Movie review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a sequel that I did not think Hollywood would make but I’m so glad they did. This is Sicario 2 or Sicario: Day of the Soldado.

IMDb summary: The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

Writing

Sicario 2 was written by Taylor Sheridan – the same screenwriter who wrote the first Sicario as well as such great pictures as Hell or High Water and Wind River. I thought that the writing for the sequel was quite spectacular for the most part. I highly appreciated how topical the movie was, tackling topics that one sees on the news daily. I also loved the ambiguity in the script: the film didn’t have the clear ‘good side’ and it also did not have a conclusion or a clear ‘winning side’. No real happy ending in the film as in life.

The narrative was a bit convoluted and murky at times but I thought that was an accurate representation of the modern warfare. Plans rarely go as planned, layers of authority make decisions impossible to make, and various actors have their own agendas I also really loved how the movie touched upon the ideas of performance within warfare. It was also interesting to see the movie trying to deal with more personal stuff within a context of war.

My only gripe with the film was that I did not think its 3rd act was as strong as the first two. The intensity dropped, the story stopped, and the movie finished a bit of an underwhelming fashion. It tried setting up a sequel which is never an easy way to finish a picture.

Directing

Stefano Sollima, an Italian director, took over the reins of the now-franchise from Denis Villeneuve and crafted an intense and cohesive film, definitely worthy of the first one. The sequel was violent but maybe not as shocking as the first picture. The intensity was still palpable, though. The instrumental score, full of deep and low sounds could be felt in one’s body (if your cinema has a good sound system). The cinematography was great too – static continuous shots of Mexico’s landscape made nature seem both gorgeous and threatening/mysterious.

Acting

Soldado’s cast consisted of Benicio del ToroJosh Brolin, and Jeffrey Donovan reprising their roles, with Isabela MonerManuel Garcia-Rulfo, Elijah Rodriguez and Catherine Keener joining the film. I feel kinda bad for Emily Blunt, as she was sort of the star of the previous film but didn’t/couldn’t return (wasn’t asked to return?) for the sequel. Del Toro killed it in the role again and Brolin (Only the Brave, Hail, Caesar!, Everest) was amazing too (I loved the last shot of him in the hellicopter and just that tiny hint of emotion in his eyes due to the loss of his comrade). I do love the range of the two actors – from The Collector/a smuggler in the Star Wars Universe and Thanos/Cable to the characters in Soldado! Moner was able to showcase her acting abilities so much better in this film than in Transformers 6. It was also nice to see the movie showcasing some Mexican talent – another group of performers that goes underappreciated and underexposed so often in Hollywood.

In short, Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado is a great-looking and smart sequel that will definitely keep you glued to the edge of your seat for at least 2/3 of the film.

Rate: 3.9/5

Trailer: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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Movie review: Ocean’s 8

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome back to the sporadic AF movie reviews. Ocean’s 8 is the topic for today.

IMDb summary: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

Writing

Ocean’s 8 – a spin-off of the original trilogy rather than its reboot (this is no Ghostbusters) – was written by the director of the film Gary Ross and Olivia Milch (she is writing a Barbie movie next, don’t know how to react to that). There was a lot to like in the script. To begin with, I liked how this action film was kept feminine with the focus on the MetGala and diamonds. A decision to make women steal diamonds might be seen as playing into stereotypes. However, I’d argue that by keeping a feminine focus, Ocean’s 8 fights the stereotype that strong women, especially female action stars, have to be masculine. Some of them might be masculine, while others might prefer femininity (or a mixture of the two). And Ocean’s 8 showcases that by having a variety of women of different colors/shapes/sizes/styles as the core characters. While the character development isn’t plentiful, there is enough of it to make each character necessary and at least a tiny bit interesting.

Additionally, while Ocean’s 8 stands on the shoulders of the original Ocean’s trilogy, it doesn’t lean on them too hard, meaning that one can go into this movie not knowing anything of the first 3 films and completely get the plot of this one. As I wasn’t a fan of the original films, I also didn’t mind some of the developments/reveals about the original characters in this film (some fans might actually be legitimately annoyed by them). Personally, my main problem with this movie was its structure. I loved the first two acts – the pre-heist set-up and the actual heist. However, I feel like the whole 3rd act, rather than being a big finale, was a boring wrap-up that dragged immensely. The investigation and the reveals felt both rushed and like the movie was overstaying its welcome.

Directing

Gary Ross (of the first Hunger Games film and Free State of Jonesdirected Ocean’s 8, while Steven Soderbergh – the director behind Ocean’s 11,12, and 13 – stayed on as a producer. I thought that Ross handled the material well, the narrative made sense and was intense for the most part. Pacing had some issues, especially the pacing of the aforementioned third act. The glitz and the glamours of the MetGala were realized accurately.

Acting

Undeniably, the best part about Ocean’s 8 was its cast: Sandra BullockCate BlanchettAnne HathawayMindy KalingSarah PaulsonAwkwafinaRihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter. I adored the female solidarity and friendship on display. Cate Blanchett (Thor 3, Cinderella, Carol) was my absolute favorite – I loved her character’s outfits, charisma, and just effortless coolness. I also enjoyed seeing Hathaway (Alice 2) playing the gossip sites’ version of herself. I also loved seeing Bullock, back on screen in a lead role as I feel I haven’t seen her in a big movie in ages (since Gravity). Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time) and Paulson (The Post) were also really fun to see. I loved the uber contemporary vibes that Awkwafina brought to the film and I loved seeing Rihanna actually having a character to play rather than just being there to look pretty (*cough, cough*, Valerian. BTW, I’ve been to her concert some years before and wrote about that). Bonham Carter (Suffragette) was also good in the film, though I feel like she played her typical, slightly awkward and over-the-top type of a personality.

Ocean’s 8 also featured some cool celebrity cameos, some neat cameos by the original cast, and a short appearance by James Corden (Peter Rabbit), who is always a delight to see.

In short, Ocean’s 8 was a great all-female thriller. It might not please everyone, but then again, why does it have too?

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Ocean’s 8 trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Beast

Movie reviews

Hello!

The only movie that is daring to play as counterprogramming to Avengers: Infinity War in the UK cinemas is a small British movie Beast. As it will certainly be overlooked by a lot of people, I decided to give it a chance.

IMDb summary: A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders.

  1. Beast was written and directed by Michael Pearce, who has mostly directed short films before, making this movie his feature debut. Beast was certainly a peculiar story but in the best way possible. I have seen some describing it as a modern fairytale. I guess that’s the case if we are replacing princes and princesses with criminals and psychopaths?
  2. Beast’s writing was really great. The set-up of an oppressive, damaging, and not very loving family was very clear and made the viewers instantly feel for the character. The will they/won’t they romance (more like is he the killer or isn’t he?) mystery also worked. I wasn’t entirely sure about the ending, whether the blind love was in any way a good message or whether that finale was a celebration of female empowerment or a celebration of a psychopath as bad as the initial murderer? Is she the titular Beast or was he? Or was it both of them? Or is it all humans, as we are, in one way or the other, deeply flawed creatures?
  3. The closed off island and a tight-knit privileged community made for a great setting for this mystery thriller (recently, another English Channel island got spotlighted – Guernsey – but in a completely different type of a film). Just the views of the island itself were really pretty and calming in contrast to the story. It was also interesting to see movie constructing the class difference as a defining factor in how one is going to be perceived a.k.a. painted as the villain. But as it turned out to be the truth, doesn’t that make the movie’s message that lower class individuals more likely to be criminals?
  4. From the directing point of view, the movie was slowish but suspenseful and I did like very real and raw visuals. The diegetic noises – the breathing sounds or the sound of crunching grass/dirt – added a lot of ambiance to the movie. The camera work was neat too.
  5. The two leads were played by Jessie Buckley (British TV and theatre actress) and Johnny Flynn (TV actor and musician). I was completely unfamiliar with both of the actors but I thought that they did a spectacular job. The performances were believable, relatable, but also slightly off to always keep the viewer on edge.

In short, Beast was a great psychological thriller that left me with a lot of questions to ponder over.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Beast trailer

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Movie review: Thoroughbreds

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that enthralled me just with its name. This is Thoroughbreds.

IMDb summary: Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost.

Writing

Thoroughbreds was written by the director Cory Finley. I have seen this movie described as an ‘update on the teen thriller genre’. Even though that sounds like a positive description, I would like to completely bypass the teen genre denomination, as, while the movie is about two teens, its writing is so much more than the writing for just a teen movie. It’s entirely something else.

Thoroughbreds plot revolves around two girls that set off on a mission. But these girls are not just random teenagers: they come from a privileged background that has damaged them. One of them has no emotions, the other controls hers until she doesn’t. And their mission is not a fun adventure but a quest that showcases human capacity and will for violence. It really doesn’t paint the best picture of humanity, especially the supposed best of the best of humanity, also known as the rich upper class. It also doesn’t paint the best picture of people’s understanding of human emotion, as lack of it is always seen as an issue, a deficiency, a mental illness. On the other hand, it does portray the idea of sympathy as a rare phenomenon in modern society very accurately.

Hints (or more than just hints) to the characters being psychopaths are also in the film, as they don’t seem to process human relationships in a healthy way. While the stepfather does appear abusive and not the nicest man, the killing of him is far from justified. It’s only justified in the character’s mind as the reclaiming of control. Finley’s script doesn’t need to reclaim controls as it never lets it go. The narrative is tight and doesn’t have any unnecessary details, while no line of the dialogue feels out of place. All the statements are sharp and to the point but still somewhat natural and realistic sounding. And that name, the thing that first peaked my interest, is perfect. Not only does it captures the privileged nature of the characters (horseriding is a stereotypically popular activity among the upper class), but also showcases how that privilege damages them (children are bred like animals rather than cared for through human connection).

Directing

Thoroughbreds was a directorial debut by Cory Finley and want a brilliant one it was. He took the idea of control from the script and applied it to the whole story, making it tight and controlled. It was brought to life through forceful but contained visuals and cinematography. Restrain was, most likely, encouraged in the actors’ performances too. One part of the movie that is allowed to be a bit less controlled but is still incredibly focused and powerful is the score. It’s unsettling and keeps the tension and suspension all throughout the runtime. Finley’s debut thriller-drama was just so damn good. I have no idea why it is being billed as comedy as there is nothing particularly funny about it, maybe only in ‘this is so morbid, I have to laugh’ kinda way.

Acting

Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, soon The New Mutants) were absolutely brilliant in the picture. Their performances were top notch and extremely strong in a subtle way. Cooke’s character’s emotionlessness and Taylor-Joy’s characters privilege and porcelain-like stature were portrayed with such sophistication. Can’t wait to see more from them!

This movie also featured one of the final performances by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek Beyond). Seeing him on screen was a bittersweet moment. It’s such a shame that we have lost an incredibly talented actor at such a young age. His role here was really interesting: his drug dealer character unexpectedly became the one nice person in the film, who received all of the viewers, at least all of my, sympathy.

In short, Thoroughbreds is a fantastic thriller about control (the concept permeates all aspects of the film) and an incredibly promising directorial debut from a new voice in Tinseltown.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: Thoroughbreds trailer

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Movie review: Unsane

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a horror movie by a horror hater (also known as a scary cat). This is Unsane!

IMDb summary: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Writing

Unsane was written by Jonathan Bernstein (journalist) and James Greer (novelist and critic) and I thought that their script was really interesting. First of all, I loved how much information the movie provided about its characters and the story, and yet, how nothing was clear. It sprung the main topic of the film on the viewer in the first few scenes without any preparation. That main question, whether the character was actually insane or not, didn’t actually end up being answered but the ambiguity of it was so intriguing that I wasn’t even mad for not getting concrete answers. I also don’t feel that concrete answers are appropriate when looking at mental illness – a very complex, personal, and still not-fully-understood field.

The main character, aside from her existing (or not) psychological issues, was also super interesting. Her personality and actions weren’t the most sympathetic and yet, the viewer wanted to root for her. It was quite a confusing and frustrating state that the viewer was put in. I also got personally annoyed with the character because of her incapability to work the situation that she was in. That inability might be due to the mental illness? But did it start because of the stalking? Or was there an issue before? Was she ever telling the truth? Why would she play/provoke him? What about that ending? I really didn’t expect the movie to go there but I am sort of fascinated by the fact that it did.

Lastly, the setting of the movie was incredible too. That asylum was both old-school (because it reminded me of a mental institution one might see in old horror movies) but was also super contemporary (because it was just a front for insurance fraud (yey, capitalism?)).

Directing

Unsane was directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike XXL), who was also the cinematographer and the editor of the film. His involvement with this movie was the main reason while I actually subjected myself to watching a horror movie. And it wasn’t really a typical horror movie, but a very fascinating and creepy psychological thriller (and I’m somehow very into that genre, even though it is so closely related to the horror one).

Anyways, Soderbergh has made some bold chances, like breaking away from the big studios and handling the marketing himself with his last film Logan Lucky. He went one step further with Unsane by not even using any of the traditional filmmaking methods – the picture was shot entirely on an iPhone (Tangerinewas also shot on an iPhone, so Unsane isn’t the first ‘bigger’ movie to do that). Thus, the aspect ration of the movie was unusual. The cinematography was super unique too: the viewers had a very direct relationship with the image and seemed to be so close to it. The angles from which the film was shot also differed from the usual ones. That lack of distance between the viewer and the picture kinda made it feel like a documentary movie too. The not-perfect quality of the visuals also added to that feeling of realism. Since it appears that Soderbergh pretty much did everything himself on this picture, the credits of it were surprisingly short. I was halfway down the stairs in the screen and they were already over.

Acting

Unsane was mostly a one-woman show: Claire Foy (Breathe) played the lead and was really incredible. Love the fact that Netflix’s The Crown led to more cinematic roles for her. Joshua Leonard played the stalker and was uncomfortable to watch, both because of what type of character he was playing and because the actual performance was a bit stiff. SNL’s Jay Pharoah was one strand of positivity in the film and I did appreciate the breather/reassurance that the character provided both for the main character and the viewers. Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel) also had a small but quite explosive role. There is also a fun cameo by a big movie star, who has been popping up in all kinds of different projects, lately.

Unsane was an unhinged psychological thriller that left me with more questions than answers, like any good psycho-thriller should do.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Unsane trailer 

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Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow trailer

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Movie review: Fifty Shades Freed

Movie reviews

Hey…there,

Creeped you out yet? That’s good because, oh my dear lord, here we go. This is Fifty Shades Freed. While I did not review the previous two films in the franchise, in honor of its end, I decided to sink my teeth into the last chapter.

IMDb summary: Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.

Writing

Fifty Shades Freed was written by Niall Leonard, based on the book by his wife’s E.L. James (an author as territorial about her work as her main character is about his partner – if u don’t know what I’m talking about and are interested, read up on the behind the scenes conflict between James and the director of the first film Sam Taylor-Johnson). Now, I’m not proud to admit but I have actually read the books as a teenager and had a good laugh with friends about them. I didn’t really think that they were worthy of or appropriate for cinematic adaptation, but Hollywood doesn’t care about ethics or quality when the prospect of a big paycheck appears on the horizon.

Anyways, my general thoughts on the writing of this franchise have always been twofold. I thought that it was a good thing that Fifty brought BDSM culture into the forefront and the mainstream conversation. What I always hated was the fact that the dominant-submissive relationship never ended when the bedroom’s or the red room’s door were closed: he was creepy and stalkerish IRL too and she seemed to be fine with that. Her reactions to his actions were even more infuriating than his actions themselves. Although, I guess, in this film both of them were jealous and territorial, so maybe they were truly meant for one another.

Speaking about the script of this film: it was fine (bear in my mind that my expectations were extremely low). Freed sort of had two storylines (if you can call them that): the love story and the crime thriller sideline.

Now, the love story was always the backbone of this series, though, what the filmmakers have failed to realize time and time again was that Anna’s and Christian’s relationship was never strong enough to mount the whole plot on (let alone the plots of three movies). Also, while these films (including the last one) really tried showcasing a modern love story, they always ended up playing into the same gender roles and even worse, cliches. Moreover, in this film, the Greys’ romance wasn’t even the only love story (maybe the filmmakers did realise that it wasn’t that great or that there wasn’t anything more to do with it, except to fabricate some shallow and senseless conflict) and an attempt was made to do something with the brother and the best friend characters. Still, I do have to admit that Anna and Christian did share a few sweet and romantic moments, which I think usually get lost in a lot of reviews, but I’m trying to be fair for this movie, so I’m mentioning them.

Anyways, on the thriller side of the movie, things weren’t great either. The thriller plotline lacked exposure and sort of disappeared in the second act before reappearing in the third act when the screenwriter suddenly realized that he needed to close this movie (and the series) with a bang (or at least with an attempt of a bang). Also, the finale really tried to show Anna as independent and resourceful but I think it might have been too late for that.

On the humor side, Fifty Shades Freed had two types of jokes. Firstly, it had those absolutely laughable moments that made no sense (‘let’s have a car chase sequence and then have sex in the car’). The second kind was actually funny moments that came from the film’s awareness about its own silliness (like the exchange ‘Restrain Him! I don’t have anything! Oh, we do! I mean, I can find something…’).

Directing

Fifty Shades Freed was directed by James Foley (he did Darker too and has also directed Glengarry Glen Ross – what a range in the filmography). I guess he did an okay job. The glamorous lifestyle was neat to look at (some quality Audis and nice outfits on display). The pop soundtrack was good too (I did like that they reused ‘Love Me Like You Do’ cause it was such a huge song from the first film). The sex scenes were… well… sex scenes (I’m not analyzing them, pervs). What I will say is that I’m not happy about the inequality in the nudity of this film. Lastly, Freed concluded with the summary sequence, so if you don’t to watch this trilogy but are interested in what the fuss was about, just look up that clip when it ends up online.

Acting

Both Dakota Johnson (Black Mass) and Jamie Dornan are good looking actors, so I do see why they were cast in this series. What I’m sad about is the fact that the two of them are actually quite amazing actors but one cannot really see that in this series. Having said that, while the duo has become infamous for having no chemistry in the previous pictures, I did somewhat believe their relationship in this one. That’s probably because this was the last film and they were genuinely happy to be done with so it appeared that they were actually happy to be Mrs. and Mr. Grey. Anyways, I hope that both of their careers can survive the damage of this franchise.

On the supporting front, there really isn’t much to mention. A bunch of actors like Rita Ora, Bran Daugherty (who went from background actor on Pretty Little Liars to a sideline character on the big screen – progress?), Eric JohnsonEloise MumfordLuke Grimes (The Magnificient Seven), and Arielle Kebbel appeared and sort of just stood or ran around in the background. They served the purpose of the movie, I guess.

In short, Fifty Shades Freed was what it was. If you liked this series, good for you. If you didn’t enjoy it, sorry that you spent money on it.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Fifty Shades Freed trailer

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Movie review: Murder on the Orient Express 

Movie reviews

Hello!

A glamorous whodunit has landed in theatres. This is Murder on the Orient Express.

IMDb summary: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Prior to seeing the film, I had some knowledge about Hercule Poirot: I and my aunt used to play a Poirot video game, where you had to either assist the detective in solving a mystery or you were playing as the detective. In addition, while I haven’t seen any of the previous adaptations of this book, I did go straight to the source and read an original novel by Agatha Christie. I would love to read more of her writings about Poirot but that extensive list is a bit overwhelming.

Writing

Agatha Christie’s detective novel Murder on the Orient Express was adapted to the screenplay format by Michael Green (the writer of 3 (not counting this one) big movies of 2017: Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Blade Runner 2049). I thought that he did a fairly competent job. Since I have read the book only recently, I noticed a few changes in the story, mostly in the set-up, the locations, and the character traits. Other than these small details, the narrative stayed the same and the ending, which I was a bit disappointed by while reading the book, also stayed the same. In the film form, I did not mind the ending that much. I’m just wondering whether that complex reveal and its various tie-ins were explained well enough for a viewer, who wasn’t familiar with the story in the first place, to grasp.

I quite enjoyed the character development that Poirot received. I don’t think these particular details of his past were in the original book but I’m sure they were taken from one of the other Christie’s books of the same series. The emotional vulnerability that the character exhibited in the film made me believe his final decision (the one that came from the heart) more believable. The other characters did not receive much character development unless it was directly related to the case. Since the plot also involved a lot of performative elements, even the character development that was given could not be fully trusted.

Last few points on the script: I feel like it had a more overtly political tone than the book had, or at least elements relating to race, nationality, and governance, were more noticeable in the film. Murder on the Orient Express also had a fair few of chucklesome moments and a surprisingly big amount of sexual innuendos.

Directing

Murder on the Orient Express was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has quite a lot of experience directing adaptations of classical books (mostly Shakespeare). He has also worked with the fantasy, action, and fairytale genres with Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and Cinderella. Overall, I thought he did a great job with this movie. I believe that the glamour of the setting was well realized, while the limits of it were used for the benefit of the film. The picture had quite a few impressive looking long tracking shots and also a couple of very unique looking straight-overhead/from the top shots. A couple of scenes of more obvious action-y nature were added to keep up the pace of the film, while the extensive interviews of the book were placed in various inventive locations around the train to make them more interesting. The black and white flashback sequences were a nice touch. My only gripe with the visuals of the film was the fact that some wide exterior shots looked really fake and too obviously CGI.

Acting

Kenneth Branagh was quite spectacular as Hercule Poirot. When a director plays the lead in his own film, I always get a bit worried, but I think Branagh handled the challenge well. I think he portrayed the character eccentrically enough but didn’t go into the cartoon territory (which was my worry). Poirot actually seemed like a serious and real person with some unique quirks.

The supporting cast of the film was quite extensive and full of big-name talent. The actors all delivered good enough performances with their limited screen time. Johnny Depp (Pirates 5, Fantastic Beasts, Black Mass, Alice 2) had his most ‘normal’ performance, so maybe the audience members, who have been turning away from him and his over the top roles, will come back? It was also really nice to see Daisy Ridley in a non-Star Wars role and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Pixels) in another live-action rather than voice role. It was also interesting to spot Michelle Pfeiffer and Judi Dench (Tulip Fever, Spectre) doing something more mainstream after mother! and Victoria&Abdul, respectively.

Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe (Death Note, What Happened To Monday, The Great Wall, TFIOS), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.Derek JacobiMarwan Kenzari (The Mummy, The Promise, Ben-Hur), Olivia Colman (The Lobster + she is taking over the role of the queen on The Crown), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven), Sergei Polunin (he is a ballet dancer, so the count’s jumping kicks were legit), and Tom Bateman all starred in the roles, ranging from small to tiny, but the limited size of their roles did not limit the quality of their performances.

In short, Murder on the Orient Express was quite an enjoyable old-school thriller.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Murder on the Orient Express trailer

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Movie review: Geostorm

Movie reviews

Hello!

A film from the producers of Independence Day (yeah?) and Independence Day: Resurgence (oh). This is Geostorm!

IMDb summary: When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

Writing

Geostorm was written by the director of the film Dean Devlin (he is a longtime producer) and Paul Guyot (a TV writer). Usually, movies like this one have a whole army of writers, so I was actually quite surprised to see only 2 writing credits for this one). The picture’s writing was exactly of the quality that I expected it to be, while the story was predictable, typical, and full of far-fetched science (again, as it was supposed to be). It also had the most cliched lead – a family man with a broken family (father-daughter AND sibling issues).

The best part about the writing was the interplay between the movie’s messages and the current political climate.  To begin with, the whole movie was basically an awareness campaign for climate change – a development that some (you know who) still think is a hoax. Like all disaster films, the movie also showed the people trying to control or fight nature, while we should have left it alone long ago.

The more obvious political message, or the anti-political one, was the portrayal of the film’s villain (who had that ‘Make America Great Again’ attitude) and the anti-weaponization idea (I suppose that by the anti-political tone I also kinda mean if not ‘anti’ then at least un-American tone too). And yet, even though the film was made for an international market and had an international cast, it still had a typical American hero front and center. China, being the box office power it is, also was spotlighted a bit. Basically, Geostorm seemed like an old school/90s very typically American (but also somewhat un-American) film disguised as a ‘dumb’ actioner for the foreign audiences.

Speaking of the ‘happy’ (millions died, don’t mention it) ending of the film: I, as a realist and a cynic, generally have a hard time stomaching the positivistic happy endings, which are all about the single humanity, solidarity, peace and bright future. I, honestly, stopped believing in that dream long ago and nothing that’s happening in the world today is work towards persuading me otherwise. Well, at least the movies try.

Directing

Independence Day films’ producer Dean Devlin had his directorial debut with Geostorm. I guess he did as good of a job as this genre requires of him. The action was fine, the story made sense in the context of the film (suspension of disbelief is key). The effects were okay. Some of them looked like they belonged in the 1990s, the others in the 2010s. The space stuff looked best, but the weather catastrophes looked kinda awful and very obviously CGI. It was basically a remake of 2012 movie for 2017.

Acting

Gerard Butler starred as the lead and did an okay job. This is the type of movie that he usually makes but I don’t really know why executives still cast him because he is no longer a box office draw. Also, even though I buy him as an action hero, don’t push your luck and make him a scientist too. That’s a bit harder to comprehend. Lastly, why is he always made into an American (or an Egyptian character)? Can’t we hear his actual Scottish accent just once?

The supporting cast of the film included Jim Sturgess (whose performance I did enjoy. I’m also more inclined to give him a pass as he has starred in one of my favorites movies of all time – Cloud Atlas – and also had a role in Stonehearst Asylum); Abbie Cornish; Ed Harris (mother!, also, please, shoot more Westworld ASAP), and Andy García (a Cuban-American actor in the role of the President: should I read into this?). The film also had a bunch of international actors whose character’s only character trait was their nationality (that’s not how you do diversity, Geostorm). The film starred Germany’s Alexandra Maria Lara, Ireland’s Robert Sheehan, Hong Kong’s Daniel Wu (Warcraft), Mexico’s Eugenio Derbez, Adepero Oduye of Nigerian ancestry and Egypt’s Amr Waked in a role of a Frenchman. Also, Zazie Beetz, who will play Domino in Deadpool 2, had a minor role.

In short, Geostorm was exactly what you would expect it to be. I didn’t expect nothing, so the movie was also nothing.

Rate: 2,7/5

Trailer: Geostorm trailer

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Movie review: The Snowman

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you have never heard about. This is The Snowman!

IMDb summary: Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman

Writing

The Snowman is a European crime thriller (I love thrillers!), written by Hossein Amini (Drive, Snow White and The Huntsman, Our Kind of Traitor), Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frank, Our Brand is Crisis), and Søren Sveistrup (a Scandinavian TV writer), based on the book of the same name by Jo Nesbø – quite a well-known Norwegian crime novel writer. I’ve, personally, never read any of his books, but I definitely know that my dad has enjoyed quite a few of them. Sadly, I didn’t have the same experience with the movie adaptation of The Snowman. Mostly because of how illogical the plot was.

The opening set-up for a villain left me with so many questions, which were not really answered throughout the film. So, supposedly, the bad guy did nefarious things because he grew up abused by a man, who was probably his father, but somehow blamed his mother for everything and then decided to punish all less-than-perfect mothers las an adult? What kind of senseless self-styled heroism is this? I’m guessing you could make a case about his psychological damage pushing him to do that, but, even if we take his potential mental disorders into consideration, his actions still don’t make much sense!?

The other ‘hero’ characters were all similarly damaged. Additionally, the detective case was not just a job for them, but a personal vendetta. Their character development was minimal: the majority of the traits of the characters directly related to the plot. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the character features appeared to be completely unnecessary and not relating to anything but then were forced into the main plotline. The supporting characters served no purpose in the movie, a few of them were dropped halfway through, with no explanation.

The narrative was predictable, typical, and full of plot-holes. The story was spread out all over the place – elabarote but not in a good way and convoluted rather than complex. All of the plotlines and the story strands were super loose. And yet, the movie somewhow managed to tie everything together. I guess the plot sort of made sense in the context of the film, but it would fall apart easily if one just dug a little deeper. The Snowman did very much feel like an adaptation of a book and I have a feeling that the story worked much better in the novel form.

Directing

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s director Tomas Alfredson helmed this film and did a passable job. At the beginning, the film did have a slight David Fincher-esque vibe, but that quickly went away. The Norwegian setting and the visuals of the fjords and the snow were good. In general, the realistic, down-to-earth vibe of a very European thriller was refreshing (I’ve been watching a lot of Hollywood high-glamour thriller lately, so this one was a nice change). However, that same vibe also made the project seem less cinematic and more like a TV movie. The violence was quite brutal and explicit (so maybe don’t see the film if that bothers you or your stomach). Lastly, the pacing was super slow and the intensity wasn’t always there to make up for the lack of action.

Acting

The Snowman assembled quite a good cast. In the lead was Michael Fasssbender, who desperately needed a financial or a critical win after Assasin’s Creed and Alien: Covenant (in both of which he was actually good in). However, The Snowman won’t do his career any good. Can somebody get him another Steve Jobs-type of a role? Or are we betting everything on the next X-Men film?

Rebecca Ferguson (MI5, The Girl on The Train, Life) was the co-lead on the film. Her character arc started out promising but then turned into a stereotype, however, Ferguson still delivered a neat performance. The supporting cast included a French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg (whose English language films include Independence Day: Resurgence), Val Kilmer (who I haven’t seen in a movie for years), and J.K. Simmons (Renegades) who had no business being in this picture. Oh, Jarvis aka James D’Arcy (Dunkirk) was in it too!

In short, The Snowman is a thriller that is not worth anyone’s time. If you are interested in the story, maybe read the book instead of watching the film?

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: The Snowman trailer

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