Movie review: Pete’s Dragon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie review of this summer! We close the blockbusters season with another live-action fairy tale from Disney – Pete’s Dragon!

IMDb summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.

Pete’s Dragon is quite an unusual film for Disney because it is quite small – both budget wise and story/scope wise. However, small doesn’t mean bad – it just another type of picture. It is actually quite refreshing to see Disney spending time and money on newer and lesser known projects. Of course, I have to mention that Pete’s Dragon is not an original film but a remake of a musical with the same name from the 70s. I haven’t seen the 1977’s picture and I doubt that I’ll watch it because it is not a timeless Disney classic and it doesn’t have that good of a rating. Moreover, the new Pete’s Dragon more than satisfied all my wishes.

Writing

The film was written by the director of the feature David Lowery and the screenwriter/producer Toby Halbrooks. Halbrooks has written a few shorts and is also writing a script for 2018’s Peter Pan for Disney to be directed by Lowery. In addition to having his next directing gig sorted out, Lowery will also be writing the script for a war film The Yellow Birds. 

I really enjoyed the story that the duo penned for Pete’s Dragon. It was simple, yet well-crafted. The ideas about family and finding a place where you belong were classic Disney themes but they did actually work because of their universality and wide appeal.

The character development was also quite pleasant. I loved how Pete and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Grace felt connected through nature. I also enjoyed the father-daughter relationship between Grace and her father, played by Robert Redford. The friendship between the main character Pete and his pet dragon Elliot was also cute and reminded me of other great films where children befriend various animals/beings – Max and E.T. are just two of many.  The main antagonist of the film was a cliche character but he served his purpose well in this family adventure picture.

Lastly, I kinda thought that Pete’s Dragon was a spiritual succesor to another live-action fairy tale of 2016 – The Jungle Book. If at the end of Mowgli’s story, he would have been found by humans and Baloo would have gone looking for him, we would most likely have gotten a Pete’s Dragon type of a situation.

Directing

David Lowery, who has only recently started to dip his toes into the blockbuster business, did quite a nice job with the film. The action scenes were entertaining, the mise-en-scene (the forest and the mountains) – gorgeous and the movie’s direction good as well.

The character design of Elliot – the dragon – was a bit weird. He didn’t really look like a dragon, more like a furry dog or a soft teddy bear that could also fly. I heard that a lot of people hated that the dragon was fury and didn’t have any scales. Personally, this change didn’t bother me – I think that it actually helped Elliot to stand out as a different kind of dragon. Also, from the business standpoint, a furry dragon is way more marketable and more merchandise friendly – what kid doesn’t want another soft plushie toy to his/her collection?

I saw the film in 3D but, honestly, it didn’t add anything to it. The effect actually made the whole film darker and, since a lot of scenes were already happening during the night, the 3D only made it harder for me to see the human characters and Elliot.

Music

The 1977’s Pete’s Dragon was a musical, but the studio decided to remake it as a drama/adventure film and drop the songs. However, the 2016’s film still had an interesting soundtrack by Daniel Hart. It seemed to me that the flick had more of a country-music inspired soundtrack and vibe. It was quite refreshing to hear some deep voices and guitar sounds after a lot of EDM and pop music in all of the other films this summer.

Acting

The main character of the film – Pete – was played by Oakes Fegley. When did the child actors have gotten this good? He was excellent in the role – sweet, relatable to children but still able to display acting chops that some adult actors lack. He has a bright future ahead.

Jurrasic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard played the adult-lead Grace and did a nice job. Grace was very different from Dallas Howard’s Jurassic World’s persona – more motherly and way more nature-orientated. Going forward, the actress has a drama thriller Gold coming up. Also, funny fact, I only recently realized that she was the one playing Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. I did not recognize her with the red hair.

Karl Urban played the main antagonist of the film and was okay. Since I’ve only seen him in Star Trek as the caring doctor Bones, it was quite strange to view him as this unlikeable douchebag. He will be one of the villains in Thor 3, so, I guess, I’d better get used to this.

The cast also included Wes Bentley (We Are Your Friends, Interstellar), Oona Laurence (Southpaw, Bad Moms) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) among others. Bentley didn’t have much to do – he mostly reacted to stuff that was happening around him. Laurence was good too, while Redford was also believable as loving but a bit weird grandpa/father.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon was a good movie from Disney. It was well-written and nicely crafted. The film was not groundbreaking or the most original but it still made for some pretty good time at the cinema.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Pete’s Dragon trailer

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Movie review: We Are Your Friends

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

This blog post is very special. You know why? Because I’m writing this post at Edinburgh Airport. Yes, I have finally turned my dream of 8 years into reality and moved to United Kingdom, Scotland to be specific. However, I won’t be staying in Edinburgh and the reason why I have time to create this blog post is the fact that my train to Aberdeen leaves in only 5 hours. And since I don’t feel like exploring the nightlife of Scotland just yet, I am sitting at the airport writing the review of We Are Your Friends – the last movie I have watched this summer. Without further ado, let’s begin!

IMDb summary: Caught between a forbidden romance and the expectations of his friends, aspiring DJ Cole Carter attempts to find the path in life that leads to fame and fortune.

Briefly, I would describe this film as a mash-up of Project X and High School Musical. What do these two things have in common and more importantly, how are they connected to this film? Well, for one this film has that talking to camera/breaking the 4th wall action that Project X had. Moreover, the hardcore partying and living life in the name of fun are also a few themes that are similar to these two projects. High school musical is another side of the same coin. First of all, We Are Your Friends and HSM share the lead actor – Zac Efron (more on him later). Secondly, both of the films are movie musicals but not in the typical sense. Usually, music numbers in classical musical (Les Miserables for one) make no sense and without them, there would be no film. In HSM and WAYF, musical performances are relevant to the plot and have a more realistic explanation.

Writing and Directing

This movie is written and directed by Max Joseph. I only know him from Casey Neistat’s vlogs on YouTube. I am not really familiar with his previous work (he has directed a lot of documentaries as well as short films in addition to being the co-host of Catfish on MTV), but I think he did a nice job with this motion picture. The movie definitely wasn’t perfect but I believe that it deserved to have a much better opening weekend box office haul than it did have.

Story

The film’s plot was interesting and, while a bit cliché and choppy with tiny specs of cringe-worthy dialogue, it still succeeds at its biggest aim – to bringing EDM music to the level of real music. Now, please don’t get angry with me, but I have always thought that EDM should not be considered a real genre of music. I believed that it was very simple to make and that pressing a few keys on a keyboard of the computer required no real talent whatsoever. However, this movie showed me how ignorant I was and how much work actually goes into the creation of a single EDM piece. WAYF gave soul and substance to the genre as well as showed that magical things can happen when you mix real organic sounds with computer generated ones and sprinkle some emotions on top of it.

Visuals

This film was very appealing to the eyes as well as ears. Club scenes looked amazing and exciting and the explanatory animation and words, appearing on screen, were also nice additions. Some transitions from scene to scene were a bit awkward, but there weren’t many of them for me to penalize the film.

Music

Not surprisingly, this movie had a great soundtrack. The real life DJs, who were responsible for the majority of tracks were Segal and Pyramid. WAYF’s soundtrack was the thing that I was listening on my flight and I highly recommend you to give it a listen even if you don’t see the film.

Acting

Zac Efron as Cole Carter did an excellent job. I was always a fan of his and I believe that he played down-on-his-luck DJ perfectly. As much as I want to see him try his hand at more serious roles, I don’t want him to stop be in easy flicks like this one because he really shines in these types of films.

Wes Bentley as James Reed. The trailer sold this film to be a story about Cole (Efron) and his friends, but Bentley’s character – an older accomplished DJ James Reed had a very prominent role and his and Efron’s character’s relationship is much more developed and much more interesting than all the friendships in Cole’s crew. Bentley, as an actor, have been working for quite a while but he still hasn’t reached the A-list status and I have no idea why because he deserves to be on top with all the big names in the business.

Emily Ratajkowski as Sophie. Emily is known to most people as the girl from the infamous Blurred Lines video but she was also in Gone Girl (review). I liked her in this film, I loved the fact that her character was the boss in the business (meaning she was the one who planned James Reed’s gigs) and I enjoyed seeing her following her dream at the end of the film. I can’t wait to see more from Emily as an actress as well because she has real talent and people should just forget about that damn music video.

Jonny Weston as Dustin, Alex Shaffer as Squirrel and Shiloh Fernandez as Ollie. These three actors played Cole’s friends and sadly, while they were pretty to look at, they were disposable and unforgettable as characters. However, I liked the ideas that they introduced with each of the characters, just wish that the creators would have developed these ideas a bit more. Dustin symbolized the family, Squirrel – dreams and Ollie was the money. My favorite was Squirrel and his dialogue Best Part Of Life Is Before Everything Starts and Are We Ever Gonna Get Better Than This were quite nice additions to the story.

Jon Bernthal as Paige Morrel. Paige was the real estate businessman, who helped Cole and his friends get some money when they needed it. That side story derailed the plot a bit and the pay-off that Ollie would side with Paige at the end was very predictable.

All in all, I have enjoyed this film much more than the majority of people who actually saw it. And there weren’t many of them, to begin with. This movie was a perfect ending chapter of this summer’s films’ season and I was very happy that I chose to spend my last day of summer with We Are Your Friends.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: We Are Your Friends trailer

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Movie review: Interstellar

Movie reviews

Hello!

On Monday, I went to see Interstellar – the newest film by the genius Christopher Nolan and this is going to be my review. Sorry that it comes out 4 days later than it should have – my PC crashed once again. SPOILERS AHEAD.

IMDb Summary: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

First of all, let’s begin by saying that I knew almost absolutely nothing about the film before going to see it. I have watched the trailer but deliberately didn’t read any of the reviews or articles about it. Only piece of information I had was that this was a Nolan movie and that was enough for me to get excited. Moreover, I enjoyed last year’s Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (you cannot not talk about Gravity when talking about Interstellar; everybody will compare them because they came out so close to each other).  I also wanted to see if McConaissance is continuing and was curious, whether this was Anne Hathaway‘s role that will finally stop all the hate she is getting.

Directing

As I have previously said and you have already probably known if you live on this Earth and go on the Internet regularly, this movie is directed by Christopher Nolan. I called him genius in my introduction because I really admire his work, The Dark Knight is a peak of superhero movies and simply a masterpiece, Inception is a psychological mystical thriller that questions reality and Interstellar is a bit of both.  It has the ability to question people’s existence like Inception and also an emotional impact of The Dark Knight. I really want to watch other, older Nolan movies, like Memento, Following, and Insomnia. He is probably the only director that big studious trust with huge amounts of money (Interstellar has cost $165 million) and a lot of creative freedom. This movie is an original idea in a reboot, sequel and spin-off world. I hope that this Warner Bros-Nolan relationship will continue because it has been working great so far.

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Acting

Matthew McConaughey was amazing in his role as Cooper. The McConaissance continues. I hope he will receive at least an Oscar nomination. While I might think that the whole movie won’t get a Best Picture nomination (more about that later) he definitely deserves another Best Actor nomination and/ or another win (however, the competition is really strong this year – actually, it is getting stronger every year). The reason why I believe he should be nominated is that he sold the emotional connection between the father and daughter. You were really rooting for him to come back to his family. His scenes in space while piloting a ship or crashing one were also really well acted and believable.

Anne Hathaway’s character Brand wasn’t my favorite in the film and you know why? Because she just reminded me so much of Sandra Bullock. They both even look kind of the same. And I didn’t really understand some of her decisions when they were in space, they seemed a bit stupid. Although, her character was right in the end: They should have gone to the third planet because that one was survivable. I love Anne as an actress (even did a whole post about her), but they could have casted someone else instead of her.

INTERSTELLAR

Mackenzie Foy, who you might remember as Renesmee from Twilight saga, was really good in her role as young Murph. She sold the other part of the father- daughter relationship and I believe that she will go far as an actress. Jessica Chaistan who played the adult Murph was also really good; I could believe that Foy could grow up looking someone like Chaistan, so good casting of that role. I wasn’t familiar with Chaistan’s work before but I really want to know more about her and to watch more of her work – she got me hooked.

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Michael Caine wasn’t a particularly likeable character and I didn’t really connect with him much. He wasn’t used enough as in his other recent film – Stonehearst Asylum (review).

TARS voiced by Bill Irwin was such a likeable robot, I loved his humor.

Wes Bentley was quite good in his role as well but, when SPOILER they killed him off,  I wasn’t really surprised. They definitely weren’t planning to kill off Oscar winners or fan boy favorites in the first hour of a 3 hour film.

Murph’s science partner/ love interest (?) was also a so-so character; he kind of appeared out of nowhere two hours into the film. He was played by Topher Grace and, after googling him, I had found out that he was Murph’s husband,.

Cooper’s son played by “the other Affleck” (Casey Affleck) was also an undeveloped character. It seemed that his father forgot all about him or even didn’t care much in the first place.

Matt Damon as Doctor Mann was really good in his role but his intention were unclear to me.

Addressing the longevity of the film, it didn’t seem too long for me because I was really engaged in the story. However, I do believe that the first two hours felt quite disconnected from the final act.

Story

The film tried to connect 2 different plotlines: family drama and astronomy/end of the world crisis. I believe that they really succeed for the bigger part of the film. At first, they started with a family story that quite coincidentally turned into a space odyssey. Then they moved to a science fiction part of the film and exposed the viewers to a tremendous amount of real scientific facts about the universe. But then, the movie kind of lost it for me because it ventured into mystical and supernatural territory. Everybody, who has seen the movie, knows which part I am talking about. While I do love physics and astronomy and believe that people will be able to understand dimensions and space-time as physical elements and will reach huge scientific heights someday, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at that very moment. I had the same problems with Luc Besson’s Lucy with Scarlet Johansson. Do you remember the scene where she is transferring her brain, which is working 100 percent, into a computer? And that computer turns into…. I don’t even know how to describe it. But in both cases, I felt that the ending was too detached, too unrealistic and too unimaginable for a human mind and even a bit illogical. And the concluding idea that love is the most powerful and, moreover, a quantifiable element tried to turn movie back to a family drama storyline but didn’t succeed. It sounds like I am nitpicking the movie but I actually really liked it and I am only thinking how Nolan could have made it even better. I had the same problem with another Nolan movie The Prestige
– the mivie was so grounded and the ending was completely out of the ordinary. Still, it’s a great film that messed my mind up (in a good way.)

I don’t have a favorite scene of the film because there were just so many great ones both visually and story wise; I do have a favorite scientific part of the motion picture – relativity theory. The running of time and different speeds of it fascinate me. I like to imagine that people will learn how to manipulate time and that we will learn how to live forever by travelling to places were time runs slower.

Visuals

The visuals of the space were breathtaking and that flying thought the wormhole scene was one of the most beautiful shot scenes I have ever seen. They also did an amazing job with Earth’s scenes and really established it as a horrible place to live.

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Music

I loved the musical score of the film by Hans Zimmer. It was even more memorable for me than Inception’s dunnnnn (Inception sound effect).

All in all, I had a great time watching this film, though some people didn’t like it as much (it has the lowest score of all Nolan movies on Rotten Tomatoes and critics aren’t super nice – that’s why I think it won’t get a Best Picture nomination). Personally, it appealed to me with the portrayal of unbreakable bond between father and daughter because I have a strong relationship with my dad. It satisfied the nerd side of me with the whole scientific stuff and once again made me believe in humanity and showed that we can go far as a species if we just work hard. I had issues with a few actors but the great performances of McConaughey and Chaistan as well as Foy made up for all the problems. Lastly, while the conclusion of the story was unbelievable and a bit insane, I really do hope that we will find a way to achieve inter-dimensional communication one day.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Interstellar trailer

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