5 ideas about a movie: Wonder Wheel

Movie reviews

Hello!

A feature from one of the most polarizing yet still working directors in Hollywood. This is Wonder Wheel.

IMDb summary: On Coney Island in the 1950s, a lifeguard tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife.

  1. Wonder Wheel was written and directed by Woody Allen. Despite all the allegations and rumors, he is still able to keep his career afloat. This is even more surprising when one considers the current political climate in Hollywood. What is even more disturbing regarding Allen and this particular film is the fact that this movie focuses on the relationships between a mother, a stepdaughter, and a young man – a topic that might be too closely related to the filmmaker himself (he married his stepdaughter in 1997).
  2. After a series of Europe-centric pictures (Vicky Cristina BarcelonaMidnight in Paris, To Rome with Love, and Magic in the Moonlight), Allen has returned to his native US and explored a number of different time periods and parts of US with his latest films: Irrational Man, Cafe Society, and A Rainy Day in New York (premiering next year). While the temporal and the physical places might have constantly been in flux in Allen’s films, the topics that he investigates have stayed the same. Wonder Wheel explored love (the most signature and simultaneously universal theme) and really dug deep into it. The film also celebrated movies as both art and escapism. It also looked at the concept of unfulfilled dreams (a personally relatable topic) and had a dark twist (also, very Allen-like).
  3. The feature also examined writing as an occupation and looked at its tools of dramatization and symbolism. The film also presented life as a script that we write (or have written for us). Wonder Wheel was a bit meta too: not only did it break the 4th wall but it interrogated the differences between the real-life stories and the fictional ones. From the directing standpoint, the movie felt indie and old school. The long takes and the soft colors added to the aforementioned feelings. The jazz score was lovely too.
  4. Kate Winslet (Collateral Beauty, Triple 9, The Mountain Between Us, Steve Jobs) played the lead in the movie and, while she was undeniably great, I’m wondering why she chose this role in the first place. I saw Ginny (her character) as an absolutely stereotypical female character – highly emotional and always needing a man to rely on. Looking past these typical traits, Ginny had some interesting qualities that probably intrigued Winslet too, like her selfishness, shadiness, and her trivial choice to not save Caroline (her stepdaughter). That choice seemed like Ginny’s big stage moment – the meeting point between her life and art (Ginny used to be an actress).
  5. The supporting cast of the film was quite good. The aforementioned Caroline was played by Juno Temple (Black Mass), who brought delightful youthfulness to the role. Justin Timberlake (Trolls) was believable as the guy Caroline and Ginny fancied. While he isn’t the best actor, Timberlake was fine in this role (probably not one far from his life). Jim Belushi played Caroline’s father and Ginny’s husband and was also okay. All of the performances had a touch of the theatrical but that fit the film’s tone, as it explored the idea of life as a dramatic and symbolic story.

In short, Wonder Wheel was a fine film. Not Allen’s best and not an awards’ contender but perfectly watchable and interesting.

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: Wonder Wheel trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Molly’s Game

Movie reviews

Hello!

Yesterday, I got a chance to attend a secret preview screening as an unlimited cinema club card holder. Thankfully, the secret movie turned out to be one that I was highly looking forward to. This is Molly’s Game!

IMDb summary: The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.

  1. Molly’s Game was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. I really enjoyed the last three movies that he has written – The Social Network, Moneyball, and especially Steve Jobs – so I knew that I was going to probably like the writing for his current film too (the script was based on the real life’s Molly’s book – the novel itself plays a role in the screenplay). What really peaked my interest was the fact that Sorkin directed Molly’s Game in addition to writing it (this picture was his directorial debut). What an incredible first attempt at directing!
  2. I absolutely loved the writing for Molly’s Game. The narrative unraveled over and jumped around three different time periods – Molly’s childhood/adolescence, her poker career, and her arrest/trial – that were separately amazing but even better when put together. The childhood parts (the backstory) acted as the character development (the opening skiing sequence was brief but it set up Molly’s personality super efficiently – she was and remained a fighter). The poker career was the most fascinating part and had some neat commentary about the toxicity of perfectionism (as a recovering overachiever I could relate to those ideas). The scenes involving her arrest and trial developed Molly’s character even further (she was a good person that stepped into a situation she lost control of) and had some neat thoughts about the worth of one’s name (that The Crucible comparison was appreciated by me, as an English Literature student, quite a lot.
  3. From the technical point of view, nobody could have mistaken the writer of this film. Molly’s Game had Sorkin’s signature rapid-fire narration all throughout the film and long “walk and talk” scenes. Usually, the narration in movies gets tiring but not when the content of it is so interesting. Having said that, as somebody who has never played poker, I did get a bit lost in all of the explanations of the game. Nevertheless, they sounded informative and exciting even if I couldn’t get everything. The smart jokes; the ideas about power and chance; and the differences between gamblers and poker players, were all neat additions to the script too.
  4. The direction and the editing of the picture were both amazing. Molly’s Game was a long movie but it didn’t feel like a long film because of the rapid narration and the quick editing. Having said that, the picture also had some appropriately slow emotional moments. But, it never dwelled on them for too long. The poker scenes were as good as the one in Casino Royale (my favorite poker scene in a movie ever): tense and exciting. A lot of out-sourced montages (newsreels, etc.) were also used and added that biographical drama feeling to the film.
  5. Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, The Martian, The Huntsman) absolutely shined as Molly. Everybody knows that she is a great actress and she just proved that again. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Bastille Day, Star Trek Beyond, The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us, Thor: Ragnarok) was also great and I’m so happy that he finally got a great dramatic role to play. Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures) had a great supporting role, while Michael Cera (The Lego Batman, Sausage Party), Jeremy Strong (The Big Short), Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight), and Chris O’Dowd (Miss Peregrine) all appeared too, playing awful people really well. Stranger Things’ fan favorite Joe Kerry (Steve on the Netflix show) had a cameo as well.

In short, Molly’s Game was a well-directed biographical drama with a fascina story at its center.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: Molly’s Game trailer

Movie review: Call Me By Your Name

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another awards’ contender has landed in theatres! This is the review of Call Me By Your Name.

IMDb summary: In 1983, the son of an American professor is enamored by the graduate student who comes to study and live with his family in their northern Italian home.

Writing

Call Me By Your Name was written by James Ivory (a writer and director of mainly indie dramas), based on the book by Andre Aciman. To begin with, I’m sure that the LGBTQ+ focus of this film will automatically mean that it will be compared to the big awards winner of last year – Moonlight – especially since Call Me By Your Name is also supposed to get at least nominated. I believe that this comparison is quite unfair because, even though both movies tell coming-of-age stories of young men, exploring their sexuality, the circumstances and the details of their stories are vastly different (race, class, time period, location, community – all these aspects of the two movies are on the opposite sides of the spectrum). Other topics of discussion, which will surely arise in the popular discourse, are the questions of consent and age of consent. I can already see the online fights brewing, with minimal productive arguments about legality and morality, and full of trolls who just want to see the world burn.

Anyways, I, personally, loved a lot of aspects of the writing. To begin with, I liked the settings of the movie quite a lot, both the spatial one (Italy) and temporal one (the 1980s). Both of these places/times posses a feeling of freedom and history mixed with timelessness – almost a fairytale-like setting, perfect for a story of first love. And the said romance at the center of the movie was written beautifully and richly. The film explored the interplay between masculinity and sexuality, sensuality and sexuality, innocence and maturity, and emotional love and physical love. It touched upon the ideas of art, creativity, and self-expression. It portrayed the teasing and flirting stages of the relationship so purely. Call Me By Your Name also examined both the development of its main character’s personality and sexuality, e.g. wanting to be with Oliver and/or wanting to be Oliver (copying his mannerisms (‘Later’) and style (sunglasses, shirts, the pendant of the star of David).

The movie also presented an unheard of example of accepting parents. It was so refreshing to see parents being so nonchalant about their child’s exploration of his sexuality. That final speech of the father was one of the best written fatherly wisdom scenes ever. My few criticisms regarding the picture were: 1) it was a bit too long. I know that it was made to be long so as to build up the stronger connection between the characters and the viewers but I also believe that this connection could have been created through a few quality scenes much better than through a bigger quantity of mediocre ones. 2) I also would have loved to see the film interrogate the role of women in this instance, whether as supportive friends or ‘girlfriends for show’ a bit more.

In short, ultimately, Call Me By Your Name was a gorgeously written sad love story full of moments of hope and happiness and what can all of us ask more of life than brief moments to enjoy?

Directing

Call Me By Your Name by Luca Guadagnino – an Italian film director, best known to English-speaking audiences for his 2015 film A Bigger Splash with Tilda Swinton (a longtime collaborator of Guadagnino). He directed the film absolutely beautifully. Call Me By Your Name looked raw, rough, and unpolished – an example of natural beauty. The handheld camera brought the vibrancy to the film, while the close-ups helped to create an intimate and personal atmosphere. The lingering shots strengthened the emotional impact.

In addition, Call Me By Your Name explored the male sexuality by looking at the male physicality: the male bodies and their parts were at the center of the camera’s gaze. The topic of bodily physicality was continued with the inclusion of the sculptures into the movie. Some scenes were quite explicit and not the most comfortable to look at (*cough, cough*, peach). Other images were just beautiful and deserve to be framed in an art gallery. The closing image of Elio, looking at the fire and contemplating his experiences, was just so striking and a perfect visual to finish the film with.

Acting

  • Timothée Chalamet, who has previously appeared in Interstellar as well as some lesser-known indies, was absolutely brilliant as one-half of the main pair. The other half was equally brilliantly played by Armie Hammer, who is finally getting the recognition he deserves as an actor. He has experienced a relative level of success with The Social Network and J. Edgar and I also quite liked him in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Nocturnal Animals, and Free Fire, however, I believe that Call Me By Your Name will be his ‘big break’ and maybe even get him an Oscar nomination. Chamalet absolutely deserves one too.
  • The supporting cast of the film was quite small and didn’t have much to do. However, the aforementioned moment of fatherly wisdom would not have been the same without Michael Stuhlbarg (Doctor Strange, Arrival) in the role of the father. It was also lovely to see some European actors joining the American talent on screen, namely Amira Casar (in the role of the mother) and Esther Garrel (who played Elio’s friend).

In short, Call Me By Your Name is an emotional, beautiful, and raw drama about love and finding oneself through it.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Call Me By Your Name trailer

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Movie review: Nocturnal Animals

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another Amy Adams movie review. A few back, I discussed Arrival and today, I’m giving you my thoughts on Nocturnal Animals.

IMDb summary: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

In short, I would describe Nocturnal Animals as Hell or High Water and The Neon Demon put together. The more glamorous parts of the film (the bourgeoisie and the art scene), as well as the stylistic look of it, reminded me of The Neon Demon (plus, Demon was about the fashion world, Animals directed by a fashion designer), while the grittier parts – the book’s plot – were reminiscent of Hell or High Water both visually and thematically.

The fashion designer Tom Ford both wrote, directed, and produced Nocturnal Animals. This was his second attempt at making a feature film . I’ve not seen his first movie – A Single Man – but he impressed me a lot this time around, so I will most likely check out his debut movie. He successfully transitioned from designing to filmmaking and I’m excited to see what he will come up with next.

Writing and Story

I absolutely loved the clever and intriguing narrative of the film. All the different storylines – the reality, the book’s plot and the flashbacks – were separately interesting and distinctive but I also liked how they were combined and how they mirrored each other. In general,  I would say that the fipm was based on  thematical dichotomies – Texas vs. LA/NY, parents vs. children, felons vs. victims, past vs. present, and book vs. reality – and all of them were super engaging. I also liked the fact that the movie did not take sides: it critiqued both the southern traditional way of life and the uber modern and stylish world of the urban high classes.

Nocturnal Animals also appealed to me because it explored my biggest anxieties: the most obvious one was, of course, all of the events of the book (kidnap, rape, and murder). However, the fear of becoming like my parents and the anxiety which surrounds the uncertainty of my future are both very familiar and deeply personal to me as well. 

The movie had a very open ending and left some questions unanswered. Three theories immediately sprung up in my mind. 1. Maybe the film’s message was that one cannot truly change the past and it might sometimes be too late to say sorry, so that’s why the ex-husband didn’t show up. 2. Maybe, the novel’s events were just the main character’s way of dealing with the past mistakes a.k.a. putting ideas into a narrative and the ex-husband wasn’t actually a real person. 3. Maybe the book was just one big suicide note and that’s why he didn’t show up?  I’m probably totally wrong but it is fun to speculate and think about it.

Directing and Visuals

Nocturnal Animals had an interesting blend of visuals: it mixed urban lights with rural desserts. I especially loved all the landscape shots – the framed stills would make for some amazing photographs. The way modern art was used in the film was also interesting. I, personally, don’t get modern art but I can appreciate it. However, I got to say – I was a bit weirded out by the opening of the film (nudity) and wasn’t entirely sure if I was even in the right screening. However, I think that that was the point of the scene – it was meant to shock and to showcase the eccentric world of art that the film’s main character inhabited.

Nocturnal Animals was a perfect example of a successfully and tastefully stylized movie. Tom Ford’s design background and eye for textures and colors really assisted him in the choice of visuals. In addition, he dealt with the pacing of the picture very well: it was slow but never dragged – it was suspenseful and mesmerizing without beeing cliche.

Music and Soundtrack

Abel Korzeniowski did the soundtrack for the film. I really liked the instrumental score: it fit both the visuals and the narrative nicely. My favorite track was the one that sounded like the sextet from the movie Cloud Atlas. That particular track accompanied a variety of scenes and was also played during the credits.

Acting

The film had a stellar cast. Amy Adams was magnificent – I liked her performance even more than the Arrival one. Her eye-acting was mesmerizing. I also loved the way the movie played with the fact that Amy Adams’s and Isla Fisher’s look very similar. Jake Gyllenhaal was also brilliant – he lost himself in the role as he usually does. Michael Shannon was also a stand-out – loved his cool yet realistic portrayal of the detective. Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson completely surprised me – this was probably his best role that I have seen yet just because it felt like the most challenging one. He was so good as the crazy, cocky, and eccentric felon. Armie Hammer also appeared in the film in his signature role of  ‘a white privileged businessman’.

Cast’s movie recommendations:

In short, Nocturnal Animals was beautifully stylized film, which also had important themes and interesting narrative ideas to match its gritty and glamorous visuals. The acting was also top-notch.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Nocturnal Animals trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Cafe Society

Movie reviews

Hello!

The newest Woody Allen picture that hopes to be an awards’ contender has reached theatres, so let’s discuss it!

IMDb summary: In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

  1. Woody Allen’s filmography is extensive and impressive. I’ve mostly familiar with his latest European adventure films (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in ParisYou Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, To Rome With Love and Magic in the Moonlight which I reviewed when it came out in 2014) as well as his latest features set in The States (Blue Jasmine and Irrational Man which I’ve also reviewed). I also really want to watch some of his older classics, starting with Manhattan and Annie Hall. Speaking about his newest picture – Cafe Society – it is a Woody Allen film to the bone. In addition, if Hail, Caesar! was The Coen brothers’ love letter to Hollywood, then Cafe Society is Allen’s homage to the Golden Age of the movie capital as well as a subtle critique of it.
  2. Like always, Allen wrote the script for the movie himself. Once again, he explored his signature ideas, like love and romance, and asked the existential questions. He also invited the viewers to think what would have happened if the characters made different life choices. Looking at the format of the narrative, the film didn’t have a linear story. The plot consisted of character moments/scenes, which were connected with/through narration (done by Allen himself). Since the picture was partially set in Hollywood, it made a lot of movie references, which I, as a cinephile, appreciated. Cafe Society was kinda an absurd comedy but not a dark one – it was full of light, heartfelt satire. It also had an artsy and a dreamy aura about it with a touch of charm.
  3. Woody Allen used his signature camera movements and filming techniques to create this feature. Together with the famous Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Allen crafted beautiful steady shots that allowed the viewer to calmly appreciate the gorgeous mise-en-scene. The back and forth over the shoulder shots and wipe and fade away transitions brought a classical Hollywood narrative film feeling to the picture, while the tracking shots added some movement and energy. The framing of the picture was neat as well – I loved how the characters moved in and out of the frame and how the filmmakers played with on-and-off-screen spaces. My favorite scene of Cafe Society was Kristen Stewart’s and Steve Carell’s characters’ confrontation with interruptions – it was crafted magnificently and was not only entertaining and funny but emotional and meaningful. Lastly, the movie had Allen’s signature warm color palette and the lovely and quirky upbeat soundtrack.
  4. The two leads were played by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. This was their 3rd movie together (the first two were Adventureland and American Ultra). The pair had a very subtle chemistry which worked really well in a film like this. I enjoyed seeing Eisenberg in his usual role of an awkward yet adorable guy and did enjoy how he portrayed the character’s transition and growth. While I like Eisenberg the most in the roles likes this one and in films like The Social Network and Now You See Me, I also want to see him trying something different. I actually do want to see what will he do with the character of Lex Luthor as BvS ending was promising. Kristen Stewart was also really good in the film, she probably played her most feminine role yet which was quite interesting to observe. I was used to Stewart playing a rebel of some sorts like in Still Alice or Camp X-Ray.
  5. The supporting cast of the film did a great job as well. I was quite surprised to see Steve Carell (The Big Short) in the film but he was really good – he even made me, as a viewer, empathetic towards a kinda creepy character. Blake Lively was amazing in her small role too – her dazzling look and almost regal and sophisticated yet still flirty demeanor fit the setting of old Hollywood perfectly. I’m finally seeing her movie The Shallows next week. Jeannie Berlin was super funny – I loved how blunt her character was. Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, Black Mass) was also great and added some grunge to the overall glamorous picture. Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) was also great with her laughing-through-tears scene.

In short, Cafe Society was another great film by Woody Allen. It is a must watch for all the fans of the auteur and I would also recommend it to all the fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Cafe Society trailer

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Movie review: Steve Jobs

Movie reviews

Hello!

I haven’t written a movie review in more than 2 weeks! That seems unreal to me since I have watched at least 5 films in that time, however, the majority of them were for school – feature films for my film studies course and documentaries for my anthropology course. Other movies were old classics for my own enjoyment, like The Sound of Music and V for Vendetta. But now, let’s review a new film and, to my mind, another awards contender – Steve Jobs.

IMDb summary: Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

I have always been a fan of Steve Jobs and the products of Apple. Yes, I know that they are way too overpriced and that one of the reasons why people buy Mac Books and iPhones is to look prestigious. And I still don’t care. Call me a hypocrite, but I will be a happy hypocrite with my apples.

Speaking about Jobs as a person – he was a genius in his own right. He was an inspiring control freak and a likable asshole. Never has there been such a bipolar and complicated individual. Jobs not only played the orchestra but manipulated it. Some people say that he had no talent, but to me it looks like he had lots of talent – we just did not know what his talent was.

Steve Jobs (2015) is not the first and probably not the last film about this interesting person. Countless documentaries and 4 features films have been created based on his life. The latest feature film (before this one) was 2013’s Jobs directed by Joshua Michael Stern and starring Ashton Kutcher in the titular role. More than 15 books have also been released on the same subject. The book that I want to read the most and would like to recommend to you is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The film Steve Jobs (2015) is an adaptation of this 2011 biography.

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Writing and Dialogue

The script was written by Aaron Sorkin who has previously written the script for one of my all time favorite films about a different genius of technology and media Mark ZuckerbergThe Social Network. Surprisingly, this film, being a biographical film, had no voice-over and all the exposition was made through the dialogue. The whole film was driven forward by the dialogue and it demanded the viewers’ attention – if you weren’t listening for at least a second, you could have easily lost the thread of the story. All of the actors did an amazing job with the deliverance of the dialogue – I have no idea how could they find time to breathe in between that back-and-forth non-stop arguing. It was an interesting choice to structure the film in this way and, in my opinion, this choice was the right one. I also enjoyed the fact that the film did not focus on the whole life story and was set in the backstage of the 3 product launch events. I also liked the open ending – I usually penalize the film for having no clear resolution, but when a film  doesn’t need a resolution, there should not be one and Steve Jobs falls into this category.

Directing and Visuals

Steve Jobs film was directed by Danny Boyle. I have only seen one of his previous films – 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which I have definitely enjoyed. Speaking about Boyle’s work on this film, I do not have much to say: for me, the visuals were overpowered by the story or the dialogue, to be precise. However, I did enjoy the overlapping visuals in the scene in the corridor, when Fassbender’s character was telling a story (his plans) to Winslet’s character. In addition, I found it interesting how he used different gauges for different parts of the film: 1984 scenes were filmed on 16mm, 1988 on 35mm and 1998 on a digital film strip.

Acting

  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc – was amazing. I cannot imagine a different actor in this role. He is an extremely likable actor even if he plays a kinda unlikable character, so he was a perfect choice to play Jobs. Fassbender is a really versatile actor – he does big blockbusters – he is Magneto in the X-Men universe, but he also stars in smaller independent films. I have recently watched Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, starring Fassbender, and he was really good in that film – I warn you, the movie has a controversial scene, which involves Fassbender’s character. In addition, this year, Fassbender also appeared in Macbeth, which I, sadly, missed. I do plan to check it out some time later. Fassbender also has starred in one of my favorite and one of the most heartbreaking films of all time – 12 Years a Slave and he will be part of the highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed, coming out next year.
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, marketing executive for Apple and NeXT and Jobs’ confidant in the film – was also really good. I loved how blunt she was with Fassbender’s Jobs and how she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. Winslet is an established actress since 1997 – the Titanic era. She might be familiar to the younger audiences because of her role in the Divergent series. She will also star in another film this year – The Dressmaker. The trailer paints the film to be an interesting story, although, it looks more like a TV movie to me.
  • Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and creator of the Apple II provided great support. I prefer Rogen in dramatic roles much more than in comedic ones. However, I liked him in Neighbors. Still, though, I had an allergic reaction to The Interview.
  • Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993 was also a great addition to the cast playing a slightly similar role to the one he played in The Martian earlier this fall.
  • Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ former girlfriend and Lisa’s mother and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team were also great. I’m not familiar with both of these actors, although, we will see more of them soon. Waterson will be starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Stuhlbarg will be in Doctor Strange.
  • Sarah Snook as Andrea “Andy” Cunningham, manager of the Macintosh and iMac launches – I loved how her character provided if not a comic relief, then at least a quick break and a tiny smile, from all that non-stop arguing and dialogue.
  • I would also like to give a shout out to all the young actresses who played Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan: Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss. They all did a nice job.

All in all, Steve Jobs was an amazing motion picture. Personally, it was the type of film that assures me that my love for cinema is a justifiable and exciting hobby, which I would like to turn into a career one day. The acting was spot on and the dialogue – interesting, engaging and unapologetically on the nose.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Steve Jobs trailer

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Movie review: American Ultra

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, I’ve already told you that I’ve moved to Scotland. However, before boarding my late night flight to Edinburgh on Friday, I had some spare time in the morning to sneak to the cinema for one last time. So, I watched the only new release that had a morning showing time – American Ultra – and this is going to be my review. And also – the official opening of the fall movie season.

IMDb summary: A stoner – who is, in fact, a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

Writing and Directing

This movie was written by Max Landis of Chronicle. Although I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chronicle, I haven’t actually seen it. Speaking about his American Ultra script and story – it is not that great. For one, the premise of the film made no sense. Why would you send terrible and crazy agents to eliminate another dangerous agent, who would not be dangerous if you just left him alone. Also, I am starting to feel bad for the CIA, because they are always portrayed as the worst organization in the world on the silver screen. Also, the film had way too many characters and way too many subplots, which lacked development and frankly, were not needed at all. Also, this film crossed the line of humanity way too many times. I, for one, couldn’t root for the main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, just because of how mercilessly he killed others despite the fact that it might not have been his fault. Now I worry about Suicide Squad because there is a very fine line between antagonist and a villain and movie studios shouldn’t expect the viewers to be on a villain’s side.

Lastly, this might make be sound stupid, but I will still say it. This movie really lacked seriousness. I know that this is a stoner-comedy-action flick, but even those time of films can be much more sophisticated and more interesting. When you base a film on a stupid premise and execute it in an SNL skit form, you cannot really end up with a great final product.  The ending of the film was also really crappy and totally unrealistic.

Max Landis’s next film will be coming out later in the year. It’s a horror film and a new adaptation 1818 novel Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Victor Frankenstein. I am not a fan of horror films, but I might just give Landis one more chance to impress me, just because that film has amazing leading actors – Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.

While I was disappointed with the story, the directing aspect of the film was quite good. The continuous fight scene in the supermarket at the end of the film was exciting and the animated end credits looked cool as well. Surprisingly, this film was directed by Project X’s Nima Nourizadeh. His skills have definitely improved since the 2012’s found-footage cult flick.

Acting

  1. Jesse Eisenberg as Agent Howell. I don’t even know what to say about his performance. First of all, his hair style was really distracting and I really don’t want to see similar wig on Lex Luthor in BvS but I guess I will just have to deal with it. Eisenberg pulled off his action scenes quite nicely, but I have seen him do better when it comes to dialogue. The Social Network is still my favorite movie of his, though I loved Now You See Me as well.
  2. Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson. Kristen played my favorite character in the whole film and I was not expecting to get any twists in her story, but the one we got was quite cool. I also loved that she eventually turned out to be a bad-ass in her own right, despite the fact that Eisenberg’s character wanted to save her. I was always a fan of Kristen’s (yes, I was a 12-year-old Twi-hard once) and loved her in Still Alice and Camp X-Ray. I really want to see Clouds of Sils Maria as well, because Stewart won the prestigious Cesar Award for that film.
  3. Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter. Victoria was one of the supervisors of the program that turned Eisenberg’s character into an agent. She ultimately tried to save him. The mother-son relationship that they wanted to explore with her and his characters was not really working.
  4.  Walton Goggins as Laugher, John Leguizamo as Rose and Topher Grace as Adrian Yates. Although all of these immensely different actors played different roles, I want to talk about them as a group – a group of caricatures. Their characters were not original and they relied on stereotypical cliches and really stupid humor way too much. Frankly, it was just boring to watch them on screen.

All in all, American Ultra was an okay movie. The acting was good but some characters were way too boring, the story wasn’t that original, while the directorial execution was quite good as a sophomore project of the director. I might have seen way too many spy/agent movies this summer, so my bad opinions towards this film might be influenced by the movie fatigue of this specific genre.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: American Ultra trailer

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Movie review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Movie reviews

Hello!

I went to the cinema too many times this week, so I apologize for a bunch of back-to-back movie reviews. I promise the next post will not be about any film! But for now, let’s review The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – to my mind, one of the better films of this summer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on a 1964 TV show with the same name. At first, I was hoping that this film was based on an original idea and only while writing this review I found out that it’s an adaptation of an old TV series. I guess we can’t escape the remake zone anymore…However, while nowadays the word ‘remake’ instantly feels like a bad idea (for example, Fantastic Four), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a really solid and enjoyable film.

IMDb summary: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

History

As you probably know, I am a huge history buff, so any movie set in the past is an instant favorite of mine. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is set during the Cold War – the most recent historical event and it deals with the aforementioned war’s biggest problem – the creation of an atomic bomb. I love when movies interweave real-life events and figures into their plots. The idea of making a CIA agent and a KGB agent work together is also brilliant.

Visuals

Since the movie is set in the 1960s, the costumes play a huge part in the film. If the appearance of the characters miss-matches the timeline, the viewers are instantaneously taken out of the movie. Thankfully, that does not happen in this film. All the costumes are spectacular and appropriate to the period. If you have read my post about the fashion exhibition that I’ve recently visited (here), you may know that 1960s fashion is one of my favorites, so this film definitely appealed to me on that level. And even though I am a girl and should have been jealous of the girls for having amazing dresses, I was feeling a huge suit envy, because the men of the film looked dashing. BTW, the scene in a clothing store is very funny – look out for it.

The setting and the architecture were also wonderful. The characters traveled trough a variety of different locations but all of them were unique and interesting in their own way. The final chase scene on a private island had a beautiful scenery as well,

Directing and Writing

This film was directed and written by Guy Ritchie (Lionel Wigram also helped with the script) who directed the latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation and its sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. Ritchie is also making a King Arthur film set to be released in 2016. (Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur from 2004 is one of my favorite films ever, so I can’t wait for this one as well. On a side note, I’ve already seen Fuqua’s latest film Southpaw, the review of it will be released during the weekend). Speaking about U.N.C.L.E, that film had amazing directing. The shots were heavily stylized, so that definitely made the film stand out from other Hollywood action flicks. While I am not a huge fan of contemporary spy dramas/crime dramas (except Mission Impossible and James Bond), this one, with its historical setting and unique point of you, definitely pleases me. It reminded me a bit of Kingsman The Secret Service (review). That movie had a unique setting and a quirky premise and so did U.N.C.L.E. Both of the films also created their own sub-genre – weird action comedy spy drama. Moreover, while Kingsman had amazing long shots, U.N.C.L.E. had a few unique styles of filming as well. Some scenes looked like they came out straight from a graphic novel, while others reminded me of the actual pages of a comic book with a few different panels appearing on screen. Zoom in/zoom out technique of filming was also present during the final action piece and it looked really cool.

Acting

The main trio of the film was played by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.

Henry Cavill (Superman) is British but plays an American. However, his accent never came through and he killed it in this role. Not only did he look amazing but he felt like James Bond from old movies – efficient and confident womanizer.

Armie Hammer played the Russian agent and although Hammer himself is an American, his great-grandfather had ties with the Soviet Union, so there is a small real-life connection with his role. Armie Hammer was also really great in the role and his chemistry with Cavill was amazing. I hope that this will be the redeeming film for Hammer because he only stared in critical and financial flops these past 5 years (for example, The Lone Ranger). His latest successful film – 2010’s The Social Network. 

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander played the leading lady of the film – a German mechanic (I love when movies switch up gender roles – I like cars too and I am a girl) Gabby who was also a British Spy. The twist involving her character was a surprising one for me. Vikander starred in a plethora of movies this year. in 2015, she played the AI in Ex-Machina (loved that film) and an English writer Vera Brittain in the Testament of Youth – a World War I memoir (review coming soon). She also had roles in 2012’s Anna Karenina (review) and 2014’s terrible adaptation of a great book – Seventh Son. I’ve enjoyed almost all the movie that Vikander started in and I can’t wait to see how her career evolves. She will start in a highly anticipated The Danish Girl alongside recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. That film will probably be nominated for an Oscar, so Vikander might get her big break with critics very soon. However, her mainstream career will also get a boost, because she will be in the 5th Bourne film set to be released next year.

The main villain of the film was played by Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who shined in a supporting role in 2013’s The Great Gatsby. She did a nice job playing the villainous Victoria Vinciguerra and Italian actor Luca Calvani starred as her husband.

A few accomplished English actors – Jared Harris and
Hugh Grant – provided their services in supporting roles, while German actors Sylvester Groth and Christian Berkel rounded up the cast.

This film definitely had one of the most diverse casts: Americans, Brits, and Germans were sharing the screen with Italians and a Swedish actress. I love when films include a wide variety of nationalities because Hollywood films are seen all around the world, so they should represent all of their audiences and not just the domestic ones.

All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (which stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to like the movies as much as I did. The plot was interesting, the action and visual effects – pleasing to the eye and the acting – just superb. They definitely left room for a sequel at the end of the film, but I doubt that they will make it because U.N.C.L.E. isn’t doing so great in a box office. But I will have my fingers crossed and you should too.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer

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Movie review: Gone Girl + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I went to the early screening of Gone Girl, so this is a spoiler warning, because I am going to review this highly anticipated book-turned-movie thriller.

Summary: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)

Book + Changes

I have started reading the book by Gillian Flynn when I had 5 days left till the premiere, so I was on a tight schedule. I really loved the first half of the book, but when the big secret was revealed I was kind of skeptical that this was the big plot twist. It was hard to root for Amy when you’ve found out her mental state but I, as a woman, couldn’t be on Nick’s side as well because he was a cheat.
The ending was really weird. They resolved some stuff out and they were still dragging the story out and then it just suddenly ended. What is more, by the end of the book, probably all the readers were on a Team Nick and he did not get a happy ending. I was really happy when the producers decided to create a whole new ending and the third act. Moreover, the author of the book was the one creating the new material, so this was still her imagination and not some screenwriter altering the original material.  In addition, the new ending meant that all the book readers hadn’t spoiled the movie for themselves.

Note: I wrote that part of the review before going to see that movie, so my comment after watching it: they didn’t change a dam thing. I was hoping that there will be a big, grand change but the story played out the same way it did in the book. Of course, there were a few minor changes but that always happens when you are adapting a book to the big screen. For example, in the book we have read what were they thinking after the reunion .In the movie, we are only guessing what is on their minds from their expressions and their actions. I was a bit disappointed that everything everyone was talking about were these big changes and there weren’t any of them.

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Acting

I believe that Ben Affleck was great choice for the role of Nick – the husband. I have firstly acquainted with Ben as an actor in one of the reruns of Armageddon when I was about 8 or 9. After that, I watched him in Daredevil and Oscar winning Argo (I loved Argo – one of my favorite movies ever) and recently, I got around watching – Gone Baby Gone – a directorial debut of Affleck that has almost the same premise as Gone Girl and even a similar name. In the 2007’s Gone Baby Gone a girl goes missing and in this year’s Gone Girl – a grown women. I still need to check him out in Pearl Harbor – I have heard so much about this movie and I can’t believe that I still haven’t watched it. Shame on me.

As much as I knew about Ben Affleck, I was totally in the dark when it came to Rosamund Pike. I haven’t seen any of her movies (or maybe I have and I just don’t remember her which actually is a bad thing for actors). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance; she was a believable (SPOILER) psychopath.

Speaking about the supporting cast, Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, the main scene stealer. He is always perfect in every role and this one was not an exception.  And that SPOILER bed scene – that was one of the most powerfully gross scene I have ever seen. The whole cinema was open-mouthed by the time it ended.

Emily Ratajkowski (Blurred Lines music video girl) played Nick’s mistress Andie, she was quite good too, and her role wasn’t that hard but still props to her for trying to move from her image in Blurred Lines. Then again, this time her boobs also played an important role.

The character I didn’t like in the books but really loved in the movie was detective Rhonda Boney played by Kim Dickens. I really enjoyed her performance and was rooting for Rhonda in the investigation. Tyler Perry was nice Tanner Bolt even thought I imagined him in a completely different way when I was reading the book. Carrie Coon also did a good job as Margo – I loved how she almost always stayed on Nick’s side.

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Directing

The movie is directed by David Fincher who is best known for directing The Girl with the dragon tattoo, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story).  As a long time Facebook user (My name is Lue, and I am an addict), I adored The Social Network and loved seeing Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in one movie (too much eye candy).  I was never a fan of The Girl with the dragon tattoo book series, maybe because I was too young when I tried to read them. Furthermore, the critics and the general public weren’t really interested in the movie adaptation so it sort of slipped from my “to watch” list. I have read The Curious Case by Fitzgerald and I want to watch the movie but haven’t found time yet.

In Gone Girl, I really loved Fincher’s attention to details. He really made me believe in these characters and the story. Of course, he has to share these praises with both Gillian Flynn for creating this strong material and great actors who brought these powerful characters to life.

Themes

Both the movie and the book explore the problems of the family. They show how parent’s problems affect their children. They portray what happens when parents raise their child as a god: the kid doesn’t want to let his/hers parents down, she/he becomes a perfectionist. However, at the same time he/she might turn into a spoiled brat. The conclusion: raise you kids in a right way (but god knows what the right way is). The second big theme was a relationship between a husband and a wife and domestic abuse. Nick and Amy’s relationship was toxic and addictive: they could not live together normally, but they couldn’t exist separately as well. Relationships are hard and if you want your relationship to succeed both sides have to work together. Lastly, I loved how they portrayed the importance of media in contemporary world. If society loves you, you are innocent. If they hate you, you are screwed.

All in all, I liked the book, I liked the movie. I wish they would have given us an alternative ending but I am still quite satisfied with what I got. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie received an Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and acting.

Trailer: Gone Girl trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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Photos: Google Images