Movie review: The Great Wall

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

Writing

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

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

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

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

Directing

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

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

Acting

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

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

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

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

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: The Great Wall trailer

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Happy Easter 2016!!

Sightseeing

Good morning my dear readers and Happy Easter!

I just wanted to quickly wish you a happy day even if you don’t celebrate Easter! I hope that either your Easter Sunday or just normal Sunday will be full of joy and happiness whatever you do!

Easter is quite a big family celebration in my native country. This year I’m not going home to celebrate it, so I’m stuck alone in my room on campus. But I can’t say that I mind that very much..:)

In Lithuania, we have a tradition to color eggs for Easter and we call them ‘marguciai’ (translated as colorful Easter Eggs). So, even though I now live in a different country/time zone/continent(almost), I decided to continue this tradition.

First of all, let me present you the Easter Egg with ‘Easter Eggs‘ (aka references) on top of it. I hand-painted (my skills are rubbish, but I think it turned out nice) various symbols of nerdiness. From the top left corner we have my blog symbol, Wonder Woman’s symbol, Black Widow’s symbol, The Avengers A, Batman v Superman logo, Daredevil’s double D logo, Deadpool’s symbol, Captain America’s shield, the nerdfighteria’s acronym DFTBA, and the Star Trek logo. I really wanted to include references to Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and Game of Thrones, but I either ran out of space or just couldn’t come up with a simple enough symbol or logo.


Next, I did a United Nation/Countries/Flags Easter Egg. This one was partly inspired by a globe-like Easter Egg that I made last year.


The countries that I managed to include were: Lithuania (my native country), Scotland (my current home), United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Japan, India, and Denmark. That’s basically all the countries that I would like to visit (and whose flags are quite easy to draw/paint).

I also coloured two other eggs. I just put some zigzag lines and dots on one of them and rolled the other one in nail polish. They turned out okay.


Once again, have a Happy Easter if you celebrate it, while I am going back to bed to eat chocolate eggs and other sweets!

Easter 2014 post – here.

Collection: Posters + other wall decorations

Uncategorized

Hello!

Welcome to another segment of Collections. I have shared my nail polish and postcards’ collection with you before but now I will show you my room’s wall decorations. Mostly, my walls are covered with posters that represent all of my obsessions (TV shows, movies, books, comics, singers and so forth). All of the posters are custom made or bought at the concerts. Other decorations include a wall clock, couple of paintings I have painted myself, couple of inspirational quotes, my medals from various sports I do and two flags of the countries I wish to live in someday. Let’s begin, shall we?

I have 11 posters, I use to have more but now I have taken them down. My first poster (TVD and GG) are about 5 years old.

I have:

  1. The Vampire Diaries poster
  2. Twilight series poster
  3. Glee poster
  4. Game of Thrones poster
  5. Gossip Girl poster (+ couple of postcards with quotes)
  6. Marvel poster
  7. Pretty little liars poster
  8. Wizards of Waverly place poster
  9. One Direction poster
  10. Lana del Rey poster (bought at the concert in 2013)
  11. Lady Gaga poster (bought at the concert in 2012)

My o’clock is very girly: its Disney pink clock with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

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These 4 paintings are all painted by me using Paint by numbers canvases. The quote underneath them is the quote I saw on one of the swimmers from London 2012 Olympics T-shirt and found it really inspiring, so decided to hang it on my wall.

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Here you can see 55 medals that I have won in swimming, running, bicycle sport and aquathlon. Above them are numbers from running and cycling competitions.

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And here is my favorite part of my room (although, I do love all of it) – US and UK flags. I wish to study in the US and then live for a while in the UK.

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My walls used to be white but 4 years ago we repainted them into orange. I also have an inspiration/mood board above my desk with inspirational quotes, sayings, tiny paintings and symbols that mean something to me, but I am going to save it for a separate post.

So, I hope you liked seeing my room, even if it was just a tiny bit of it. Bye!

Movie review: Snowpiercer

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just watched the movie called Snowpiercer and this is going to be my review.

The main reason why I picked this particular movie was because I wanted to see what Chris Evans can do outside his Captain America character. However, other cast members sparked my interest as well: Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton both are in this movie.

Short summary:  In 2014 people were trying to stop global warning with CW7 experiment and, as a result, they froze the whole Earth. Survivors of the human race moved to the train called Snowpiercer which was built by Wilford (the keeper of the eternal engine that runs the whole train).The train is divided to sections: poor people live at the tail of the train while rich people are enjoying the good life at the front. The movie follows the story of Curtis Everett – a revolutionist who tries to lead the poor to the front of the train.

First of all, isn’t it ironic that we always thought that the end of the Earth would be when the sun explodes and we all burn with it and, in this film, instead of burning we all freeze to death?

Snowpierer is an epic piece of art. It has a blockbuster qualities as well as deep meaning. This is a kind of science fiction film that makes my nerd heart fly.  I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this movie did not have a worldwide release. It premiered on August 1st, 2013 in South Korea (its home country), when in several movie festivals during September through June and it finally got its release in the US on June 27th (in limited amount of theaters). I believe that this movie should get a global release and even an Oscar nomination. You may ask why? Let me show you: (You might find some spoilers ahead).

1. The movie has a global feeling: It is a South Korean-American movie based on a French graphic novel about the train that goes around the world. One circle of the train is equal to one year.
2. It has a dystopian vibe which is so popular right now.
3. It shows the reality of human violence. When our race is on a brink of extinction we don’t care about each other – we just want to live and this movie portrays every aspect of human selfishness vividly. The movie is definitely not for people with weak nerves: it has a lot of blood in it.
4. The character of Curtis is well-developed. Chris Evans portrays this damaged character amazingly. You feel sorry for him and at the same time you have an emotional connection with him.
5. The premise of the movie and the overall storyline is fresh, new, exciting and interesting.
6. The action is realistic and CGI effects are worth the applause.
7. The movie deals with problems such as: revenge, betrayal, drug abuse, sacrifice, friendship, fight for freedom and what is right and even cannibalism. Seems a lot? Strangely, the movie is not overcrowded and everything has its place.
8. Once again the movie shows that money rules the world and that people will always be divided by how much money they have.
9. The train, for me, had some similarities with the Noah’s ark. Both the ship and the train were striking for balance, even if it meant killing others.
10. The character of Ms.Wilford was a symbol of human insanity and what happens when we go too far.
11. Tilda Swinton does an amazing job in her role. You hate her so much for the things her character does and at first you cannot even recognize her because of all the makeup. That’s a true on-screen transformation.
12.Director Bong Joon-ho is know for movies like The Host (2006), Mother (2009).

One last interesting fact: the movie introduced new kind of food – protein bars made from insects. This idea reminded me of a recent video I watched on YouTube channel called ASAPScience. The video shows a possibility of eating worms and incest in real life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM8s1ch5TRw

As you might guess, I loved this movie. It will probably be on my top 10 list for sure. Rate 5/5. And I am not the only one who thinks like this – Snowpiercer has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyWfZ9866DE

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