5 ideas about a movie: Every Day

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before watching Avengers: Infinity War, I checked out a smaller YA movie, so that my series of recent YA reviews could continue. This is Every Day!

IMDb summary: A shy teenager falls for someone who transforms into another person every day.

Previous recent YA movies I’ve discussed are linked here: Status Update, Love, Simon, Midnight Sun, Blockers.

  1. After watching a fair few of YA movies recently, I’ve sort of realized that they don’t deserve all of the bad-ish rap that they are getting. Not all YA movies are created equal, similarly to how all other films, which aren’t overtly targeted to a specific demographic, are not all good. And while Every Day isn’t the best picture out there, it is certainly not bad and has some new and modern concepts to offer.
  2. Every Day was written by Jesse Andrews (the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), based on the book of the same name by a well known YA writer David Levithan, and directed by Michael Sucsy (who did 2012’s Rachel McAdams romantic drama The Vow). Its premise was either stupid or genius: stupid in that one needed a lot of suspension of disbelief to take the movie seriously but genius because it led to some neat and very 21st-century topics.
  3. I adored Every Day’s take on the trope of the romantic lead and how they could be literally anyone in this movie. Flipped the genre on its head (do any of my readers listen to The Weekly Planet? If yes, I sincerely hope you got that reference). Anyways, I loved how the movie portrayed both identity and sexuality as fluid and asked whether one falls in love with the inner or outer identity.
  4. From the directing standpoint, the movie was fine. It was slow like the majority of romantic dramas and had some neat pop songs like a lot of young adult teen movies do.
  5. The lead of the film was played by Angourie Rice, who some of you may know from an underappreciated comedy The Nice Guys or Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled. The different romantic interests were played by a whole bunch of actors, some better known than others, like Spider-Man Homecoming’s Jacob Batalon and Paper Towns’ Justice Smith. Debby Ryan also appeared as a sister of the main character – haven’t seen that actress in a project since forever.

In short, Every Day is a very contemporary YA picture that should be given at least a chance.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Every Day trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Midnight Sun

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of another YA movie. This time around, it’s Midnight Sun.

IMDb summary: A 17-year-old girl suffers from a condition that prevents her from being out in the sunlight.

  1. Midnight Sun was written by Eric Kirsten and directed by Scott Speer (whose previous teen dramedy – Status Update – came out only around a month ago). It’s actually a remake of a Japanese film Song to the Sun. Yes, foreign YA movies are joining foreign actioners and thrillers as the second genre that Hollywood loves to reboot. In general, I have noticed that my enjoyment of teen/YA pictures depends as much on their quality as on my personal psychological state when watching them. My state was neutral today, so the movie seemed okay too. I definitely rolled my eyes as many times as I genuinely smiled.
  2. Thematically, this movie was similar to Everything Everything in that both of them had a sick girl in the lead. However, while that movie had a twist that led to a happy ending, Midnight Sun had a ballsier ending closer to that of Me Before You. I swear I watch too many movies cause my reviews are literally just me commenting on movies using other films. Anyways, there were a lot of things to love in the script of this film. The portrayal of teenage life was accurate, while the girl’s awkwardness when talking to her crush – incredibly relatable. It was also awesome to see such an open and loving father-daughter relationship on screen. The ultimate message to live life was either cheesy, inspirational or both.
  3. My two main dislikes in the writing were the fact that the girl’s choice not to tell her boyfriend that she was sick seemed like a cheap trick to build conflict rather than a profound and important decision. Similarly, on the character development front, the movie didn’t practice what it preached. The film’s message was that people shouldn’t be defined by one thing, like a sickness or a sport. However, the movie kinda went against that message because it didn’t give its characters much more than just that one defining feature. The main girl got a dead mom and a passion for music so that’s something, but the guy was just a swimmer. Basically, one more rewrite of the script to flesh out these details might have been beneficial.
  4. Bella Thorne played the lead girl in the film and did a good job. I found her dramatic performance quite believable. She also did a good job with the signing even though I don’t think that her voice is that good. Charlie’s Song was a really a lovely pop track. Rob Riggle was also really great as the father. He had one excellent speech that he nailed.
  5. Patrick Schwarzenegger, the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger played the romantic lead and was also fine. The fact that his character was a swimmer made the movie 10 times more enjoyable for me, as a someone who hasn’t left the pool since she was 7 (that’s 14 years in the water). Though, I did chuckle seeing him swimming in those couple of scenes. Not only wouldn’t he get into Berkeley with that, I don’t think a Division III school would even accept him. But, I guess, that’s just a personal gripe – the same one that, for example, actual doctors have when watching the cinematic versions of medical procedures.

In short, Midnight Sun was a perfectly fine YA drama. I have been watching quite a few of those lately and this one was certainly not the worst.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Midnight Sun trailer

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Movie review: Love, Simon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a gay teen romance that made a straight adult believe in love again. I’m kidding. But also, not really. Anyways, this is Love, Simon!

IMDb summary: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

Writing

Love, Simon was written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (the showrunners of This is Us), based on the book ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ (amazing title, tbh) by Becky Albertalli. I like to think (and pretend) that with me getting older, my tastes are changing and maturing. While that is true to some extent, I’m also very prone to living in the past, so, even though I’m close to finishing university, nothing pleases me more than a trip down memory lane into my high-school years. Thus, I’ll take a high school teen movie any day of the week. From that whole nonsensical babble, you can probably guess that I loved (pun, very much, intended) Love, Simon. Also, I haven’t read the book prior to seeing the movie, so I can’t comment on any plot or character changes. I will say this: the movie definitely made me want to read the book.

So, to begin with, I loved the mix of old teen movie tropes and new contemporary ideas in the writing of the movie. I absolutely loved the message concerning identity – whether related to sexuality or not – and how the reveal of one’s identity is always a scary thing, even when it will probably be accepted. Still, I wish the movie underscored a bit more the fact that the reaction to Simon’s coming out was a borderline, best case scenario. And yet, this movie was more focused on an individual story rather than on broader social issues, so maybe it should not be penalized for not addressing the bigger problems? Maybe its goal was to just tell a love story rather than to make a political statement (let’s leave political statements for Moonlight or Call Me By Your Name?).

And that love story was great. It felt real and heartfelt, but also quite sappy. And why shouldn’t it be sappy? Why hetero-normative stories can be allowed to be so sickly sweet romantic and gay ones not? Everyone deserves a great love story and the movie not only tells that but does it too. Still, while that whole love story was all cute and escapist on screen, please be careful when meeting people online. Catfish situations are plentiful in the real world.

Anyways, going back to talking about the treatment of identity in the movie, this time in relation to the specific identity of a gay teen – I loved how the movie both played into the stereotype but also subverted it. Love, Simon was great at showcasing that one’s sexuality need not be the defining factor of one’s identity and, let alone, whole life. I highly appreciated the film’s underlying focus on the fact that nothing has to change just because somebody comes out as gay. I also really liked the fact that, while the script made the viewers relate to and understand the lead Simon, it also did not over-idealize him. Simon still had flaws and hurt other people and his actions should not be excused just because he had a secret. They should be excused because he was human, like all of us.

Lastly, while Love, Simon had some nice messages about identity and some adorable romantic moments, it also had some great instances of humor. A lot of the jokes and situation were cringe-y and awkward (and very teen appropriate). However, an equal amount of jokes were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

Directing

Love, Simon was directed by Greg Berlanti – the master of the DC TV’s Arrowverse as well as the writer/producer of the beloved teen shows like Dawson’s Creek and, more recently, Riverdale. I thought that he did quite a good job with his 3rd feature film that he directed (it has been 8 years since the last one). Berlanti himself is gay but I don’t want to assume that his personal experiences anyway impacted his decision to direct this film.

No matter the reasons, he did a great job. Love, Simon was a well-paced dramedy, with a good mix of lighter comedic moments and deeper emotional scenes. The cinematography and camera work were also both good – typical of a mainstream drama, though some overhead shots were pretty neat and unique. The production/set design was great too. I loved the design of Simon’s room as well as that whole dream sequence about him being gay in college. The soundtrack was lovely too. I loved the final song ‘Wild heart’ by Bleachers.

Acting

Love, Simon’s cast consisted of up-and-coming talent that you might have seen in other films/TV shows aimed at younger (and not only) audiences. The lead was played by Nick Robinson (who was absolutely amazing in this film – real and relatable) who you might remember from Jurassic World but also another YA adaptation Everything, Everything. His friend group consisted of 13 Reasons Why Katherine Langford, X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (who had a tiny role in Spider-Man: Homecoming). Keiynan Lonsdale (known by a lot of fans of Berlanti’s work as the Kid Flash on The Flash) and Miles Heizer (also of 13 Reason Why but Nerve too – another modern teen movie) also had small roles in the film.

On the adult front, Josh Duhamel (Transformers 5) and Jennifer Garner played Simon’s parents and had a couple of heartfelt and a couple of funny scenes concerning modern parenting. Tony Hale (weirdly, also from Transformers, but also Veep which I really need to watch) and Natasha Rothwell played the vice-principal and the drama teacher, respectively, and were sort of cartoonish. Their jokes went too far at times but they still somehow worked in the context of the movie.

In short, Love, Simon was a great teen dramedy that had the timeless appeal of a John Hughes’ film and the representation of the modern times!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Love, Simon trailer

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Movie review: Lady Bird

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the best tomato (once) in the movie business. This is Lady Bird.

IMDb summary: In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.

Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird was written and directed by Greta Gerwig – an actress-turned-writer, now also a director (this film was her directorial debut). The ‘tomato’ line in the opening of this review, of course, refers to the fact that this movie was once the best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes (it has now fallen to 99% from the initial 100%). While it was certainly a great film, I, personally, didn’t think that it was as unique or out of the ordinary as everyone hailed it to be (spoiler alert: I think I change my mind by the end of this review).

Writing

Lady Bird’s story was a personal coming of age tale. While some of the details of the plot were very interesting and quite extraordinary, at its core, the movie’s plot was quite conventional. And there is nothing wrong with that! Nowadays, very rarely do we see completely original films. Likewise, movies that take something familiar and update it (like Lady Bird did) are rare too and should be celebrated! Still, I don’t think that they should be over-complimented just to make a statement.

Anyways, by being a coming of age tale, Lady Bird mostly focused on the perils of growing up and maturing. It looked at high-school drama but not in a cheesy way: the school/friend/boyfriend problems were treated with utmost importance, as they would be regarded from a teenage girl’s perspective when one’s whole life is high school. Those scenes felt really heartfelt rather than cheap and shallow, even if some of them were intended to be humorous (like, the theatre activities that were so fun to watch). I also appreciated how real the scenes looked – Lady Bird’s reaction to her first kiss was just perfect and highly relatable. A few of the scenes were a bit cringe-y as well but that was also very true to a life of a teenager.

Thematically, the movie: hinted at exploration of sexuality; looked at the experience of having a crush on a teacher; explored ideas relating to one’s identity (rebelling, trying to get in with the ‘cool kids’, realizing who you really are, etc.); examined friendship and relationships (first steps into dating), and suggested ideas relating to potential mental illnesses. Basically, the movie covered all the grounds of teenage experience through either the main or the supporting characters.

A crucial part of coming of age for everyone has always been one’s relationship with their parents. Lady Bird mostly centered on the mother-daughter relationship and explored it quite successfully. However, I have seen this movie celebrated for showing the mother’s perspective – I, personally, didn’t think that the mother character had nearly enough scenes, especially, solo ones, to truly say that this movie treated her POV as equal to her daughter’s POV. Anyways, I still believe that the relationship itself (when not arguing about the POVs) was portrayed extremely well: as both passive aggressive but, ultimately, loving. Essentially, a mirror image of me and my mom 7-8 years ago. I also really loved the film’s message that love is attention – that was quite a heartwarming takeaway for the viewers.

The movie also explored the importance of a location of one’s youth. For Gerwig herself and for Christine that was Sacramento. A lovely but maybe overtly idyllic place, which certainly was far from the worst place in America, but, I guess to each their own. The film, ultimately, was either intentional or unintentional love letter to Sacramento, California. Another autobiographical aspect of Lady Bird’s story was the character’s somewhat religious upbringing. The whole idea of a Catholic school seemed quite bizarre to me but I did appreciate the fact that the movie noted that religion is not something one can be forced into but, rather, something that a person has to discover by themselves (as Christine rediscovered it in college, when she had the freedom of choice).

Directing

I highly enjoyed the visualization of the teenage experience in this film, which mostly occurred through the costumes and the set design. The uniqueness of the main character was perfectly portrayed through her hair and the changes she made to the uniform. I also loved the thrifting scenes: they not only showed her unique style but captured her family’s station in life too (and stressed the importance of keeping up the image even in poverty). I also loved Lady Bird’s room: it looked so eclectic and really reminded me of my bedroom as a teenager. The scenes of her painting over all the things on her walls really signaled her growth. I’m older than Lady Bird was supposed to be in this film and I’m definitely not even close to that stage in life, as my bedroom walls’ look even messier and more confused than they did when I was a teen. Another signal of the character’s growth was her decision to change her name back to Christine. And yet, the movie also ended ambiguously and noted that she still has a lot of work to do on her identity, as she still lied about where she was from and wasn’t yet fully comfortable with who she is/was. Are we ever really are?

On a final note, Lady Bird was a fairly slow movie but it was also really short – one of the shortest awards movies for sure. I sometimes really appreciate films that manage to tell tight stories and to say everything they need to say in 90 minutes without making the pictures themselves feel rushed. And Lady Bird definitely did that!

Acting

Saoirse Ronan was delightful to watch in the film and I completely bought her as a teenager. Her American accent was also extremely convincing. I also loved the overall deep emotional quality of her performance: she didn’t have a lot of flashy scenes but she didn’t need them to be absolutely brilliant in the picture. Her involvement in this movie also made me recall another coming of age tale of hers – Brooklyn– through the character in that picture was completely different (Ronan certainly has the range).

Laurie Metcalf played Christine’s mother and did a great job. Her performance was ‘quietly good’ rather than super explosive, like Janney’s one in I, Tonya. I believe that Metcalf will be unfairly overlooked in the supporting actress category due to the quietness or the subtlety of her performance, when being evaluated against more ‘out there’ performances like Janney’s, a.k.a. I don’t think her nomination will lead to a win.

On the supporting front, the two love interests of the titular character were played by two young actors, who are already awards’ voters’ favorites (and deservedly so). Lucas Hedges (from Manchester by the Sea last year and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri this year) had a small role in this film, while Timothee Chalamet (the breakout star from Call Me By Your Name) was also on the cast list and proved that he can play a heterosexual romantic lead as well as a homosexual one.

In short, I started this review with a statement that I didn’t think that Lady Bird was that exceptional but I do think that I fell in love with this movie all over again by writing the paragraphs that followed the said statement. And I’m not going to change the intro declaration because this review, like Lady Bird’s and all our lives, are all works in progress.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Lady Bird trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Status Update

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you haven’t heard of. This is Status Update – a clear example of what the critics (or angry online commentators) mean when they describe something as ‘millennial’.

IMDb summary: Ross Lynch stars as Kyle Moore, a teenager who after being uprooted by his parents’ separation and unable to fit into his new hometown, stumbles upon a magical app that causes his social media updates to come true.

  1. Status Update was written Jason Filardi (he wrote 17 Again) and directed by a music video director Scott Speer (who also did the last two Step Up movies and the upcoming Midnight Sun). I knew (and didn’t mind) the previous works of the duo, so I’ve had certain expectations about this film beforehand. And… it was exactly what I thought it’d be  – a typical teen dramedy with cringe-y and cool moments in an equal measure.
  2. Status Update tried being super contemporary by focusing on the impact of social media (Nerve did that more than a year ago too) and the fictional app the Universe. While the said app was really nonsensical (magic and technology rarely work together), it did have a smart thematical concept. At its core, the Universe was all about wishful thinking or imagining the best version of one’s life. And while that isn’t a healthy practice, it is also one that all people have partaken in at least once in their life. I know that I have certainly imagined quite a few ‘what if’ versions of my own life. Relating to that, I also appreciated the fact that the movie asked the question ‘who is the real you?’. Is it your social media-self or your real-world self? In the past, I had a definite answer to this question, but now, the answer is becoming harder and harder to find.
  3. While Status Update did some new things, it also heavily relied on the good old teen movie cliches. It had some really cringe-y and on-the-nose dialogue; a lot of jokes that didn’t land; and some walking caricatures for its characters (that phone guy was so annoying). It also attempted to present a diverse high school but really fell flat in its representation of a gay student (hopefully, Love, Simon fixes the trend of awful or non-existent LGBTQ+ representation).
  4. From the directing point of view, Status Update was fine. It was relatively short and the pacing was okay. It was also more musical-esque than I expected (thus, it kinda reminded me of High School Musical, which is not a bad thing to resemble, in my book). It also did look like a TV movie that could have aired on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon/Freeform/The CW. Lastly, more as a side note, I really do wonder whether anybody will remember contemporary teen movies fondly in about 30 years time, similarly to how now people feel nostalgic towards the teen films from the 1980s, like the whole filmography of John Hughes.
  5. Status Update’s cast consisted of mostly Disney Channel alumni: Ross Lynch (of Austin & Ally and Teen Beach moviesand Olivia Holt (of Kickin’ ItGirl vs. Monster, and I Didn’t Do It) played the leads. Although I have been a fan of the Disney Channel in the past, I haven’t really been keeping up with it lately (except Descendants) thus, I didn’t know any of the actors. I feel like they are from a later generation of Disney TV (not the generation of HSM, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, or Suite Life). The only actor I knew was Greg Sulkin who has been playing this type of a role for years now: he should really move on. Though, typecasting is a hard thing to escape from. Pitch Perfect’s John Michael Higgins also had a role in the movie, not too dissimilar from the one in the acapella trilogy. 

In short, Status Update made me roll my eyes as much as it made me smile. I don’t think it’s necessarily a cinema admission worthy movie but it’s certainly a great Netflix/background for chores film.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: Status Update trailer

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Movie review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last of the YA dystopias is coming to an end. This is Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

IMDb summary: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Writing

The Death Cure was written by T.S. Nowlin (the writer of the two previous pictures in this series and the upcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising film), based on the book of the same name by James Dashner. I’ve read the original trilogy more than 5 years ago now, so I hardly remember its plot details (I might have remembered a bit more a year ago, when this film was supposed to come out but, as it was pushed back due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set, I’m now more in the dark than I’ve ever was). However, this movie franchise has gone so far off the books (especially in the second film) that my background of having read and not remembering the book hardly impacts the motion picture watching experience. Having said that, I did recount two major things from the last book that managed to stay with for 5+ years and both of these developments were preserved in the film. I was quite upset that the filmmakers kept the first thing (from the selfish fan perspective) but quite glad that they retained the second one (from an objective-ish reviewer perspective). Let me elaborate. Also: SPOILERS!

The first thing I had in my mind was the death of probably my favorite character from the series – Newt. I distinctly remember being very sad after finishing the book and hoping that, when this novel will finally reach the big screen, Newt will be allowed to live. However, I’m not surprised that the screenwriter kept such an ending for one of the main character’s, as his final scene was pretty emotional and made for a great and powerful moment on screen. His nickname for Thomas – Tommy – was heartbreakingly sweet too. The second development that I’ve mentioned as having liked from a more objective point of view was the movie’s (and the book’s) ultimate ending. The film ended with all the surviving characters living on an island (a more realistic version of the safe haven from the books. In the original novels, a portal had to be taken to reach safety rather than just a boat). I’m glad that the screenwriters didn’t change the ending into fairytale/happy one but kept it ambiguous: what will Thomas do with HIS gift? In addition, I feel like a happy ending (like a sequence of the cure being spread to everyone) would have undercut all the losses that the surviving characters had to go through.

Now, having explored some of the narrative details, let’s look at some themes. One of the major topics of discussion for the film was memory (and my musings about remembering or forgetting certain details of the plot somehow feel more appropriate). Another big concept for this series has always been friendship, which was on display here once more (Thomas, Newt, and Minho are one of my favorite trios in YA fiction). The shades of the love triangle (Thomas, Teresa, Brenda) were present too, though, they weren’t on display that much.

My few slight criticism towards the writing were mainly just two and both of them had to do with the antagonists of the series. For one, I have never fully understood the hierarchy within the WCKD. In this film, Ava Paige had to ask somebody else for the permission to start the human trials of the cure as if they haven’t been experimenting on humans for years already to get the vaccine in the first place?! Also, I’m still not entirely sure whether I buy Teresa’s shifting allegiances or it might be that I just don’t understand her character and the scale she uses to judge what is right on.

 

 

Directing

Wes Ball directed The Death Cure (he also did The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) and did quite an amazing job, especially with only around $60 million budget. The last entry into the franchise was highly action-packed. The said action was also quite varied: the film had a variety of sets (all brown and broken but still cool looking) and a ton of CGI that looked quite good (I’ve seen movies that cost double what this one did and looked four times worse (*cough, cough*, Geostorm). The focus on the action in this film also allowed this series to finally differentiate itself from the other YA dystopias, mainly The Hunger Games. While THG finished off as more of a political thriller, TMR series seems to have always been more about the spectacle and only then about the ideas. The ideas – the attempt to go the political thriller route with the cure only being meant for the privileged – were present but they did feel like an afterthought. The Maze Runner series should not have tried to shy away from its action roots, as these sequences were the best ones in the movie. Having said that, the characters had to break into The Capitol-like city in this film, so maybe these two series aren’t that different after all. I wonder how the Divergent/Allegiant situation is going on? That series probably won’t end ever.

Anyways, the fact that this movie had a lot of action, also helped it with the pace, which was quite fast. The only dip came in the second act, however, the first and the third acts were rapid and intense.  My only critique of the action sequences was that, at times, they were filmed with a bit too much of the shaky cam. Nevertheless, those moments were far and few in between, while the majority of the action was captured by a handheld but steady enough camera, while the mobile frame helped with the intensity. I also loved how the action scenes in the first act (the maze and the grievers; the cranks) were used as a slight reminder of what happened in the previous pictures. Lastly, how nice was it that they the filmmakers (and the suits) didn’t divide the finale of the trilogy into two parts!

Acting

The Death Cure saw the return of all the favorites. Dylan O’BrienThomas Brodie-Sangster, and Ki Hong Lee were all great as my favorite trio: Thomas, Newt, and Minho, respectively. I only wish that they would have shared more scenes together. O’Brien’s TV show – Teen Wolf – has ended last year but he has been steadily racking up movie roles (in this series, Deepwater Horizon, and American Assasin) and seems to be fairing much better than the actual lead of his TV show – Tyler Posey. I really hope that the relative financial success of this franchise will allow Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee to be cast in more projects too.

Will Poulter (The Revenant, Detroit) also returned as Gally, while Dexter Darden had some neat moments (operating a crane) as FrypanKaya Scodelario (Pirates 5) was okay as Teresa, while Giancarlo Esposito’s (OkjaJorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda were neat to watch in their father-daughter-like relationship. On the villain side, Patricia Clarkson (The Party) was still immaculately dressed in white as Ava Paige, while Littlefinger – Aidan Gillen (Sing Street) as Janson – was doing his thing as usual. Another GOT family member (who also stars in Fast&Furious franchise) Nathalie Emmanuel (as Harriet), as well as ShadowhuntersKatherine McNamara (as Sonya), appeared too, although the film didn’t really know what to do with them, after having introduced them in The Scorch Trials as members from a different maze/test group.

In short, Maze Runner: The Death Cure was an entertaining finale to the, overall, surprisingly strong YA franchise, that pleased my heart and mind. And this praise comes from somebody who was once the biggest fan of the book and this genre in general.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Death Cure trailer

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Movie review: Everything Everything 

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hiding behind all the summer blockbusters, are smaller drama films. This particular one is also on a mission to prove that YA movies are not dead yet. This is Everything Everything.

IMDb summary: A teenager who’s spent her whole life confined to her home falls for the boy next door.

While YA adaptations have been on a high a few years back, they have mostly fallen off the radar. Everything, Everything is the most similar to The Fault In Our Stars but no one expects it to replicate the latter’s success. And yet, it might still be a good movie on its own. As a disclaimer – I had no prior knowledge about the film, hadn’t even seen the trailer, so I’m judging it purely based on what I saw on screen.

Writing

Everything, Everything’s script was written by J. Mills Goodloe (she wrote Nicholas Sparks’s The Best of Me and another romantic drama – The Age of Adaline), based on a book of the same name by Nicola Yoon. I’ve never read the book (and do not plan to), so I can’t comment on any changes if there were any. However, I will say that the characters of the story were quite interesting and fairly realistic – at least I was able to identify with both the girl (she reads a lot and writes reviews, kinda an obvious similarity?) and the guy (me and him both have a cynical outlook on the surface). The dialogue between the two leads sounded realistic enough too. It wasn’t just cute but appropriately awkward and uncomfortable.

What annoyed me in the film the most, was the cliche of the overprotective and the abusive parents. Abuse within a family, accidental or deliberate, is a serious issue but it had been reduced to a young adult movie cliche by Hollywood. The actual concept has been long overdone but it has never been explored successfully or in a way that would elicit a change in the real world. This film just basically reduced the abuse from a guy’s dad into an inciting incident.

The girl’s side of the story was explored more widely but the movie did not delve deeper into the issue. If the legal and psychological backgrounds related to the illness that the girl’s mom has were explored, the movie would have been way more sophisticated and would have been elevated from the level of a YA romance. It would have also been interesting to see how her medical background had affected her sickness. Also, the picture should have said the name of the illness a loud –  Munchausen syndrome by proxy – cause a lot of viewers in my screening were confused by the ending. I don’t think they were entirely sure whether the mom was just malicious or whether she actually had a mental disability.

Directing

A relative newcomer to the filmmaking business, Stella Meghie directed Everything, Everything and did a fairly good job. While the cliches such as the pop songs in the soundtrack and the shots of beautiful locations during the ‘escape’ sequence (here they traveled to Hawai – really reminded me of TFIOS sequence in Amsterdam) were present in the film, it also had a couple of original-looking scenes. I especially loved the visualization of the online conversations through the prism of the girl’s architectural models – the dinner and the library. The recurring visual of the astronaut was also a nice Easter Egg within a movie. Overall, not a bad effort from a fresh director.

Acting

Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as Rue in the first Hunger Games, played the female lead, while Jurassic World’s Nich Robinson played the male lead. He also has prior YA movie experience – he has previously starred in The Fifth Wave. While watching the film, I actually thought that he was a different actor – the one who played the oldest child in Captain Fantastic – George MacKay. Turns out, they are two different people. Weirdly enough, Stenberg, having just starred alongside Robinson, will now perform next to his doppelganger Mackay in Where Hands Touch.

A Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose (the voice of Tiana) played the role of the overprotective mother and did a good job. She did the best she could with a role that could have been rich but was really shallowly written.

In short, Everything, Everything is a good offering of the dying genre, which I doubt it will save. The cast is talented, the directing is inspiring, but the script is lacking.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Everything Everything trailer

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BEST, WORST, and MISSED movies of 2016!

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again for me to list my favorite and least favorite pictures. Like last year, I will also give you a top 5 of the films that you might have missed because of various reasons but which are worth a watch. 2015’s lists are here.

A short warning before we start: I have not seen all the pictures released this year, especially the majority of the awards contenders, so do not expect to find a lot of them here. Also, this is not an objective ranking of films – these are my subjective personal preferences. That means that the movie you hated might have been one of my favorites and vice versa. Similarly, a film that the critics bashed or a movie that bombed at the box office might also find itself on my best list. Without further ado, let’s begin:

Best:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Deadpool
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  5. Doctor Strange
  6. Hell or High Water
  7. Sully
  8. Arrival
  9. Zootopia
  10. Hacksaw Ridge

The first 5 places on my list are all occupied by big blockbusters. Not surprisingly, two Marvel movies managed to squeeze into the list at number 1 and 5, respectively. The fact that a Harry Potter and a Star Wars film made the list at 4th and 3rd place isn’t unexpected either. The biggest shocker of this year and the first half of my list finds itself at number 2. I was extremely worried about Deadpool but it totally blew my mind. Even though it came out back in February, I still cannot forget it and that’s why it is a runner-up on my favorite movie list.

The second half on the Top 10 spotlights a few ‘regular’ movies. Here we have my favorite indie picture at number 6, my favorite drama at number 7 and the best sci-fi I’ve seen in years at number 8. The list closes with my favorite animation of the year from none other than Disney at 9th place (it was so hard to pick the best animated picture – we had a few good ones in 2016) and the best historical film of the year at 10th place.

Worst:

  1. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
  2. The Divergent Series: Allegiant
  3. Independence Day: Resurgence
  4. Assasin’s Creed
  5. Jason Bourne
  6. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
  7. Alice Through The Looking Glass
  8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  9. The BFG
  10. The Girl on the Train

I wouldn’t necessarily state that these films are the worst that I have seen this year but rather the most disappointing. The problem that I had with the majority of them was the fact that they wasted their potential and were extremely generic.

This list has a few sequels that nobody asked for (1st, 3rd, 7th). It also has a couple of YA adaptations that should not have been made the way they were at number 2 and number 8. It has a film that was basically destined to be bad at number 4. Plus, the list has my biggest disappointment of the year at number 5. Lastly, at the 6th place, we find a generic comedy that was not that funny; at number 9 – the worst Spielberg movie possibly ever and, in the last place, we have another bland thriller that was not that thrilling.

Missed Movies:

  1. Everybody Wants Some!! – the latest coming of age drama from Richard Linklater and the spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Want Some!! was a great film that not a lot of people saw. It came out in spring and had a neat story, nice directing, and great performances from a whole cast.
  2. Eye in the Sky – a modern and very topical thriller about contemporary warfare. It was suspenseful and intriguing. The film also featured the last on-screen performance by Alan Rickman.
  3. Eddie the Eagle – the feel-good film of the year. It had an inspiring story about a loveable underdog played by Taron Egerton. Wolverine himself provided the support.
  4. Nocturnal Animals – the second feature from the designer Tom Ford that had one of the most inventive and exciting narratives this year. The film was engaging, it asked questions, and was visually stunning.
  5. The Nice Guys – an actually funny comedy from this summer that nobody saw! It had both style and substance! The lead duo – Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe – were amazing too!

So, these are my lists for the year! What movies did you love or hate in 2016? What is a film that you think I should watch that came out this year? Leave the answers in the comments bellow! I am looking forward to reviewing and discussing movies with you in 2017!

Bye!

My dorm room’s wardrobe

Movie review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Another YA adaptation from a once visionary director has hit theaters, so, let’s take it apart! This is the review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children!

IMDb summary: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Allow me to begin by saying that I think that this movie (and the book) has one of the coolest names ever. Yes, it is quite long, weird, and hard to remember, but that’s what makes it special. Just the name alone tells you a lot about the story, but, at the same time, doesn’t give anything away. I wanted to start this review with a compliment because I imagine I will be quite hard on the film in the following paragraphs since I had a number of problem with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The narrative: the book, the changes, and the screenplay

The trilogy of books by Ransom Riggs that inspired this film was one of the two YA series that I checked out this year, other being the Engelsfors series by M.Strandberg and S.Bergmark Elfgren. I have always been a fan of fantasy, so I knew that I would enjoy the novels. I also really liked the role that the old vintage photographs played in the making of the books and how they were used in the final product. Those pictures really made the series stand out from the other numerous YA franchises out there.

However, before going to see this film, I questioned whether it can become a successful cinematic trilogy since YA adaptations have been going down both in quality and in the box office numbers. Mockingjay Part 2 was a disappointing finale that didn’t earn as much as expected, Allegiant absolutely crashed and burn – didn’t even earn enough to get the final entry in the franchise made into a film and the release of The Maze Runner‘s final movie had to be postponed due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set. Will the audiences still want to see The Death Cure a year later? Will they show up to support an altogether new franchise? I guess, we’ll have to wait and see.

The film’s script was written by Jane Goldman – a long time co-writing partner of Matthew Vaughn. Together, they have worked on movies such as Kingsmen: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class, Stardust and Kick-Ass. Miss Peregrine Home for Peculiar Children was her second solo writing project, first being the period horror picture The Woman in Black.

As usual, when adapting a piece of literature to the big screen, some (or a lot) of details of the narrative are changed. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was no exception. For the first two acts, the film followed the book pretty closely but it did create a completely new and different 3rd act. Concerning the smaller alterations, I’ll try to list as much of them as I could spot:

  1. Emma’s and Olive’s abilities were switched. Emma had the power of air instead of fire, while Olive controlled fire rather than being able to float.
  2. Bronwyn was aged down, while Olive aged up. I understand why they did this: Regarding Bronwyn –  it is more striking to see a little girl lift huge weight rather than a teenager, whereas Olive had to be a teenager for them to have a second romantic couple in the film.
  3. The underwater ship scene went down a different way in the book. They probably wanted to make it more visually interesting in the film and I also think that this scene was the reason they switched Emma’s and Olive’s peculiarities.
  4. Miss Avocet’s involvement in the main narrative was altered.
  5. Jacob’s only normal human friend was cut from the beginning of the story and, in general, in the picture, Jacob was made into an even more of a social outcast than he was in the book.
  6. The hollows were eating the eyes of the peculiars instead of their souls. Since eyes are the window to the soul, this might have been the filmmakers’ attempt to visualize a soul as something material.
  7. Miss Peregrine’s kidnapping was altered and basically, all the 3rd act, which followed the kidnapping, went completely away from the book. The film’s final act had different locations than the book’s (the action happened in the house, on a big ship and in the circus, rather than on a small boat on a sea) and it was also more action-y in the cliche Hollywood way. The decision to use the ship allowed Emma to do more stuff and was a cool effect, but everything that happened after that fell flat. Personally, I think that the modern setting and fantasy don’t mix well, so the whole sequence in the circus in 2016 just seemed ridiculous. It might have looked cool and clever on paper but it appeared childish and stupid on screen. I also get why some people complain that the plot was hard to follow during the 3rd act because it actually was a jumbled mess.

A few other points on the script of the feature. To begin with, the film had an awful amount of obvious exposition. The characters would just sit around listening to each other tell important points of the backstory. Half of that exposition could have been incorporated more organically. Secondly, the writing for Jacob was quite awful – he mostly stood around asking questions or reacting to stuff. He was quite a useless hero – it there will be a sequel, I want him to take charge of his situation much more. Actually, he kinda did that at the end of the film, although we didn’t see it because they just montaged through his individual travels. Thirdly, the writing for Jacob’s parents was paper-thin. They were super one dimensional – their one character trait was the fact that they don’t really care about their son. Lastly, gonna end on a positive note and praise the picture for adding a couple of interesting moments to the story: one, Peregrine shooting the hollow was a cool scene and, two, young Abraham’s call was a nice emotional detail.

Although I try my best to always allow the movie to stand on its own, this time, I’m just gonna come out and say that I liked the book’s story better. I’d love to see a sequel that is closer to the second book’s (Hollow City) plot but I doubt it’s possible since the narrative has gone into a way different direction.

Directing

Tim Burton used to be an imaginary and fantastic director but he seems to have run out of steam lately. I have even done a separate post on his filmography before Alice 2 came out earlier this year. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Tim Burton seemed like a match made in heaven between the source material and the director, however, the movie was just fine. Nothing spectacular or special. The visuals were great, I liked how the film opened with the photos and the letters – it was a nice optical callback to the photographs in the book. The CGI and the design of the monsters were cool too. The slight steampunk vibes were also appreciated. However, the decision to allow (or make) the actors overdramatize some line and scenes, the awkward and choppy editing and the pacing problems (rushing through the setup, dragging in the middle, rushing in the end) were just a few of the flaws of the flick that Burton should have fixed.

Acting

  • Eva Green (Casino Royale, Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Peregrine. Green is a fabulous actress and she should have been great as Peregrine but her whole performance seemed a bit off to me. She was younger than I imagined Peregrine to be in the book and she also portrayed the character more as a quirky but cool aunt, rather than strict but caring grandma. Nevertheless, she did seem more friendly and open in the movie, which I liked, though, her shaky introduction and the signature Tim Burton crazy/dead eyes weren’t great.
  • Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Hugo, X+Y) as JacobButterfield is one of the most promising young actors working today but his performance here was a bit stiff and low energy. The writing for Jacob was problematic and the performance didn’t save the character either.
  • Ella Purnell (Maleficient) as Emma was good. She and Butterfield did have some chemistry, although, I still think that their love story was creepy and forced. Grandad and grandchild having the same girlfriend. Really!? It is kinda a Twilight type of a coupling, just with switched genders.
  • Lauren McCrostie as Olive was good. She didn’t have much to do, but I’d like to see more of her. Since they aged up the character, they should’ve used her more.
  • Finlay MacMillan as Enoch. Enoch was one of my favorite parts of the books. He could have been such a cool sarcastic character on screen but the actor just portrayed him as super annoying, which was a disappointment.
  • Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman, The Hateful Eight, Marvel) as Mr. Barron. Jackson is a great actor but here he was kinda a caricature. He was funny and his portrayal of the character did work for the film, but, on its own, the performance would be considered a complete parody.

In summary, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was promising but didn’t really fulfill any of the promises as much as it could have. The story started out good but fell flat in the 3rd act, the directing was disjointed and the acting – only so-so.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trailer

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Movie review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before the highly anticipated The Hunger Games finale rolls into theaters in November, let’s review the latest entry in a different dystopian franchise, which ultimately will be compared to both THG and Divergent series’ films with or without its permission. Let’s talk about Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

IMDb summary: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

The first thing that I would like to mention when talking about this film is the speed at which it was made. The first film in the series (review) was released in September of last year and the studio only greenlit the sequel when they saw, how much money the first film made. So, this means that they had less than a year to shoot and edit the second installment. For me, that seems really fast. Some movies get stuck in stages of pre-production or production for years and this one was shot, edited, advertised and distributed in 10 months time. Usually, such a short production period suggests that the movie was rushed and, consequently, might not be great. Thankfully, that’s not the case with The Scorch Trials.

Book&Writing

As some of you may know, this film franchise is based on a book series by James Dashner. I loved the book series and have read all 3 novels before going to see the first film. Now, I don’t really remember  all the details from the book, but can tell you that they changed a lot of it. However, as I have said numerous time before, I don’t care if the film’s creators alter the plot because I treat the book and the movie as two separate mediums and two different interpretations of the same story. Still, it’s interesting to see what is the same and what is different between the book and the motion picture. Though, which story is better is definitely not the argument that I want to have here.

Anyway, as much as I remember from the book, I can tell you that they did change much. While all the main points of the story were similar and mostly all of the characters from the book made it into the film, the details of the plot differed a lot. To begin with, the Gladers escaped from the facility at the beginning of the story for completely different reasons. Teresa and Thomas couldn’t communicate telepathically, so their relationship wasn’t that well realized in the film as it was in the book. Also, tattoos/title tags on the necks of the Gladers were not present in the film. These tags really raised tension between the characters in the book, so if they would have used them in a film, maybe we would have gotten some more character development/ conflict/dialogue and not just a lot of running. Lastly, the book had no Right Arm subplot and the ending of the film was very different from the ending of the book. However, I can at least imagine how they can get Thomas to a place that he was supposed to be in at the end of The Scorch Trials if they decide to follow the 3rd book a bit more.

The film’s screenplay was written by T.S. Nowlin, so those of you who like the book’s and film’s story to be exactly the same can be angry at him. (Please, don’t be!). Nowlin wrote the screenplay of the first adaptation and will probably be writing the script for the last film as well. He doesn’t have any other writing credits on his IMDb page, but he has produced a few independent films. I applaud his efforts on The Scorch Trials because he handled a plethora of characters and variety of different events, which influenced each other, quite nicely.

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Directing

The movie was directed by Wes Ball. He has also directed the first installment, so there is no shift in the tone. The wide shots in the Scorch were realized beautifully, especially when you could see the profiles of all the characters. Action scenes were also exciting and fun to watch. If Ball returns to direct The Death Cure (an adaptation of the last novel in the series), he said that they won’t split the film into two parts, which I’m very happy about, so I do hope that he returns. That film is planned to be released in 2017, so they will have more time to actually produce it (update: the movie was pushed back to 2018 because of Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set). In addition, Ball is set to direct an adaptation of Fall of Gods – an epic Norse fantasy. I would love to see that one as well.

Visual effects

This movie, as a lot of other dystopian/futuristic films, had a lot of CGI in it. The landscapes were beautiful and the zombie-like-creatures, who were sick with the Flare virus, were scary and ugly. Everything looked very realistic, especially when you factor in the cost of CGI and the budget of this film. The 1st Maze Runner was made for only 35 million dollars, so I don’t think that they’ve spent  a lot more than that on the 2nd film as well. At best, the studio could have given them 50 to 60 million dollars to work with. Other dystopian films cost a lot more, for example, Mockingjay Part 1 had the budget of 125 million dollars, while Insurgent was made for 110 million. To my mind, all of these 3 YA adaptations have the similar level of computer effects, so props to The Scorch Trials for saving money. And yes, I know that big name actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley have much bigger salaries than Dylan O’Brien, but even if you take that into consideration, The Scorch Trials still has the smallest amount to spend on visual effects.

Acting

This movie had a lot of character and all of them were realized quite well with a limited amount of screen time. This movie also received a lot of praises for how diverse its cast is.

  • Dylan O’Brien as Thomas was a great leading man as in the first film. He is a great sidekick on Teen Wolf, but he was great in the main role in this film as well. I also liked that he was a leader without a plan. I know that this makes him seem like a shitty leader, but that’s just the realistic portrayal of a young adult in the situation that Thomas was in.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt and Ki Hong Lee as Minho are one of my favorite supporting characters of all time. I just love the trio that they and Thomas make. In addition, I loved how the director gave some screen time to both Newt and Minho to shine in the action scenes.
  • Rosa Salazar as Brenda and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa were the two very different female leads. I loved how they only implied the love triangle aspect of their story. They set up the twists in the stories of both girls quite nicely as well. On a side note, who would you like Thomas to end up in a long run? Even though, one of them might not make it till the end…
  • Nathalie Emmanuel as Harriet was a supporting character at the end of the film. She is the 2nd of 3 Game Of Thrones actors appearing in this film. First one being Thomas Brodie-Sangster and 3rd one being….
  • Aidan Gillen as Janson. He literally played the futuristic version of Littlefinger. I have no idea if I ever will be able to see actor Aidan Gillen and not think about his iconic role.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge was a nice addition to the cast. Weirdly, while reading the book, I always imagined him to be much younger, but he worked really well as an older father-like figure.
  • Alan Tudyk as Marcus and Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige provided great support to the film as well. Alan’s line after Thomas’s speech at the end of the film mirrored my reaction to the same speech perfectly and although, Ava’s role as the evil adult from the government in YA movie is a cliche at this point, she was good in it.
  • Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones, Dexter Darden as Frypan and Alexander Flores as Winston were also great secondary characters and did a great job with what limited screen time they had.

All in all, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a great adaptation of YA novel as well as an improvement in the franchise. I might be biased, because I am a fan of the dystopian genre, but I highly suggest you go see this film for a number of reasons, for example: if you want to see a male lead in a YA movie after a bunch of female-driven films, if you want more action than you got in Mockingjay Part 1, if you are a fan of any of the up-and-coming actors that are part of this huge cast or if you just want to have a good time at the cinema.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

P.S. The review of the 1st film – The Maze Runner – is my most viewed post ever, so I guess this franchise has quite a few loyal fans or at least plenty of people who are interested in it.

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