sense of nostalgia and grandeur – something along the lines of ‘oh, look how far we’ve come’.

Acting

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange was AMAZING (probably have repeated this word like 100 times in this review). His American accent was believable and his whole portrayal of the character – impeccable. He made me both like and hate Strange at first. He was funny, funky, posh, annoying, charming and charismatic – such a well-rounded performance with layers. Another great casting on Marvel’s part, another great leading man. I also loved his purely physical acting – the hand movements. I liked how all the sorcerers were moving both their hands and arms. This makes their magic appear different from Scarlet Witch’s as she relies more on the finger movements. Also, I’ve mentioned that his character’s gadgets had a lot of merchandise potential. Well, for one, I want that dimensional travel ring since I wear a lot of nerdy jewelry. Also, his costume will probably be at the top of everyone’s cosplay list, while I can at least be happy that my winter coat is the same color as his cape. Recommended actor’s movies: Sherlock, The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness, Black Mass, The Fifth Estate, The Hobbit 2.
  • Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One was superb too. Some people were annoyed that they gender flipped the character, others had racial issues. I didn’t have any problems with Swinton being cast because I really admire her fluidity as an actress – she plays with masculine and feminine a lot and I think she could probably transform into a different ethnicity for art’s sake if that wasn’t so frowned upon these days. I’m not saying that Asian actors shouldn’t be cast in Asian roles, but I also cannot agree with those that are saying that creative liberties cannot be taken when adapting a comic book to the big screen. Recommended actor’s movies: We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, A Bigger Splash, Hail, Caesar!.
  • Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer was excellent as well. I liked the fact that McAdams was finally cast as a franchise character because I’m a fan of her and would like to see more of her. I liked how she played probably the only normal person in the film and how she reacted to everything that was happening around her. She was both relatable and really funny. Recommended actor’s movies: Midnight in Paris, Southpaw, Spotlight.
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius to me, sadly, was the weakest link in the cast. His performance seemed a bit off and I cannot pinpoint why. I’ve seen Mikkelsen play a wonderful and scary villain in Casino Royale, so I’m quite annoyed and devasted that he wasn’t as good in this picture as he could have been.Recommended actor’s movies: Casino Royale.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor was exceptional as Karl Mordo. I loved how emotional his performance was, how it could go from extremely energetic to a very subtle in a heartbeat. Would love to see more of his character and cannot wait for him to be the villain in the sequel. Recommended actor’s movies: The Martian, 12 Years a Slave, Triple 9, Z for Zachariah.
  • Benedict Wong as Wong was really nice. I liked how funny he was but, at the same time, how he could hold his own against Cumberbatch’s Strange. I would love to see more of his character’s and Strange’s friendship because the two actors had great chemistry! Recommended actor’s movies: Prometheus, The Martian.

In short, Doctor Strange is another win for Marvel. The film successfully told an interesting origin story, introduced a bunch of characters and blew me away with the visuals. I’ll most likely see it again in a few weeks time.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Doctor Strange trailer

SPOILER DISCUSSION

In this part, I would like to talk about a few plot points as well as a few action sequences that really stuck a cord with me. To begin with, let’s look at the characters and their interactions. I loved the writing for Doctor Strange – he started as a super cocky yet efficient person and had an amazing story of hero’s growth. I really liked seeing him as a surgeon, just being in his element in contrast to him being completely lost and failing miserably during his magical training. Strange’s interactions with the other doctors as well as with Christine were also amazing: funny and kinda annoying but still enjoyable. I also thought that the love story worked and wasn’t forced. It seemed organic and was full of both bad times (the fight in the apartment – amazing back and forth dialogue) and nicer ones (Christine saving Strange’s life). I loved Strange’s relationship with his mentor – the Ancient One – too and I liked the pep-talk that she gave him before dying. I also enjoyed the ideas and lines that the scriptwriters wrote for her character, including ‘Not everything makes sense, not everything has to’. Strange’s and Mordo’s relationship was also interesting and had more than a few moments of foreshadowing. The biggest hint at what will happen in the future was, of course, the post-credits scene, in which Mordo was seen stealing powers from the other sorcerers. This probably means that he will be the main villain the sequel .

As I have said, the movie had plenty of jokes and quips. Some of the best ones came from Strange’s and Wong’s interactions: ‘Wang? Like Adele?…Or Aristotle?…Or Eminem?’; ‘Try me, Beyonce’, followed by a shot of Wang listening to the song Single Ladies; ‘People used to think I was funny. Did they work for you?’. The wifi moments from the trailer was still funny as well, despite the fact that I’ve seen it numerous times. The mid-credits scene’s self-refiling pint of beer was extremely entertaining too.

All of the action sequences were amazing and they were all also kinda distinct. Doctor Strange’s first encounter with the Astro plane was crazy – so cool and so mad.  That taster we got in Ant-Man was nothing compared to this. It got a bit creepy at times, though, especially with those tiny hands (Deadpool?!).  The fight in the Astro plane in the hospital was cool too and expanded on the idea that we are now dealing with multiple realities (that voltage and magic relation – great). Same with that mirror world – I liked the fact that we got to travel to it and through it quite a lot.

The time gem, which is the eye of Agamotto, really came into play in the last act of the film and was utilized well. I liked the turning back of time, the stopping time, the time loop and the breaking the laws of nature plot-points quite a bit.

The villains of the film were my biggest and only issue. The way that Dormammu was realized seemed a bit cliche and, for such a powerful being, he seemed to be defeated to easily. I hope he comes back in the sequel. The character of Kaecilius was only okay, while he could have been amazing. He had reasons to be angry and also had a kinda personal relationship to the Ancient One but he just didn’t seem to be used fully.

Moving forward, Doctor Strange will definitely show up in the Infinity War and his time gem will have to get stolen during the first part of the Avengers 3. The mid-credits scene with Thor might also be an indication Strange will show up in Thor Ragnarok – that would actually be really cool, would love to see Strange and Loki interacting!

So, that’s it for the spoiler part. I would love to hear what you liked and disliked about the movie in the comments!

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Movie review: Jason Bourne

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hollywood just resurrected one of its spy action franchises, so let’s discuss its latest entry – Jason Bourne.

IMDb summary: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

I have told you numerous times that the two spy action series that I’ve followed closely are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I never really knew much about The Bourne franchise or other lesser-known spy projects like Jack Ryan or Jack Reacher. Before going to see Jason Bourne, I did my homework and checked out the original trilogy of the early 2000s as well as The Bourne Legacy spin-off (sort of) that didn’t stick with audiences, which kinda sucks since I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (just give him his own franchise, don’t bring him in as a replacement). Speaking of the original films – Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – I would summarize them as a collection of handheld and/or shaky camera cinematography, amnesia plotlines, old computers as props, white old men characters and the signature ‘Come Alone’ line of dialogue. Jokes aside, I did like all of the movies and appreciated their realism and ruggedness. The 3rd picture was my favorite because it was the most intense, had the best action sequences as well as a few subtle heartbreaking character moments.

Writing

The director Paul Greengrass and the editor Christopher Rouse wrote the script for Jason Bourne and did an okay job. I think if they would have brought another screenwriter, the narrative might have been better. Basically, I felt that the movie contained two stories: one was about Jason Bourne and his family, while the other revolved around the CIA and a new kind of spying platform – a social media site. The two plots didn’t have much in common until they were forced together in the 3rd act. Both of these narratives were really interesting separately – the Jason Bourne family secrets would have made for a great personal story, similar to the story of The Bourne Identity. The public safety v private rights story would have made for a great political and modern thriller, kinda like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The writing for the characters was much better that the actual story. I liked the fact that Bourne was a morally gray hero who has gotten his hands dirty numerous times. Alicia Vikander’s character was also impressive – she was an interesting blend of conservativism and liberal ideas: she did want to change the system but didn’t pick the best approach to do so. I also liked that, this time, the film had only one agent/asset hunting Bourne because by having only one supporting character of this kind, you can give him development and that’s exactly what they did – he wasn’t just some disposable tool of the villain but an actual character who had personal reasons to dislike Bourne.

Directing

Paul Greengrass, who did Supremacy and Ultimatum as well as Captain Phillips, did a good job directing Jason Bourne. The visual recap of the previous films set the tone and the universe nicely for the following movie. The setting of the Athens during all those protests made the film even more grounded and real-looking. The last car chase was absolutely crazy in a good way. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) also worked – it did create an intense feeling of urgency and allowed the movie to have a non-stop pace. This type of handheld cinematography, reminiscent of documentary features, is not my favorite but I appreciate how unique it is in the market oversaturated with over-polished and too perfect looking Hollywood flicks. The Bourne films actually try to do something interesting and different with their visual storytelling, while the other Hollywood action movies are built in the way that an infant could follow and understand them .

Acting

  • Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Damon has made the character of Bourne his own but I was actually surprised that he returned for this movie as he did sat the 4th film out, so I was thinking that he was done with this franchise, especially bearing in my mind that his career is currently blossoming – he just did the awards’ nominated The Martian. However, maybe coming back for Jason Bourne and its possible sequel was a good idea on Damon’s part as it looks like his next film will crash and burn – The Great Wall’s trailer got a lot of backlash for whitewashing. 
  • Tommy Lee Jones starred as Robert Dewey and was another white old male villain. I honestly don’t know if The Bourne franchise will ever have a different villain. I also don’t know if Lee Jones will ever play a different character than an older white male businessman/politician/doctor/general who is not that likable or good.
  • Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee was a standout member of the cast and I couldn’t be happier. She nailed her dialogue completely. In addition, I’m so proud of her for winning an Oscar for The Danish Girl and really want to see what will she do next. Her upcoming two films The Light Between Oceans and Tulip Fever are on my must-watch list and she has also been cast as the new Lara Kroft.
  • Vincent Cassel as the Asset was okay. He worked well in the action scenes.
  • Julia Stiles appeared, once again, as Nicky Parsons and was good. It was nice to see Stiles in a big film because I don’t think that she had a lot of substantial roles in the recent years. She had a supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook but that was back in 2012.
  • Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor was also a nice addition to the cast. A few years back Ahmed was in Nightcrawler and later this year he will be in Rogue One.

All in all, Jason Bourne was a fun action film. Its narrative seemed confused and without a clear direction, but the action sequences did make up for it and made watching the film and overall entertaining experience.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Jason Bourne trailer

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Movie review: Ghostbusters

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sometimes, there comes a movie that ignites and divides the Internet and the latest film to do so is the new Ghostbusters all-female remake. The last 3 words of the previous sentence tell you everything you need to know about the big fight. Some individuals are angry because it is a female Ghostbusters picture, other are enraged because it is simply a remake of a classical film. The third party consists of trolls, who like to see the world burn.

My personal stance on this film is/was kinda neutral, calm and open. I liked the idea of a female group in a lead since I’m a female cinephilé. The fact that it is a remake and not an original female sci-fi comedy is not great, but it doesn’t infuriate me to the point that I would attack somebody online. I did not grow up with the original films of the 80s or the cartoons of the 80s and 90s – I have seen them and enjoyed the viewing experience but never thought about them as something really special – so maybe my lack of personal emotional ties to the property allowed me to be more distant and level-headed. The critics gave the new film an okay score and, so far, all of the reviews I watched or read deemed the movie fine or okay. So, let’s see what I thought.

IMDb summary: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Writing

Ghostbusters’s script was written by Katie Dippold and the director Paul Feig. This duo has previously worked on the comedy The Heat, which I loved. Ghostbusters’s story, on the other hand, was only okay. I liked the moments when the characters were going crazy about science and were just unleashing their inner nerds – if this makes more girls try out S.T.E.M. studies, I will count the film as, at least, partially successful. I also liked the inclusion of the online commentators in the movie – that moment felt really meta, knowing the backlash that the feature’s trailer sparked online. I also liked all the movie references: Patrick Swayze shout-out was fun, the Jaws’s reference involving the mayor was spot on and the Clark Kent joke was quite nice, although they could have made some kind of Thor joke, given that that’s the role that Chris Hemsworth actually plays. I also liked the inside references – I liked that they included both Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man into the picture. I also liked the underlying message of the film that all people seek approval, one way or the other.

On the other hand, some narrative ideas and concepts infuriated me. For one, all of the jokes at the expense of male characters were pushed too far and the whole writing for male characters was just terrible. I know that male dominated films have used female characters as sexualised objects or eye candy, but I don’t want female-driven films repeating the same mistakes. In a world, where universal acclaim is the goal, any kind of vengeful ideas or supposed payback both have no place. The second thing that angered me was the fact that Ghostbusters were too afraid to go all the way – yes, they broke the gender norms and I applaud them for that, but they left all the racial stereotypes for no goddam reason. Moreover, some of the plotlines and plot-twist were way too cliche: what was that Ghostjumpers’s reference? Was that supposed to be a nod to the original Ghostbusters? The whole mayor sideline, while it allowed for some good jokes, did not need to be in the film AGAIN. Lastly, why the big villain of the story could take any shape again? That has been done already (although, I liked that the villain took the shape of their logo). In addition, why did the thing that will destroy the city had to be a huge cloud/vortex/beam? Aren’t there any other ways to destroy the world on screen?

Directing

Paul Feig, who has previously directed Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy – all movies that I actually enjoyed despite not being the biggest fan of comedies – did an okay job with the direction of the Ghostbusters. The CGI looked much better that it did in the 80s, as it should have. The pace of the film was also fine and there were some nice action moments dispersed throughout the runtime of the picture. The scenes during the end credits were also neat and it was also great to hear the original Ghostbusters theme by Ray Parker Jr in a theater once again. In general, the film was kinda cliche but still kinda fun. The main problem I had with the directing of the film was that the Ghostbusters remake didn’t know what it wanted to be. At times, it strived for the action-sci-fi-comedy genre, but it also had numerous moments that belonged to a cartoon parody of a film.

Acting

Melissa McCarthy starred as Dr. Abby Yates, while Kristen Wiig played Dr. Erin Gilbert. They seem to be playing the characters that they always portray – the crazy one and the serious one. Although, to be truthful, McCarthy probably played the least crazy character of her career and I actually really liked her character and the performance. Generally, I do like McCarthy’s characters when she is working with Feig, I just wish she stopped working with her husband Ben Falcone because Tammy and The Boss weren’t great. Wiig’s performance was fine as well, but nothing too special. I like her much more in dramatic rather than comedic roles – she was really good in The Martian.

Kate McKinnon portrayed Dr. Jillian Holtzmann and I had mixed feelings about her character and the portrayal. I liked her look the most out of the 4 leads and she did seem the most interesting and unique. However, at times, her character acted just too weirdly, so that the whole performance turned into a parody and the character into a caricature. McKinnon is mostly known for her sketch comedy work and some of her scenes did feel like over-acted SNL skits. I wish her performance would have been elevated to the big screen level, but I’m still excited to give her another chance, starting with the upcoming Christmas comedy – Office Christmas Party.

While the main pair of the film was supposed to be Wiig’s and McCarthy’s characters, I actually like the chemistry between McCarthy’s and McKinnon’s characters much more and would have loved to see even more of them together.

Leslie Jones portrayed Patty Tolan and was also one of my favorites. Her character was a bit stereotypical but that’s the problem with the writing, not acting, so I’m absolutely disgusted by the hate she received on Twiter. I really liked how Jones delivered her one-liners and snarky reaction remarks and I also appreciated the fact that, through her character, the audiences could at least try to understand the science mumbo-jumbo. Moving forward, Jones will voice a character in SING.

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin Beckman. I hated the writing for Hemsworth’s character and I have no idea why he even chose to play this role, since he has some better things coming up. He still has a few Marvel movies to do, he will be in Star Trek 4 and he just had another mildly but still successful live-action fairytale – The Huntsman. The only saving grace for his character were those few scenes in the end, when he became the main antagonists but even that development didn’t go anywhere interesting.

The cameos: some of the cameos were nice, I especially liked Sigourney Weaver’s and Ernie Hudson’s appearances. Bill Murray’s cameo was a hit and miss for me, it didn’t even seem like he wanted to be there.

All in all, Ghostbusters remake was a mixed bag of a film. It had some nice moments as well as some terrible ones. I don’t think that it deserved so much hate that it received, but I also cannot say that I understand why it had to be made.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Ghostbusters trailer

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Movie review: Captain America: Civil War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just come back from the cinema where I’ve watched the newest Marvel movie. I have been eagerly waiting for Captain America: Civil War since it was announced and I can’t wait to discuss it with you. I’m also predicting that this post will be quite long, so prepare yourselves! I’ve already done a review of the graphic novel that this movie is based on, so I invite you to read that blog entry before checking out this review! You can also find the reviews of other MCU movies here: Captain America 1&2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

IMDb summary: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

SPOILER ALERT

Audience

Just before I start talking about the movie, I would like to mention a few things about the audience of the film. I complained in BvS’s review that there were only a few female viewers in my screening. Well, Civil War’s screening was also male-centric but there were more female viewers than in the BvS. The screening that I went to was also solely adult, which was kinda weird. Dark DC films are not as appropriate for children as the lighter Marevl films and yet there were a few kids in BvS and no children in Civil War. This might have just been a coincidence, but I still found it strange and worth mentioning.

Writing and Story

Captain America: Civil War was written by a long-time duo of screenwriters – Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They have written all previous Captain America’s films, Thor: The Dark Wold and will be scripting both parts of the Infinity War. I believe that they more than succeeded with the story of Civil War. In general, Marvel/Disney has done it AGAIN. They not only met my expectations but exceeded them.

To begin with, this film was not an adaptation of the Civil War comic book, and that may annoy some people. Captain America: Civil War was a sequel to Winter Soldier, a continuation of Iron Man’s trilogy, Age Of Ultron’s sequel and a setup/origin story for the new characters. Civil War arc was the thing that tied all of these story lines together but was not the main focus of the film.  I enjoyed the fact that the movie had so many connecting yet different/separate storylines – it gave the feeling of a bigger cohesive universe – Marvel Cinematic Universe – while in BvS all the different plotlines just made the film messy. That’s why you make an epic team-up/versus movie 13th in the franchise, not 2nd.

  • Winter Soldier sequel – the movie expanded the Winter Soldier’s backstory. We found out that in the 1990s Hydra was operating in Russia – moved from the nazis to the soviets. The movie also introduced the idea that there were more Winter Soldiers but never really went anywhere with it. I would have liked an explanation for that blue stuff/liquid.  The new villain of the film (who wasn’t really a villain) also used the info that Black Widow put online at the end of Winter Soldier. Lastly, the character of Crossbones, who was first introduced in Cap 2 as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (member of the S.T.R.I.K.E. team) was also featured in the Civil War’s opening, while trying to get his revenge on Captain America as well as steal a bio weapon. 
  • Continuation of Iron Man’s story – Tony Stark’s past – his parent’s death – as well as his present actions as an Avenger – played an important role in the film. This film also kinda returned the title of the leader of the Avengers back to Tony. Remember, how at the end of Age of Ultron, Captain America was the one shouting Avengers Assemble? Well, Civil War’s ending kinda suggested that Iron Man is resuming the position of the leader, since Cap is an outlaw now. Or maybe Cap will be leading Secret Avengers? Iron Man became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of comic book Civil War, so it’s only right that he is back at the helm of the Avengers in the movie.
  • The film’s main idea, as well as Zemo’s main objective, was to break the empire from the inside – a.k.a break the Avengers from the inside. And while it looks like he succeeded – he certainly thinks that he succeeded – the hopeful ending of the film with the letter and the phone kinda suggests that the Avengers will be back together. Plus, we, as viewers, know that they will be back together since thy will have to fight Thanos.
  • Age of Ultron sequel – Sokovia accords, Zemo’s desire for revenge and Iron Man’s guilt originated in the Avengers sequel and were dealt with in Civil War. Also, the woman who confronted Tony at MIT was probably a nod to the comic book Mrs. Sharpe or she might have been an actual Mrs. Sharpe.
  • The origin stories for new characters: Civil War introduced us to Black Panther and Spider-Man. We got a chance to see T’Challa take on 2 mantels – king’s and warrior’s. We also met the new Peter Parker as well as his aunt – that whole sequence was one of the funniests in the film.

Shout-outs to the missing characters: Both Hulk and Thor were mentioned in the film. The characters wonder about their location and also questioned whose side would they choose. I think it was a good idea to cut them from the film, so as not to overcrowd it, especially when we will see both of them in Thor: Ragnarok 

Jokes: during the first half of the film, I kinda thought that Civil War might probably be the most serious film of the MCU with the smallest amount of jokes. However, then Ant-Man and Spider-Man showed up and went to town. I feel like both of their characters represented us – the viewers – and their actions probably mimic the actions that the fans would make if they met their favorite superheroes.

The writers also did an extremely good job with making the viewers understand and even sympathize  with both conflicting sides. That’s why the action scenes, where the heroes were fighting each other, were so interesting – the audience did not know who to root for. 

Lastly, the film featured a version of the prison for superheroes and it was completely different from the prison in the comics, which is not surprising. Nevertheless, it looked really cool and I wish that we would have gotten a chance to explore it more. 

Directing and Action

The Russo brothers did an amazing job directing the film – I am so glad that they will be the ones in charge of Avengers Infinity War Part 1 and 2. In Civil War, The Russos successfully juggled all the different storylines, gave the viewers enough character moments and plenty of exciting and epic action. It looked like action scenes were filmed with a handheld camera (and were actually done in-camera), so the frame was very mobile – it constantly moved and I needed a few minutes to get used to it. However, after that, I enjoyed all the actions scenes immensely. There were so many of them that they all kinda blurred together – I need a second viewing of the film to pull them all apart. 

Having said that, even though I’ve only seen the film once, I do perfectly remember those iconic shots with both teams charging into battle as well as Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Captain America fighting at the end. I really really enjoyed the sequence of the big battle because of the different fighting pairs and because those pairs constantly shifted. For example, Black Widow wasn’t always fighting Hawkeye and Iron Man wasn’t always going up against Captain America. Cap had a fight with Spidey and Hawkeye tried going against Black Panther. All of the characters moved around non-stop and fought whoever was in their way.

In addition, the other aspect of the film’s action that I liked was the Avengers, combining their powers – especially Scarlet Witch lifting Cap and then working with Falcon. I also would like to applaud the fight choreograpger – James Young – for his amazing work – all of the action scenes were unique and different yet all equally interesting. Moroever, the movie was set all over the world and I really appreciated the international feeling that it had, since Marvel’s fan come from all over the world. Lastly, the picture had an amazing and emotional score by Henry Jackman, who has previously composed music for  X-Men: First ClassCaptain Phillips, Captain America: The Winter SoldierKick-Ass, and Big Hero 6.

Acting and Characters

Although the film had a lot of characters, not any of them felt shoved in – they all fit into the story organically and all got plenty of screentime/development.

Team Captain America:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America: Evans was, once again, really great in the role. He is the Captain America and I will be very sad if someone else will take his mantel. This might happen in the near future, as the producers have said that Captain America’s story arc that started in The First Avenger is now complete. Moreover, Evans only has Infinity War Part 1 and 2 left of the contract. The way he dropped his shield at the end might be a reference to the fact that the end is near for Roger’s Captain America. I also really loved that they brought back the line ‘I could do this all day’. If you would like to see a non-comic book movie with Evans, may I suggest Snowpiercer.
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier: Stan was also really good in the role. I loved the fact that we find out more of his backstory but I would also like to find out even more about that red book and why those specific words trigger something in him. Plus, I liked his friendly (or not) banter with Falcon – I felt like they were fighting for the position of Steve Roger’s best friend. Lastly, a great non-comic book film, starring Stan, is The Martian, if you are interested.
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon: Mackie’s Falcon is slowly becoming my favorite secondary character (and by secondary I mean that he doesn’t have a standalone frannachise). I enjoyed the shots with him fighting and I loved seeing him use the wings to fight and flip over. I also loved how he and Scarlet Witch combined their powers in the opening action scene. I wouldn’t mind if Falcon would get his own movie or at least would be featured on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you want to see more of Mackie but don’t want to wait for him to get his on movie or TV show, check out Triple 9.
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye: Renner was also great as Hawkeye once again. I have always been a fan of his character, since I love archery myself, so I am always happy to see him, although half of the fandom usually is not. I loved the fact that Civil War continued Renner’s and Scarlet Witch’s relationship – he was the one who talked her into going into battle in Age of Ultron, and her brother was the one to die saving Hawkeye, so it was only right that Clint was the one to break Wanda free. Film suggestion for the fans of Renner Mision Impossible: Rogue Nation.
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch: another new favorite. I loved her hand movemets in Age of Ultron and they still look cool in Civil War. Plus, I enjoyed Olsen’s facial expressoons, especially in the opening scene, where she realized what she has done. Also, the way she threwv cars at Iron Man was a pretty great move. Her accent was also consistent and authentic – I especially like her accent because that’s the accent that I have, as an Eastern European (mine is not that strong though). Olsen has previously starred in Godzilla and next year will start in thriller Wind River, alongside Renner.
  • Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13: I was so glad to see more female characters in the comic book film. I loved the fact that they finally came out and said that she is a Carter and a relative of Peggy’s – Steve’s face, when he find that out was nicely confused. That whole scene, however, was quite sad, because I didn’t want to see Peggy go. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the fact that they gave Sharon some action scenes to participate in and that she was an important informant for Team Cap: while no one can replace Peggy, Sharon might be a great substitute. Her kiss with Steve was only a cherry on top – especially when they showed Bucky’s and Sam’s reaction – that shot was priceless and got the most laughs from the audience during my screening. I would love to see Sharon Carter pop up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – that would also mean more work for VanCamp – I used to watch her on Revenge, but that series ended a few years ago, so I’m sure that VanCamp would be open for more work.
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man: I was really happy to see Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. I loved his interactions with Sam as well as his adoration of Cap. And can we just talk about the ‘big distraction’? They turned him into Giant-Man – didn’t even save that for the Ant-Man sequel – and it was epic. The CGI of Giant-Man was also pretty great. Tony Stark’s reaction to him – ‘okay, does anyone on our side have any amazing tricks?’ – was also superb. Scott Lang’s line ‘Hank Pym told me to never trust a Stark’ was also pretty great. Ant-Man sequel is scheduled for 2018, so we still have a few years to wait.

Team Iron Man:

  • Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man: Downey, Jr. could probably play this role in his sleep or, actually, he would not even need to play it, because he is both Tony Stark and Iron Man. I loved the fact that we got to see Downey, Jr. fight as both Tony Stark (that watch was super cool) and Iron Man. The Pepper Pots tie-ins were kinda hit and miss for me, though. Nonetheless, I enjoyed seeing that weird presentation with the hologram of young Tony – the CGI was amazing and that scene also set up the fact that Tony is still dealing with the loss of his parents. Lastly, I would not be surprised if we would get more Iron Man stand-alone films in the near of far future. Then again, Iron Man is set to appear in the new Spider-Man film, so maybe Downey, Jr. will only be appearing in other character’s films moving forward. For those interested, a quite good non-comic book film with Downey, Jr., which was also produced by him, is The Judge. 
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow: an old time favorite of mine (both the character of Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson as an actress). Black Widow was the one who changed sides during the big battle, while in the comics, Spider-Man did that. But, since Spidey is so new to the MCU, it is not surprising that they didn’t use him that much and only featured him in the big battle and in the scenes with Iron Man. Black Widow had a few nice moments with Hawkeye (‘are we still friends?‘) and with Iron Man (‘do you actually agree with me?‘). I still have hope that we will get Black Widow stand-alone film,but until then, check out Johansson in Hail, Caesar! and Lucy.
  • Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine: Cheadle was good in the role, but his injury was not that shocking, since he is a secondary character that was mostly features in Phase 1 and at the begining of Phase 2 and is not really that memorable (basically Rhodes only apperead in Iron Man films and the last picture of that trilogy came out 3 yeras ago – nobody really remembers those film that well, especially when we had so many oher MCU films in the past 3 years). By the way, Cheadle’s other big franchise is Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen films, if you want to see more of him.
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther: Boseman was amazing in the role and I think that Marvel has succesfully launched  a new character with the perfect actor to portray it. I loved T’Challa’s few scenes with his father T’Chaka, played by John Kani. I am also interested to see how the character that Martin Freeman played – Everett Ross – will be featured in the Black Panhter stand-alone film. In the comics, Ross is an ally of T’Challa, but at the end of Civil War, they were on different sides. Although, Black Panhter never truly picked a side – he only chose Iron Man because that suited his personal interests. However, after he learned the truth and realized that killing is not a solution, he kinda picked Captain America’s side. Moreover, Black Panhter is hiding the Secret Avengers, as shown in the middle credits scene. Last thought about the new character –  I really liked the accent that Boseman spoke with – it felt authentic and fitting to the character’s heritage. Black Panhter’s stand-alone film is coming out in 2018, but if you want to see more of Boseman, the only other movie of his that I’ve seen and, thus, can reccomend is Draft Day.
  • Paul Bettany as Vision: I loved the little glimpses of the Vision’s personality that we got a chance to see – his scenes alongise Wanda were nice and their short fight was also interesting. I also liked that scene were Vision and Iron Man were discussing the fact that Vision is an AI with feelings, who is also dangerous, powerful and might even be uncrontrolable. Loved to see this idea developed futher. Other Bettany’s films, worth checking out are Legend, and a few not so great ones that you might want to see – Transendence and Mordecai.
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: I was really worried about the new Spider-Man because in the past 10 years, we already had 2 different Spider-Mans. However, all my worries were for nothing – Holland played an amazing and most true to the comics Spider-Man and the most believable Peter Parker. Now I am really excited about his new stand-alone films. It was also really nice that they featured aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei, in Civil War. I loved that awkward scene between aunt May, Tony Stark and Peter. I was first introduced to Holland as an actor in In The Heart of The Sea – that movie is defintely not as bad as its box office numbers suggest.

Other characters:

  • William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross: I hated Ross in The Incredible Hulk but I disliked him even more in this film, so I guess Hurt did a good job, making me hate the character that he played. Nevertheles, his character was useful in the movies because his presence added a political aspect and increased the sophistication of the story.
  • Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo: Bruhl was really good in the role and he will probably appear in a different MCU film in the future. His story arc in the film – the arc of revenge – was not the most original but it did work. He played up the superheroes against one another in a similar way that Lex Luthor did in BvS. I don’t really know which one of them (if any of the two) was more succesful with his plan. Zemo was not a great villain but I don’t think that the filmmakers intended to portray him as an all-powerful villain. He was just a man, dealing with the loss by getting revenge. Zemo himself has mentioned that ‘more powerful men have went up against the Avengers and lost‘, so he kinda admitted that he was not a great villain. A few of Bruhl’s films that might be wroth your attention are Rush (alongside Thor), Inglourious Basterds (alongside Magneto), The Fifth Estate (alongside Doctor Strange) and Woman in Gold (alongside Deadpool).
  • Stan Lee had his obligatory cameo, this time as a FedEx delivery man – he also had a very cheesy joke – Tony Stank!

Middle-Credits and Post-Credits Scenes

The Middle Credits scene showed Captain America and Winter Soldier in Wakanda. Bucky is being fridged (literally) until someone figures out how to restore his mind. This scene also gave me an idea that Black Panhter might be the new financer of the Secret(?) Avengers – a replacement for Tony Stark.

The Post-Credits scene was a cheeky teaser for the Spider-Man film. It showed Peter Parker back home, trying to explain to aunt May what happened (‘I just picked a fight with Steve from Booklyn’) and also discovering some toys that Tony Stark created for him.

The actual credits of the film were also quite nice and unique. I loved the addition of those shadowy symbols – Anthony Mackie’s name appeared with wings for Falcon, Paul Bettany has a gem for Vision and Tom Holland had a spider-web for Spider-Man and etc.

In short, Captain America: Civil War was/is my new favorite Marvel movie. It had a great and sophisticated story and plenty of jokes. It has amazing character moments as well as exciting non-stop action. Marvel has done it again, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Were/Are you #TeamIronMan or #TeamCaptainAmerica? What did you think of the film and are you planning to see it more than once? I usually don’t do multiple viewings of films at the cinema, but I might make an exception for Civil War.

P.S. I went to see this movie again and enjoyed it even more than the first time because I was able to  focus on the little details. I also realized 3 new-ish things: 

  1. The dialogue was really cleverly written and engaging.
  2. The plot was actually quite complex yet the story was aranged in a way that was easy to follow and not hard to understand – it was sophisticated yet clear.
  3. The movie walked the line between the two idealogies extremely well and neither of the two sides seemed more right or wrong than the other. 

‬Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Captain America: Civil War trailer

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Movie review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I just came back from watching The Huntsman: Winter’s War film, so without further ado, let’s talk about it!

To begin with, I was (and still am) surprised that this movie even exists. The first movie was financially profitable, but I didn’t think that it earned enough money to establish a franchise. The critical reception was also so-so (48% on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, that scandal with Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman – Rupert Sanders – really overshadowed the movie itself. Basically, I did not expect to see a sequel/prequel and, moreover, I don’t really think that anybody asked for one.

I have the same problem (the fact that they are not needed or asked for) with all the retellings of the fairy-tale movies. In addition, I still question the choice to retell them in such a dark and grim fashion, when the majority of cinema goers are more familiar with and are fans of the children-friendly Disney versions. Having said that, I do applaud the filmmakers for following their artistic vision and for putting a new spin on a well-known property. Also, a lot of these stories are very adult and dark at their core – just read the original versions of all the popular fairytales (we actually even studied them in English literature class during the last term at university), so portraying them in a darker tone is in line with the original tone of the stories. However, when going to see a fairy-tale based/inspired film, I usually want to escape the grim reality of life. Let’s be honest – we have enough of dark and inhumane stuff happening in the real world, we don’t need more of it in movies. So, on the whole, I have very mixed feelings about these fairy-tale movie remakes.

In addition, Snow-White’s story is a tale, which I have a strong personal connection with because I grew up reading it . I still have the actual copy of the book that I used to read the story from – it is on a shelve in my room, in my parent’s house back in Lithuania with all my other most prized possessions a.k.a. other books. On that same shelve, one would be able to find a book entitled Princesses’ Fairytales by Nicola Baxter – basically, I was a hardcore fan of stories about princesses even before I ever saw my first movie, be it a film about princesses or just a random animated feature

Speaking about other films, based on fairy tales, here is my review of 2015’s live-action Cinderella (that post is more of a personal study of feminism). Later this year, a few other fairy-tale inspired live-action films will hit cinemas: one sequel  – Alice Through The Looking Glass and two new remakes – The Jungle Book and The Legend of Tarzan. 

Lastly, before I went to see this film, I did not rewatch neither the 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman nor the Mirror Mirror version from the same year. However, I revisited the original animated picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarves from 1937 (the first feature length animated picture by Disney), and I gotta say, it still holds up. The hand painted 2D animation is refreshing and nostalgia-inducing in a world of 3D computer generated graphics. The songs are still pleasant (but a bit annoying, though), while the story is just a right balance of silly and sweet to be enjoyable. A must watch for any fans of animation from any generation.

So, I have given you a lot of context for this movie (maybe too much). Nevertheless, I will try my best to treat The Hunstman: Winter’s War as a separate entity and to judge it on its own. Let’s try that!

SPOILER ALERT

IMDb summary:  As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land; two renegades – Eric the Huntsman – who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover, Sara set out to stop them.

Writing

The film’s script was written by a quite unusual duo of screenwriters: Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Mazin has written scripts for movies like Scary Movie (3 and 4) and The Hangover (Part 2 and 3)Spiliotopoulos has mainly worked on Disney’s direct-to-video animated features, but he has also written 2014’s Hercules (not the best film) and is writing a screenplay for 2017’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. So, The Huntsman was a union of raunchy comedy (by Mazin) and more traditional animated storytelling (by Spiliotopoulos). The question is: was this ‘union’ successful? Somewhat, yes and no. 

First of all, the film was both a prequel and a sequel. It opened with  a short recap of the first film – really good idea because I don’t think that a lot of people remember what happened in the first film. The opening also kinda set up The Huntsman to be a total prequel – ‘a story that happened long before the happily ever after’. However, the prequel plot ended after the first 25 minutes. Then, the movie time jumped 7 years and told us that the events that happened in Snow White and the Huntsman occurred in that 7 years span. The rest 1 hour and 20 minutes were a continuation and an expansion of that story – a sequel.

  • Continuation

The Hunstman had two storylines/ideas that were very reminiscent of the first film:

  1. In the 2012’s Snow White, the Huntsman was mourning his dead wife – this film shows how they met and how she ‘died’.
  2. In the first film, Queen Ravenna feared that Snow White will grow up to be more beautiful than she. In this film, she was fearful of her sister’s daughter for the same reason.
  3. A few people from the first film also cameoed in the sequel: most notably, Sam Claflin as King William, Snow White’s husband and Snow White herself – at least her back – played by someone who was definitely not Kristen Stewart.
  • Expansion

The world of this series was expanded quite a bit. The film gave us the backstory of the Huntsman and added a few new characters, including a new villain/anti-hero –  Ravenna’s sister Freya, the Ice Queen with the frozen heart (literally). Her whole power set was very similar to that of Elsa’s in Frozen. The sibling relationship between sisters was also another aspect, which made this film seem like a live-action Frozen remake. However, the ‘end-game’ of the sisterly relationship in The Huntsman was completely different from the loving reconciliation between Anna and Elsa in Frozen.

Writing: – | + | –

The film was mostly predictable. It was easy to guess that the death of the Huntsman’s wife was only an illusion and that Freya’s baby daughter was killed by her sister/the baby’s aunt. The only thing that I didn’t predict but should have was that whole supposed betrayal by the wife. However, in the end, it turned out to be double-crossing and not a true betrayal (that part I did predict once again).

The movie’s narrative appealed to me because I am a fan of high fantasy worlds and adventure stories that happen in these worlds, like Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones. I also can’t help but notice that all fantastical stories are usually set in medieval/historic times. Well, I guess medieval history is a bit mysterious, and the leap from mystery to magic is relatively small.

On the other hand, the film annoyed me a few times. First with the addition of the dwarves, who sounded very Scottish by the way. The comic relief that these characters provided was stupid and unnecessary. Also, that whole thing with competing genders wasn’t pleasant either. Lastly, that whole pairing up of the characters was also a cheap conclusion. Nevertheless, the overarching theme of the film was love (the most overdone topic of all), so maybe the pairing up did work. Maybe I just hate love. Am I secretly Freya, or even worse – her sister Ravenna? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Directing 

Because of the aforementioned scandal, Sanders did not return to direct the sequel/prequel film. He was replaced by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan – the visual effects supervisor of the first film, who was also the director of the second unit. He also was the second unit director on Maleficient.  So, The Huntsman was the French director’s directorial debut (well, full one). I think that he did quite a good job with the film. The fighting scenes were exciting and interesting. The slower ‘talking’ scenes were also nice. Sanders combined close-ups of the actors’ faces with quite wide establishing and scenic shots. The sets, which were showed in those wider shots, were absolutely gorgeous – both the physical and the CGI ones. The costumes were also wonderful – the character design was impeccable and all actors, especially the two queens, looks breathtaking from head to toe. The liquid gold of the mirror was my favorite visual from the first film and it continued to be my favorite visual in the second film as well. The end credits were also very beautiful, paired nicely with the main theme song  – Castle by Halsey .

Acting

Winter’s War had a very start studded cast, led by the four(!) leads in the main roles:

  • Chris Hemsworth as Eric, the Huntsman. Hemsworth was really good in the role, especially in the fight scenes. I kinda feel that Snow White and The Huntsman is a backup franchise for Hemsworth if MCU doesn’t work out (small chance of that happening). Nevertheless, Hemsworth also stars in other pictures – I recently watched 2013’s Rush, in which he was really good. I also have reviewed his In The Heart of The Sea a few months ago. His other 2015 film Blackhat is also a not bad B picture and he was also in the first 10 minutes of 2009’s Star Trek. Going forward, later this year, Chris will be in Ghostbusters.
  • Jessica Chastain  was also really good in her role of  Sara, the Warrior. I loved the fact that she was an archer (who never misses) because I enjoy archery in my free time. Her back and forth bickering with Hemsworth was also good – they definitely had chemistry. I have only seen the most recent Chastain’s films, like Interstellar, The Martian and Crimson Peak. I also want to watch Zero Dark Thirty and A Most Violent Year, in which she stars.
  • Emily Blunt as Freya, the Ice Queen was a believable villain (well, sort of a villain). Her backstory was a bit cliche, but Blunt embraced the flawed writing and gave a great performance. She first appeared on my radar with 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, but her best roles have come in the past few years, namely in Edge if Tomorrow, Sicario and my ultimate guilty pleasure film – Into The Woods. I am really excited to continue following her career in the near and far future.
  • Charlize Theron as Ravenna, the Evil Queen. Theron did not have that big of a role in this film. She mainly appeared in the first and last acts of the picture. Theron did a nice job, but her character’s power (tar tentacles?) was a bit weird. If you want to see a different film, in which Theron plays a bad-ass, just watch Mad Max Fury Road. I also recently checked out Prometheus (because I will be traveling to the filming locations of that picture’s opening sequence – Isle of Skye) – she is great in that film as well. Lastly, Theron is listed to be in next year’s Fast 8 – that should be interesting.
  • Other cast members included Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith as the dwarves who annoyed me. Sam Claflin (Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2; Love, Rosie) also had a cameo. BTW, I am really excited for Claflin’s next film Me Before You. In addition, Testament of Youth’s Colin Morgan had a minor role as well.

To sum up, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a perfectly enjoyable fantasy and adventure picture. The story was a bit cliche and predictable, but it nicely expanded the original narrative of the first film. The visuals were breathtaking while the acting was also believable. It is not a must-see for the majority of cinema goers, but casual fans of the high-fantasy genre should enjoy it. However, really die-hard fantasy fans might find it too generic. Lastly, I kinda feel that if this film is even slightly profitable, Universal will make another, so you might want to watch this one so as to prepare for the future movies.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Hunstman: Winter’s War trailer

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FILM AWARDS SEASON is OVER

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

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

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

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

Best Picture

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

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

Best Directing

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

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

Best Writing

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

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

Best Male Performance in a Leading Role:

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

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

Best Female Performance in a Leading Role:

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

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

Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role:

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

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

Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role

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

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

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