Movie review: Wonder

Movie reviews

Hello!

In honor of the World Kindness Day, the cinemas all over the UK put on special preview screening of Wonder and I got a chance to attend one of them. So, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.

Writing

Wonder was written by Jack Thorne (a playwright and a TV writer), Steve Conrad (the writer of The Pursuit of Happyness (one of the most hopeful movies I’ve ever seen – no surprise he got this gig) and the director of the film Stephen Chbosky, based on the children’s novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. I enjoyed the film’s writing quite a bit. I loved how the movie focused on multiple characters and had separate vignettes centered on each of them. The characters, who were chosen to be spotlighted, were not the typical ones. For example, the former friend of the main character’s sister. The typical thing would have been to turn her into a shallow bully rather than explore her backstory, which was what Wonder did. I only wish that we would have gotten more development for the parent characters and seen their struggles outside their relationship with their children.

The themes that Wonder explored and the messages it tried to spread made the picture the perfect fit for the World Kindness Day. The movie encouraged its viewers to value true friendship and family, to give people a second chance, to be the bigger person and to be kind at the same time, to be proud of one’s scars, to learn to listen and to be empathetic. Wonder’s story was heartwarming and hopeful, while still remaining grounded in the real world – not shying away from its problems, but encountering them with goodness in the mind and in the heart. The plot was also full of funny moments. I, personally, loved all the Star Wars references. I wonder whether they were in the original book or whether the film just included them because Jacob Tremblay (the actor who played the main character) is quite a fan of the franchise himself.

Directing

Wonder was directed by Stephen Chbosky – the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (he also wrote and directed the movie adaptation of that story) and the writer of the movie musical Rent and Disney’s live-action juggernaut Beauty and the Beast. I though that he did quite a good job with directing. I loved the visual metaphors and how science and astronomy were used to express the emotional state of the character. The vignette structure was also handled well and the film wasn’t choppy. It was a bit slow, though, but a story like this needs to evolve organically, so I wasn’t too annoyed about the pacing issues.

Acting

Wonder’s lead was played by Jacob Tremblay – one of the best young actors, in my mind. He was absolutely stellar in Room a few years back and as good in this film. He also did an incredible job acting through the make-up and the prosthetics. Julia Roberts (Money Monster) played the mother of the main character and was a pure joy to watch. Owen Wilson (She’s Funny That Way, Cars 3) starred as the dad and was appropriately funny (sometimes his roles go from comedic to stupid and I’m so glad this one wasn’t an example of that). Izabela Vidovic was really good as Tremblay’s character’s sister, while Noah Jupe, who I saw less than a week ago in Suburbicon, was great as the main character’s friend from school.

In brief, Wonder was a wonderful little film with a nice message.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Wonder trailer

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Movie review: Beauty and the Beast

Movie reviews

Hello!

The Disney’s juggernaut Beauty and the Beast has landed in theaters, so, let’s review it!

On a personal note, Belle was always the character I most closely identify with, in that we were both more interested in books than the real world. Also, weirdly enough, Disney fairytales seem to be the only romances I can stomach because l seem to prefer love stories set in a fantasy world rather than real one.

Disney has made quite a fair few of the live-action fairytales: Alice and its sequel, Oz The Great and Powerful, Maleficient, Into The Woods, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, The BFG, and Pete’s Dragon. The re-tellings started dark (almost as a comeback to the original print version of the tales) and have gotten lighter and more faithful to the Disney animated versions. The new Beauty and the Beast film is the most faithful to its animated predecessor out of all of them because the live action movie will also be a musical. While all the other live-action adaptations have featured some variations of the traditional songs neither of the previous movies have been full-on musicals.

Writing

2017’s Beauty and the Beast’s script was written by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Huntsman: Winter’s War). I thought that the duo of writers crafted a beautiful and faithful adaptation that was inspired by both the Disney animated version and the original French fairytale (which I, sadly, haven’t read in its original form but have definitely read a few re-tellings). I didn’t notice any big changes from the animated film but I highly appreciated all the additions. I really liked that they expanded Gaston’s character: gave him a war background and made him more cruel and villainous not just empty. I also enjoyed seeing Agatha or The Enchantress taking on a more active role in the story. Similarly, both Belle and the Prince received more development – their family backgrounds were incorporated into the narrative. That really helped The Beast’s character – his vainness was justified by his upbringing and, thus, made him more likable.

Speaking more about the writing for Belle – I really loved the fact that this time around Belle tried escaping from the very beginning and that it was explicitly stated that she find out about the curse. Moreover, I loved that they added the idea that both Belle and The Beast were outsiders and that that helped them reach a common ground.

Finally, to address the issue that a lot of people pointlessly made a big deal of – LeFou being gay or having a ‘gay moment’ in the movie (wtf that even means?). Personally, I loved all the subtle progressive additions to the plot: I absolutely loved the moment with the three musketeers being dressed in the lady’s outfits and one of the giving a positive reaction. The way that moment came into play later, during the final dance with that musketeer and LeFou briefly meeting was also nice. Even though the idea that feminity and homosexuality go hand-in-hand is bit stereotypical, it was still a nice moment and a definite step (even if a tiny one) forward. Additionally, the fact that LeFou realized that he was too good for Gaston was so important! In general, I really enjoyed what they did with the character. I applaud the filmmakers for seeing an opportunity to make a modern and sophisticated alterations/enhancement and taking it. Moreover, the screenwriters still managed to keep the comic relief aspect of the character and even made his jokes more mature and commentary-like instead of the slapstick cartoonish humor of the animation.

Directing and Visuals

Bill Condon, who has a diverse list of movies in his filmography, ranging from Twilight 3 and 4 to The Fifth Estate and Mr. Holmes, directed the picture and did a brilliant job. From the opening shot of the film, the visual were just plain gorgeous. The CGI characters and the backgrounds and the actual physical props blended seamlessly (hats off to both the production design and the special effects teams). The opulent opening sequence acted as an amazing visual set-up and explained the Prince’s greed and vainness effectively. The Sound of Music reference with Belle singing on the hill was also nice. The final action sequence appeared to be elongated and was definitely more suspenseful than the one in the animated version – I can easily see why they did that – even fairytales have to have a big 3rd act action sequence in Hollywood’s mind. My only criticism for the movie was that the second hour before the 3rd act felt a bit slow. And yet, I still understand why they had to slow down – they needed to show Belle and The Beast falling in love. In fact, I actually appreciated that the falling in love montage was longer, and, hence, more believable. In general, the picture had all the right feels – from the heartbreaking sadness to the Disney staple of eternal romance. Lastly, the animated character credits and the French translations for the credits were neat finishing touches.

Musical Numbers

Alan Menken was responsible for the music of the picture and did an amazing job. I felt that all of the musical numbers lasted for a longer time (the movie is half an hour longer than the animated picture) and I also loved the huge scope of them – they had way more extras and dancers than I expected. All the theatricality and drama of the performances was just great as well. All the old songs sounded familiar and yet brand new. I loved all the classics – Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, and, of course, Beauty and the Beast. The new songs – How Does a Moment Last Forever, Evermore, and Days in the Sun were also great and fit the old soundtrack well. The fact that the filmmakers got Celine Dion to sing one of the new songs during the credits was also great and a nice reference to her work on the animated film. I also really liked the Ariane Grande/John Legend version of Beauty and the Beast.

Acting

Emma Watson as Belle. Watson is always going to be Hermione in the majority of people’s minds but I hope that she will also get remember as Belle as she was stunning in the role: sweet but also tough enough. I also thought that she did a good job with the singing. Next step for her career is to star in an awards movie and maybe even snag a nomination for it.Some of her recent films include Noah, Colonia, and the upcoming The Circle.

Dan Stevens as The Beast. He was amazing. I could actually see him through all the motion capture CGI and his singing was also excellent. Steven’s career has had its ups and downs. He first got on everyone’s radar through Downton Abbey, but then he made a decision to leave the show just after a couple of seasons in order to star his movie career Well, that didn’t happen as soon as he probably planned. The role of The Beast is his most high-profile role to date but his performance 2014’s The Guest has also been positively accepted. Interestingly, Stevens also made a decision to go back to TV – be it in a very different role than the Cousin Matthew one – this time playing the titular mutant on Legion.

Luke Evans as Gaston. A perfect casting if I have ever seen one. Evans was just oozing charm as Gaston and even though I wanted to completely despise the character, I just couldn’t. Evans got his big break with The Hobbit movies and Dracula Untold and he was also recently in an indie experimental film High-Rise and The Girl on The Train big screen adaptation.

Josh Gad as LeFou was also brilliant. I really liked actually seeing him on screen after only listening to him in Frozen (he was Olaf for those not in the know).

My favorite voice actors were Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts and Ewan McGregor as Lumière. Thompson just has a motherly sounding voice that was perfect for Mrs. Potts, while McGregor was super funny as Lumière. I can’t really comment on McGregor’s French accent or lack of it, cause I don’t speak French but I know that he had some difficulties with it. Well, I didn’t mind and actually liked how he sounded. It was also nice to hear McGregor singing cause I think that the last movie I heard him singing in was Moulin Rouge more than 15 years ago. The fact that he went from Trainspotting 2 straight to a Disney fairytale is also pretty funny.

Other cast member included Kevin Kline as MauriceIan McKellen as CogsworthAudra McDonald as Madame de GarderobeGugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, and Nathan Mack as Chip. All of them did a fine job. Lastly, Stanley Tucci played an original character – Maestro Cadenza. I didn’t really think that the picture needed a new character but his presence didn’t hurt the movie either. That final gag with the teeth and the piano keys was actually quite funny.

In short, Beauty and the Beast is an amazing adaptation of a beloved classic. It’s immensely entertaining and provides a great opportunity for some quality escapism into a fairytale world.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Beauty and the Beast trailer

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Movie review: The Divergent Series – Allegiant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not writing for more than a week. I was really busy with university work and midterm assignments. But since it’s the weekend, I have a little bit of time to give you my thoughts on The Divergent Series: Allegiant! I swear the names of these films just keep getting longer and longer. Thank God that this one doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, though.

IMDb summary: After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago to finally discover the shocking truth of what lies behind it.

While watching this film, I came to the conclusion that I might have grown out of these dystopian movies or, at least, moved on to a different phase in my life. I also don’t think that I am the only one who did that: I would be really interested to know how financially successful this movie will be and whether the mainstream audiences are still interested in this genre of YA science fiction. But then again, there are only 3 (or only 2, since THG has ended) of dystopian franchises left, while there are more than 10 different comic book series and those movies are always profitable, despite how oversaturated the market is.

SPOILERS

Writing

The script for this film was written by a whole bunch of people: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Stephen Chbosky. It was, of course, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Chbosky is the one person from this group whose work I am familiar with. He, of course, wrote the book and the screen version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and he also directed that film. That narrative is one of my favorite coming-of-age stories ever. Chobsky is also writing a script for next year’s Beauty and the Beast for Disney’s live action fairytale department.  Meanwhile, Oppenheim has worked in the genre of dystopian fiction before – he was one of the screenwriters on The Maze Runner. Lastly, Cooper and Collage have previously worked together on the controversial Exodus: Gods and Kings film. I think that all the writers of the film did an okay job. The story had some nice moments as well as enough of terrible ones.

Book To Movie

It has been 3 years since I read the book that this movie has been based on, so I do not remember all the tiny details, but I feel that the movie’s story was as faithful as it could be to the original material. As far as I remember, the book had more subplots and more characters, with personal aims, involved in the main events, but I am totally fine with the film cutting out half of them if that makes the plot more concise and focuses up the story. If they would have chosen to include everything from the book into the picture, we would have ended up with a whole lot of narration – basically, it would be the same as listening to the audio book.  Also, the things that were in the book, but weren’t present in this film, might still appear in The Divergent Series: Ascendant. Remember, while this film doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, it still is only the first half of the final entry into the franchise.

Speculations about Ascendant

Speaking about the story, I think that some of the book things that the were missing from this film but the last movie will probably include are:

  1. Nita’s subplot and rebellion inside the bureau
  2. Caleb’s and Tris’s relationship and the idea of sacrifice
  3. More scenes with Tris and Christina (I don’t think that they had one full scene together in Allegiant at all)
  4. The book ending – HUGE SPOILER for the next film. I remember that I was shocked when I read it in the book and I really hope that they will keep this ending. It’s not only brave and different but a quite nice cinematic twist. This franchise would definitely earn back my respect if they did it.

Changes

A few of the changes that I could spot were:

  1. The whole set- up for the escape was completely different. However, while the premise and the process were altered, the final outcome stayed the same.
  2. The actual group Allegiant played a slightly different role and showed up later in the film’s story than in the book’s story.
  3. A much smaller group of already somewhat established characters participated in the escape in the film.
  4. In the book, there was an inoculation serum which was not present in the film.
  5. I don’t remember anything about the plasma balls and drones in the book. I think that the filmmakers just thought that it would a cool visual,  however, it ended up being a kinda stupid idea.
  6. Lastly, I don’t think that there was such institution as the council in the book.

Gripes about the story

While reading the story in the book, I didn’t really have problems with it, but watching it on screen made me realize how annoying and frustrating it sometimes was/is. For one, the death of Tori was so obvious – why would she deliberately stand further back? Also, how could Evelyn not realize that the memory serum would affect everyone? The film also had kinda an abrupt ending as it was only the first 1 of the bigger picture. Other problems I had with the film were more visual or aural. For one, that 3D exposition in the bureau was obviously meant for the viewers and not the characters. Moreover, the technology and the architecture of the place wasn’t even remotely realistic. Lastly, all the screams, especially in that aircraft, sounded really fake.

Things I liked

Okay, I feel like I have been too harsh on this film, so I will tell you 2 things that I actually enjoyed about the story. Number 1: I liked the idea that old methods in new circumstances will equal to the same mistakes and Number 2: I enjoyed the fact that they didn’t portray David as a straight up villain. He was kinda right in saying that peace is impossible to achieve without the struggle.

Visuals and Directing

Insurgent’s director Robert Schwentke returned to direct the 3rd film. To my mind, he did a good job. I noticed that he used a lot of overhead panning out shots as well as the circle/around traveling shots. The short fight on the plane was probably my favorite action sequence, just because it was the most realistic. The CGI of the film was also okay – nothing too groundbreaking but nothing bad as well.

I really loved the mise-en-scene of the film. That includes the brown/orange/red/yellow wasteland as the setting and the soldiers’ costumes which changed colours (red outdoors, grey and black inside). I also have to praise the editing department for the opening sequence – I liked the futurist and pixelated font in the old school color of gold. It was a nice juxtaposition between tradition and modernity.

Soundtrack

Allegiant’s soundtrack was put together by Joseph Trapanese. I especially liked his pick for the main theme/end credits song – Scars by Tove Lo. Since I’m a fan of Lo, I have been listening to this track even before I watched the movie – I highly recommend you give it a listen even if you don’t plan on watching the film.

Acting

As with all YA movies, the cast consisted of young up-and-coming actors and older more accomplished ones.

  • The ‘youngsters’ were led by Shailene Woodley as Tris. She was good in the action scenes as well as in more challenging dramatic ones. Still, my favorite movie of hers will always be TFIOS. She will be starring in Snowden – a political thriller later this year. Theo James starred as Four, the love interest. He was perfectly fine in the role and is currently working on another Underworld film.
  • Ansel Elgort played Caleb, while Zoë Kravitz starred as Christina. Both of them had really tiny roles, but I quite liked their funny moment together in that aircraft. I am really interested in Elgort’s next project – the movie Billionaire Boys Club.  Kravitz doesn’t really have any big movies coming up, but you can always rewatch Mad Max Fury Road if you want to see a really good movie of hers. 
  • Miles Teller as Peter. I really hated the character of Peter in the book, but I loved him in the film, probably because Teller was playing him. I am a fan of his and would like to forget the disaster of Fantastic Four as quickly as possible. Teller as Peter had basically all the funny lines and one-liners of the film. Next, we will see Miles in the comedy Get a Job and in 3 other films later this year.

The adult cast of the film consisted of Jeff Daniels as DavidNaomi Watts as Evelyn, and Octavia Spencer as Johanna. I feel like, for them, this movie was/is the definition of a paycheck gig.

All in all, Allegiant was an okay film. I didn’t expect much from it to be truthful, so I wasn’t that disappointed. It’s not a must-see, but if you have nothing better to watch or do, you will have a pleasant time watching Allegiant.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Divergent Series: Allegiant trailer

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Movie Saturday!

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Today was a beautiful day in Lithuania, sunny and warm. However, I spent it indoors, watching movies instead of enjoying nice spring weather.  Bellow you will find my short review of each and every one of them as well as recommendations, when to watch it. Enjoy!

1. I started with a romantic-drama “The Spectacular Now”.  I wanted to watch it a long time ago, because it has one of my favorite actresses – Shailene Woodley – in it. This movie really surprised me – it is not a stupid romantic comedy with silly jokes, but a very emotional, inspirational movie with a very-well written scenario and well-developed characters. The movie follows lives of two teenagers – Sutter Keely and Aimee Finecky. It shows how they search for their true identity, how they deal with parents’ problems and of course – how they fall in love. The film is based on a book with the same name written by Tim Tharp (I am definetly going to read it) and premiered at a Sundance Film Festival, where it was praised by critcs. I would definetly recommend this movie for a girls night, when you want something romantic but still something authentic that captures the intensity, the beauty and the scariness of first love. Similar movies – The Perks of being a Wallflower.  Rate – 5/5

2.   The second movie was a classical one – “The Great Gatsby” (2013 version). I love Leonardo Dicaprio in every single movie he stars in, but this one didn’t amaze me. Maybe that’s because I am not huge fan of 1920s era? Or maybe because I was so angry with one of the main characters – Daisy – for treating Gatsby the way she did. Short summary: The movie is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view. He is in a sanatorium to treat his alchoholism. He tells a story of a millionaire Jay Gatsby, who devoted his life for a woman he did not even knew. The plot has a few twist and turns and no happy ending.  It is based on the book with the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is not a first time this story is made into movie. In 1926 it was made into a silent film, in 1949 and 1974 into a proper motion picture, in 1999 – into opera and finaly in 2000 – into TV film. Rate 3/5

3. The third movie I watched – “Inception”. It came out 4 years ago – in 2010. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars in this one.  Unlike Gatsby, this movie really astonished me. The plot was interesting and unpredictable and the overall idea of the movie was very innovative and exciting. The science fiction thriller explores the posibility of controling dreams, dreaming inside of dreams and so forth. I would not be surprised if this fantasy would actually come true in a couple of year’s time. Despite having Leo, film’s large ensemble cast includes Ellen Page,  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. This movie is perfect for Sci-fi fans out there as well as dystopian fantasy lovers. Rate 4/5

4.  The last movie of the day (night – I finished it around midnight) – “The Lone Ranger”. This one tells a story of the Lone Ranger and Indian named Tonto as they attempt to find justice in a corrupt world of XIX century. It is based on a book “Lone Ranger“ by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle. Johnny Depp portrays Tonto – Comanche Indian who is looking for revenge for his tribe. The Lone Ranger’s role went to Armie Hammer. His character is also trying to avenge those, who were close to him. William Fichtner plays Butch Cavendish, a ruthless and cannibalistic outlaw who is the main antagonist of the movie. The film is full of funny little jokes that usually involve horse and in my opinion, Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors today and all his characters a very complex, interesting and unique. Rate 5/5

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I am planning to post a short description of my Easter – I will tell you all about traditions in my family. Hope you have a great day. Bye.

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