Guest Review: Everything, Everything (2017)

guestpost

Directed By: Stella Meghie
Written By: J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay) based on a book by Nicola Yoon
Runtime: 1 hr 36 minutes

I went into Everything, Everything with somewhat low expectations. There are very few romance movies that I enjoy, and one based off a young adult novel seemed even less appealing. The trailers looked cheesy and predictable, and I was prepared to roll my eyes for an hour and a half. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Everything, Everything tells the story of Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), an eighteen-year-old who has been unable to leave her house her entire life due to an extreme immunodeficiency. The only human interaction she has is with her mother (and doctor) Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo)- until a new family moves in next door, including a boy named Olly (Nick Robinson). Olly and Maddy’s friendship, first through glances through their windows and texting, then secret meetings arranged by Carla, soon develops into a romance that has Maddy questioning whether some risks are worth taking.

Easily the best part about this movie is Amandla Stenberg. Her performance is moving, subtle, and relatable, and while the rest of the cast is great as well, she is the stand-out actor. She’s an incredibly talented young actress, and I’m hoping this movie opens the door to more leading roles in the future. Anika Noni Rose as Pauline does an excellent job as well, despite not getting nearly enough screen time considering her character’s importance. She strikes a good balance between loving warmth and clinical bluntness.

In addition to the strong acting, this movie is visually stunning, which is impressive considering the majority of it takes place inside one house. It’s beautifully shot and lit, and there are some really creative moments- specifically, turning Maddy and Olly’s texting conversations into imagined face-to-face conversations inside the models Maddy’s built for an architecture class she’s taking. All of this is topped off by a phenomenal soundtrack that fits the tone of the film so perfectly.

All of that said, I did have some issues with this movie. As talented as the romantic leads are individually, their chemistry feels kind of lukewarm. I was also a little annoyed that they don’t spend much time exploring Maddy’s feelings on being homebound her whole life before meeting Olly. I’m not saying their romance acting as a catalyst for her to take action is a problem, but the idea that an eighteen-year-old woman in these circumstances wouldn’t question certain things is pretty unbelievable. Maybe she does in the book, but she doesn’t in the movie, and it would have helped develop her character if she had.

My biggest problem with this movie, however, is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it’s predictable (at least, I think it is; it was exactly what I expected after seeing the trailer), and it’s so disappointing, because as soon as you start thinking about the details behind it, it’s really convoluted. Again, maybe it’s handled better in the book, but even within the time constraints of an hour and a half long film, it could have been handled better.

Still, I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected to, and I plan on checking out the book soon. If you like young adult fiction and romance, this movie is for you. Even if you don’t, you’ll still appreciate the talented cast, the gorgeous cinematography, and the fantastic music.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Everything, Everything’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – ALIEN: Covenant (2017)

Ted_review

When Ridley Scott announced that he’s going back to the Alien franchise again 5 years ago, many fans were very excited. Even though he didn’t say it at the time, 2012’s Prometheus was a prequel to his original Alien film. There were quite a lot of excitement for Scott’s first sci-fi picture in many years but when Prometheus finally opened, it was met with mixed reviews, modest box office results and divided many fans of the franchise. Now instead of trying to say the new film isn’t related to the Alien world, Scott decided to go full Alien mode in this new sequel.

It’s a decade after the events of the previous film, a new crew in a spaceship full of colonists are heading to a distant planet to find a new home for humans and preserve our race. While all the human crew members were in hyper sleep, a cyborg named Walter (Michael Fassbender) had to wake them all up because the ship ran into some troubles. Unfortunately, the ship’s captain was killed during the commotion and his second in command named Oram (Billy Crudup) must man up and be the leader of the crew.

We get the sense that the crew don’t have much respect for Oram and he certainly doesn’t have respect of the captain’s wife named Daniels (Katherine Waterston). While trying to fix the ship, the crew received a signal from near by planet and Oram decided to investigate. Daniels opposed his decision, she believes they should head to their original destination but Oram believes this new planet could be their new home because it has the same atmosphere as earth. Of course when the crew landed on this new planet, they were met with menace and many won’t survive.

As far as story goes, this sequel didn’t really offer anything new. I thought the script by John Logan and Dante Harper didn’t really do a good job of creating these new characters, with exception of Fassbender’s David/Walter, we didn’t really know much about any of the characters. Oram and Daniels are very interesting individuals but they weren’t given much to do. When Daniels was thrust into the hero mode, to me it just felt off because she really didn’t have much to do in the first half of the film. Maybe an earlier draft of the script may have fleshed out these characters much better, but the shooting script didn’t do a good job of it.

Since he got top billing, Fassbender was the main star of the film and he excels here in a duo role. Walter is new cyborg who wants to protect the crew while David has evolved into something more menacing. Waterston’s Daniels is supposed to be the new Ripley but her character was so underwritten that I don’t really care for her. The same could be said for other characters in the film. In fact, I thought it’s kind of weird seeing Danny McBride in a non-comedic role. Not sure what the casting director was thinking when they cast him.

This is Scott’s third time doing an Alien picture so from technical stand point, it’s flawless. Although, some of the CGI aliens looked way too fake. I thought some of the alien creatures from the original film looked much scarier than in this film. Scott staged some cool frantic action sequences and didn’t backdown on the gore. He said he wanted to scare people in this new film, I don’t think he achieved that but I appreciated his effort. Scott also wanted to give some sort of shout outs to the previous films in the franchise, fans will recognize similar sequences from Cameron’s Aliens and Fincher’s Alien 3.

Despite its underdeveloped characters, I still thought it’s an entertaining picture. I wanted to see something new for a sixth film in the franchise but what we got here is just another summer spectacle that feels like it’s been there done that. It looks great and I’m sure fans of the franchise will be entertained by it.

TedS_post


So have you seen Alien: Covenant? Well, what did you think?

Guest Review: The Promise (2017)

guestpost

Directed By: Terry George
Written By: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

It has taken more than ten years for Terry George to return from Hotel Rwanda with another sweeping historical narrative – again about genocide. The Promise is a sobering, beautiful disappointment. The film has a beautiful score and decent cinematography, but is hindered by two competing and uncomplimentary story-lines, flawed casting, and lackluster performances by usually gifted actors.
One thing that The Promise does right is its dogged determination – at least in the beginning – to accurately recreate the Ottoman Empire at its peak. The diversity of the Ottoman Empire is highlighted in the script and on the screen: crowded streets and classrooms alike brim with a rainbow of skin colors and a wide variety of clothing styles. This attention to detail falls to the wayside later on: extras become less and less Armenian with every passing scene, leaving me wondering if the casting department doubts an audience’s ability to see facial features through dirt.

That initial pursuit of realistic cultural immersion was also highlighted in moments like the one when our stars leave a stuffy party full of people in European clothing to hit up the nearby belly dancing club where they drink absinthe, sugar cube ritual and all. The effort to establish the Ottoman Empire as a progressive, inclusive, educated, and wealthy place is palpable.

Unfortunately, The Promise falls short constantly. The focus of the film is what can only be described as a love square: one man is betrothed to a woman but he falls in love with a different woman who is already romantically involved with another man, but she also falls in love with that first man. On its own, this might be a decent movie, but this love square has been placed in the foreground of a genocide. The result is a bad love story (because the backdrop is too dark) and a bad historical drama (because the love story is more carefully developed than the history).
The flashes of the Armenian Genocide that we get are stark: labor camps, cattle trains full of people, violent killings, riots, executions, people on the run and trying to hide. They deserve a telling that does not hide them behind a petty romantic squabble. This is a story that is more than 100 years old and is still illegal to tell in Turkey. 1.5 million people were killed in five years. That story can be told without a love story.

Casting was poor. Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but why a man who is nearly 40 years old is playing a medical student who is betrothed to be married in two years is completely beyond me. He also does not look particularly Armenian. Neither does Charlotte Le Bon, who plays his romantic interest. Angela Sarafyan who, is both a phenomenal actress and an Armenian was cast in a lesser role. I would have liked to see her as the leading actress and a younger, more Armenian man in the place of Isaac.

I get the feeling that this set was not especially actor friendly, which is evident in a lot of lackluster performances. Christian Bale’s character (which should not exist, but that’s a rant about American centrism that we can save for another day) had many a stale outburst. Marwan Kenzari gave a consistently mediocre performance. Charlotte Le Bon seemed out of place in the 20th Century.

It is unfortunate that The Promise fails in its execution because the film explores many prescient themes:

In what ways might people respond to an atrocity? What compromises of our own character might we make when put in a difficult situation? How do we know what side of a story is the true one, both journalistically and personally? What sacrifices might we make for the sake of our families and our friends?

I can only hope that we’ll get the opportunity to explore those questions in a different movie. With any luck, it will be about the Armenian Genocide, because clearly we still haven’t found it in ourselves to tell that story in the way it deserves to be told.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Promise’? Well, what did you think? 

Mini Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 & Colossal

Hello there folks! It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote my last review, but it’s actually just a week ago. Well, I saw two Charlie Hunnam films in two weeks… The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I really enjoyed both, the latter is enjoyable though probably not your thing if you don’t like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. I’ve liked the rugged Brit for some time but I’m really quite taken with him now, uh-oh. It’s not like I have time for a new crush now though, ahah, but I sure want to see more of the bloke 😉

So here’s my review of the last two recent movies I saw:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Ok so I have to admit the release of this one sneaked up on me. If it didn’t show up on the weekly press screening list I wouldn’t have known it’s coming out. I was one of the few people who think the first one was just okay, not spectacular. I did rewatch it months later and found it to be entertaining, but nothing that warrant a sequel. But hey it’s Marvel, of course there’ll be a sequel if it hits $100mil.

Well the team is back in full psychedelic color and fun retro 80s music. This time the main plot is basically to unravel the mystery of the protagonist Peter Quill’s true parentage. It might’ve been better to release this in June around Father’s Day, not that there’s anything particularly profound about the father/son bit though. It’s tough to care for their relationship when it’s so thinly written, I didn’t even particularly care for Kurt Russell‘s casting.

Just like the original, the best part of the movie is the team spirit and all the bantering between the supporting characters. I still find Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista) the funniest characters, and I’m glad they seem to beef up their roles a bit more here. I’m getting a bit tired of Baby Groot, there I said it. Yes it’s cute at first but after a while it’s just meh. I also don’t find Chris Pratt all that charming anymore, or maybe I still haven’t recovered from how awful Passengers was). There’s also more focus on the sister rivalry between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) that’s not particularly interesting. The only parts I did find quite moving is the plot involving Yondu (Michael Rooker). Oh, they also added a new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and her banter with Drax is quite amusing.

I feel like the novelty factor of the first movie quickly wears off. What seemed to work in the original just seems recycled this time around. Even the retro music sounds kinda meh to me. Director James Gunn & co. seem to put more effort in having a visual spectacle than an engaging story, but then again that’s kind of what I expected from this sequel. Overall, it was entertaining for two hours but nothing sticks in my mind and definitely not something I’m keen on seeing again.


Colossal (2016)

I saw the trailer on Friday night and immediately decided to see it the next day. I decided I didn’t want to know anything about it other than the trailer, and y’know what, it’s refreshing to go see a movie rather ‘blindly’ like that.

The concept for Colossal is pretty bizarre and it’s definitely ripe for some comedy gold, but I find it to be a pretty engaging drama as well. The story centers on Gloria (Anna Hathaway),  an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NYC when her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicked her out. So she moved back home to her parents’ abandoned house, while at the same time a giant creature came out of nowhere destroying Seoul.

In the trailer it’s made clear that there is Gloria is somehow bizarrely connected to this phenomenon, and when it’s revealed how, it’s really quite hilarious! I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should go into this movie knowing as little as possible, but there’s an interesting message about friendship and taking responsibilities for one’s action.

It’s kind of a coming-of-age moment for Gloria, and her character evolution is quite believable.  I have to admit I’m not Hathaway’s biggest fan but she is quite effective and relatable here, which makes me root for Gloria despite her obvious flaws. I also like Jason Sudekis as Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar, who’s more than just a comic relief in the movie. However I feel like his character is oddly written, it’s as if the revelation to his true self seemed to come out of left field. But at least his character has an arc whilst Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell as Oscar’s friends barely registered.

Overall I enjoyed Colossal immensely. It was amusing with some thoroughly enjoyable moments. I haven’t seen anything by Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo before, but I applaud his originality and wit, even if the execution isn’t perfect. The movie is so absurd at times but therein lies the charm. It reminded me of Safety Not Guaranteed, which I also saw on a whim a few years ago, with a bit of Pacific Rim thrown in.

I highly recommend this one if you’re in the mood for something out of the box.


Well, have you seen either one of these? What did YOU think?

Guest Review: CHRISTINE (2016)

guestpost

Written/Directed By: Antonio Campos
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, J. Smith-Cameron, Michael C. Hall
Runtime: 1 hr 59 minutes

Depression and suicide do not make pretty subjects for a film. It is easy to produce a voyeuristic essay that exploits someone’s despair and self-destruction, but portraying tragedy without sensationalising or trivialising it is as tough as it gets for directors and actors. While most suicides are silent and private, TV journalist Christine Chubbuck chose the most public stage available when in July 1974 she shot herself in the head, live and on-camera. Christine (2016) is her story.

At 29 years of age, anxiety-ridden over a career that stalled, still a virgin and living with her mum, Christine (Rebecca Hall) faces a daily struggle with herself and everyone around her. She is a serious journalist who believes her main role is to tell the truth about important issues but she is also a very difficult person to be near. Hyper self-critical, she needs constant stroking and clashes frequently with her TV station boss who is under pressure to improve ratings. He wants sensationalist coverage of human interest stories, so she is side-lined while others get the breaks. She has long had a crush on another announcer, but he is wary of getting involved with someone so intense. When she finds out he is dating someone it adds another layer of despair; her divorcee mother brings home a date and it feels as if life could not rub enough salt into her wounds.

The tension across this story rises incrementally, with each episode triggering another outburst but not serious enough to push her over the edge. While the episodes subside they do not disperse, and their cumulative effect is to store increasingly volatile fuel that slowly approaches flashpoint. The storytelling imparts a sense of us intimately knowing Christine, seeing what she is going through, feeling her waves of emotion and knowing that she cannot take much more of this. Whether its empathy, curiosity or voyeurism, there is no mistaking our proximity to her when, in the film’s closing moments, she looks straight down the camera lens and says “bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and living colour, you are going to see another first”, and then shoots herself.

This film is not for viewers who are looking for action-based drama. It offers little of that, but loads of dialogue and characterisation. Rebecca Hall is brilliant as Christine, tip-toeing the fine line between appearance of normality and deep despair. It is extraordinary that in her final minutes we can almost feel what it is like to have no hope and see no other way out. This is one of the most high-voltage female lead performances of the year, and begs the question why Christine (2016) was overlooked at the Academy Awards.

Everything in this film leads inexorably towards what we know is going to happen. One effect of this is that we readily interpret all that we see as causally linked symptoms of acute depression. It would be easy to say that now, more than four decades later, this could not happen again because we know so much more about the causes and treatment of this debilitating condition. But of course, this is not true; and that is why this is such an important film.

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘CHRISTINE’? Well, what did you think? 

MSPIFF Double Documentary Reviews: Chavela and Untouchable (2017)

guestpost

CHAVELA

Directed By: Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes

Like most 20-something-year-old Midwesterners, I had never heard of Chavela Vargas. I might have heard some of her music in college, but I didn’t know her name-or her incredible history-until I saw Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s documentary chronicling her unconventional musical career, heartbreaking personal experiences, and massive impact on Mexico’s LGBT community.

Chavela tells the story of Chavela Vargas, a Costa Rican-born Mexican ranchera singer who gained popularity in the 50’s and 60’s, then disappeared into obscurity until the her career was revived in the early 90’s. Through a collection of interviews of individuals who knew her, as well as an interview of Chavela herself, we learn of her life-her lonely childhood with her loveless parents, per move to Mexico to pursue a music career, her struggle to find mainstream success due to her masculine style and being a known lesbian, despite not publicly labeling herself as such until her later years, her nearly crippling alcoholism, and her comeback in the 90’s that led to a huge, 2-decade-long success until her death in 2012.

I obviously can’t discuss this film without first discussing Chavela’s music, which acts as the perfect soundtrack to the story of her life, because it is so genuinely emotional. Every note in her strong, smoky voice carries a passion that you don’t realize is absent in other artists until you hear the real thing. It’s integrated so well into the movie too- each song, with its lyrics subtitled in English in a script-like font over concert clips and snapshots, introduce the different parts of Chavela’s life. It’s a beautiful and creative way of incorporating her music into the storytelling instead of just playing it in the background.

My only critique of this documentary is that, while for the most part it is very well-organized, it occasionally introduces a topic or piece of information in a seemingly unrelated spot, which can be a little jarring in an otherwise smooth narration. I understand there’s only so much they can fit into an hour and a half-long film, but that doesn’t completely excuse messy structure.

Despite minor organizational problems, I would highly recommend you see this fascinating movie if you get the chance, and if you don’t, at least listen to some of Chavela’s music, and if you don’t have tears in your eyes by the time you’re done, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

4Reels


UNTOUCHABLE

Directed By: David Feige

David Feige’s documentary Untouchable is a difficult film to review, mostly due to the painful and complicated subject content. Documentaries are difficult enough to critique since they’re more informational than entertaining, and one about the sex offender registry is even more challenging to discuss. As Feige said when introducing it at MSPIFF, “it’s hard to watch, but easy to remember.”

Untouchable explores the national sex offender registry, using the stories of individuals affected by it to show its intricacies. Interviewees include Ronald Book, a lobbyist who has been fighting for the toughest sex offender laws possible after discovering his daughter Lauren had been assaulted by her nanny; Shawna, a mother of two who has been on the registry since she was 18 for having drunken sex with a 15-year-old boy; and Patty Wetterling, the Minnesota mother whose son Jacob was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered by a complete stranger who had no history of pedophilia on criminal record.

This film does an excellent job of showing all sides: the victims and their families as well as the sex offenders and theirs. They never try to excuse the behavior of the worst criminals, but they show that nothing about the registry is simply black and white, despite how a lot of the laws are set up.

Untouchable’s biggest problem is that they don’t explore sexual assault prevention; they make a point that it’s important but don’t really discuss it past some clips of Lauren Book reading her children’s book on the subject to a group of kids, and, as Patty Wetterling pointed out during the Q&A after the movie, just holding your hand up and loudly saying “No!” isn’t a solution. Granted, the majority of the film was about the intricacies of the sex offender registry laws, not sexual assault itself, but discussing prevention would have provided a good balance, especially since it is brought up during the film.

Despite this, Untouchable is an important documentary, and hopefully its release will lead to more exploration in and work on sex offender registry laws.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen either one of these documentaries? Well, what did you think? 

MSPIFF Review: In Between (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Maysaloun Hamoud
Written By: Maysaloun Hamoud
Runtime: 1 hour 36 minutes

There aren’t many female-led films in Hollywood that aren’t cheesy romantic comedies or Lifetime Network-levels of stupid femme fatale stories. Fortunately, there are some that break the mold, including In Between. Writer and director Maysaloun Hamoud has created a film featuring three women with unique, compelling stories.

In Between follows the lives of three Palestinian women sharing a flat in Tel Aviv. Layla (Mouna Hawa), a carefree party girl by night and shrewd lawyer by day, has recently started a relationship with a young man whom she eventually realizes isn’t quite as accepting of her wild lifestyle. Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a bartender with dreams of being a famous DJ, suffers through her conservative Christian family’s attempts at finding her a husband while she develops a romance with another woman. Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a devout Muslim and university student working toward a degree in computer science, struggles to maintain her independence and work toward her own dreams while her controlling fiance pushes her to abandon her big city life for an obedient, domestic one.

This movie’s greatest strength is its three lead characters. They are all so well-written and well-acted. The flatmates have wonderful chemistry, especially polar opposites Layla and Nour, who develop an almost sister-like bond throughout the movie. Both Layla and Salma are refreshingly unapologetic about their lifestyles while still being incredibly likable, and Nour never gives up her sweet, demure nature, even after escaping her abusive relationship. She does come out of her shell a bit by the end of the movie, but her personality isn’t drastically changed, which I really like; in too many movies, they have the “shy” character do a complete 180, so it’s nice having a character who becomes a stronger person without giving up who she is.

That said, this film had one major problem: its pacing. It never stays on one character’s conflict long enough to establish the problem. For example, we only see Salma’s home life once at the very beginning before everything comes to a head toward the end, and there isn’t even hint of any romantic interest until right before that, so there’s not much time for the tension to build when she brings her new girlfriend to visit her family. Layla’s plot line feels similarly rushed; she mentions about halfway into the movie that she and her boyfriend have been dating for a while now, but nothing has indicated that passage of time, and when it becomes apparent that she is too liberal for him, it feels like it comes out of nowhere because no time was spent establishing that earlier in the movie. The majority of the focus of the film is on Nour, which is understandable as hers is the storyline with the highest stakes, but that doesn’t excuse the other two women’s plots being rushed.

Despite some lack of focus, In Between is an impressive film that is worth checking out. Maysaloun Hamoud shows a lot of promise, and I hope this is the beginning of an illustrious career for her.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘In Between’? Well, what did you think? 

MSPIFF Review: The Sounding (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Catherine Eaton
Written By: Catherine Eaton, Bryan Delaney
Runtime: 93 minutes

Writing a story where the main character communicates solely through Shakespeare quotes could be disastrous. In the wrong hands, it could feel like a cheesy theater warm-up or a high school English assignment. Fortunately Catherine Eaton, co-writer/director/star of the independent film The Sounding, is able to take an idea that could have been so hokey and turn it into something unique and beautiful.

The Sounding follows Liv (Catherine Eaton) a woman who has chosen not to speak her entire life. Her dying grandfather, Lionel (Harris Yulin), who raised and cared for her, invites his friend and neuropsychiatrist Michael (Teddy Sears) to the island to protect and advocate for Liv after he dies, insisting that her muteness is intentional and not related to any mental health issues, although Michael is skeptical. Once Lionel dies, Liv finally starts speaking-but only in quotes from William Shakespeare’s works. This, coupled with Liv disappearing for three days to grieve for her grandfather, leads Michael to commit her to a psychiatric hospital, where she struggles to make the staff and Michael understand her new choice of communication.

The acting in this movie is exceptional, and while the entire cast is impressive, the film’s lead (and University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Company alum!) Catherine Eaton is easily the stand-out actor. She doesn’t speak for roughly the first half hour of the movie and still gives a lovely, emotional performance. When does finally speak, it’s exclusively in quotes from Shakespeare’s works, which already requires incredible skill to do within the actual plays; making the lines come to life out of context takes serious talent. Harris Yulin also gives a wonderful performance as Lionel. During a Q&A after the movie, Catherine said that Harris wouldn’t perform a single line until he was absolutely sure he understood it, and that dedication shows in every moment of his screen time.

In addition to the strong acting, The Sounding is beautifully filmed with lots of intimate closeups balanced with wide, scenic shots of the East coast. These shots, paired with an incredible soundtrack, create a gorgeous tone. There’s one scene right after Lionel dies that might be one of my favorite shots in film I’ve seen this year: Liv is standing at the rocky edge of the water, her back to the camera, as she scatters Lionel’s ashes. It alternates between long shots of the crashing waves and closeups of the ashes smeared on Liv’s hand, all while this booming, echoing, a capella folk song (which we later see is being sung by a few of Lionel’s friends- including Roland, played by Frankie Faison– at the funeral) plays in the background. It’s stunning.

My biggest concern writing-wise was how accurately the psychiatric field and mental health would be portrayed in the movie, since it’s not an easy topic to write about, but fortunately my worries were unfounded. Catherine did extensive research on the subject, visiting several psychiatric facilities and having two professionals on set as consultants throughout filming. My one nitpick regarding this is that some of the conversations between Michael and his friend and fellow psychiatrist Ed (David Furr) definitely violated HIPAA, but I might only be bothered about that because I work in health insurance and I can’t suspend my disbelief where protected health information is concerned.

My one real critique of this movie is that the way Liv ends up in the psychiatric hospital seems a little contrived. Having Michael be the one to have her committed and then immediately regret it and try to get her out doesn’t make much sense, regardless of his skepticism of her mental stability. There are other ways Liv could have ended up in the hospital that would have still been believable, and Michael trying to get her out while at the same time trying to make sense of her behavior wouldn’t have felt so conflicted.

Overall, though, The Sounding is a fantastic film, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from Catherine Eaton in the future.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen ‘The Sounding’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Ted_review

The first Fast and Furious film came out 18 years ago and no one would have predicted that it would became one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood. Heck, when I saw the third sequel The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the worst in the series, I thought for sure we won’t be seeing anymore Fast and Furious films. Boy was I wrong, the later sequels somehow became more financially successful than the previous ones.

The eighth film in the series begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and his now wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) honeymooning in Cuba. While there Dom ran into a mysterious woman who turns out to be a super cyber terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher wants Dom to help her steal some super powerful weapons from the US, Russian and German government so she can start World War 3. Of course Dom being Dom, he refused but Cipher is holding someone closes to him hostage and if he won’t do as she says, that person will be killed. That’s pretty much the basic storyline for this entry, Dom has to betray his team/family and throughout the film, there are tons of car chases, explosions, shoot outs and of course good looking people running around in skimpy clothes.

The script by franchise’s regular Chris Morgan is pretty simple, he knows his audience and fans of the series won’t be disappointed. I do have some issues with the script, I won’t spoil it here but he tried to wrap everything up from the last two films that kind of made the previous pictures irrelevant. Apparently, they’re planning to make two more films after this one. Stepping into the director’s chair this time is F. Gary Gray. I’ve enjoyed some of his previous work and it’s obvious he was chosen because he’d worked with most of the actors in this film in the past. With a reported budget of $250mil, Gray staged some pretty crazy action sequences, including a pretty fun big car chase through the streets of NYC. But compare to the previous films, especially the ones directed by Justin Lin, his action sequences lacked energy and kind of boring. A climatic chase that involves a submarine could’ve been a lot of fun but he decided to inter cut it with some silly flashback sequence that explained a “twist” that most viewers could’ve seen miles away. I think he and his editor should’ve done a better job with what I assume was the most expensive sequence to shoot for the film.

As for performances, Diesel is again took his role way too seriously and he even shed tears in one scene! I think he needs to simmer down with his performance in the next one and have a good time. On the other hand, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham knows the kind of film they’re in and having a great time with it. Their bantering gets the most laughs and of course they look good kicking butts. I don’t remember when The Rock’s character Hobbs became superhuman but he’s somehow fights like Superman in this film. Theron is moving to more action related films in this phase of her career and she’s great as the Bondish supervillain. Heck I think the Bond producers should cast her as the main villain in the next Bond film. The rest of cast were fine as usual and they even introduced a new pretty boy to replace Paul Walker. Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is now the new team member and I’m sure we’ll see more of him in the future films. Also returning is Kurt Russell as a super secret government agent who provides Hobbs and his team with everything they need to stop WW3 from happening. Last but certainly not least is Helen Mirren who seemed to have a great time in her small a cameo role.

I have some issues with the script, mostly of the “twist” towards the end but otherwise, I had a fun time with this latest sequel. Fans of the series should be pleased with it since it delivered what they wanted to see. Big car chases, shoot outs and of course explosions. So if you’re planning to see it, go to the biggest screen you can find and hopefully it’s equipped with Dolby Atmos.

TedS_post


Have you seen The Fate of the Furious? Well, what did you think?

Guest Review: GIFTED (2017)

guestpost

Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 1 hr 41 minutes

I walked out of Gifted loudly bemoaning Chris Evans’ lack of acting skills when I heard a man behind me say something even more controversial: that Gifted suffers from a “simple plot”.

No, sweet idiot, it did not have a simple plot.

I mean, if you fell asleep for part of the movie, you could be forgiven for thinking such a thing. But if you were paying even a moderate amount of attention, you should know better. Superficially, Gifted is about a young man who is the sole custodian of his sister’s daughter until it becomes apparent that the little girl might be a genius and his mother sues for custody. That’s just the logline, though. The meat of the story is in the grandmother’s zeal for her daughter’s success and then her granddaughter’s promise. The story is partly a painful parable about living vicariously through one’s children and partly a nod to the long-lived, ever-changing battle women have fought for their place in STEM fields.

That said, I might be giving Tom Flynn too much credit. He makes a few stereotypically male slip ups in his storytelling: calling a strong female character “bossy”, making off-color comments about mistresses, and taking a mildly unsavory stance on consent. He also does everything that he can to make a story that is very obviously about two women and a girl instead about the one man they all share.
Of course, that one male character is a doozy. Frank Adler, played oh so stoically by Chris Evans, is hard-working, funny, intelligent, empathetic, and possesses an enviable moral compass. His character should have been left there, as the perfect single-father, but it is Chris Evans, so he’s also suave, gorgeous, and handily achieves a Love Interest. This was presumably to give the movie its PG-13 rating, which is one of the largest mistake that the movie makes.

I know it’s cute when kids swear and I get that Hollywood thinks that attractive people making out will always make them more money, but the consequential PG-13 rating was a poor trade off. Parents who probably would have otherwise brought their children to see the movie, which is an inspirational story featuring Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) a relatable little girl who is the full package: she’s a genius, a hero, and obsessed with her cat. Why the studios didn’t fight for a PG rating is completely beyond me. Kids would love her.

Chris Evans was really the only weak member of the cast: he is a beautiful human, but he struggles to emote, and a lot of his dialogue felt wooden and unnatural. Luckily, he is always acting opposite incredibly gifted performers. Mckenna Grace can cry like nobody’s business, Jenny Slate (you might recognize her as “Mona Lisa” from Parks and Rec) is surprisingly good as the first grade teacher all of us wanted, Octavia Spencer is unsurprisingly flawless, and Lindsay Duncan wrangles a supporting role so handily that she makes the entire movie about her. In a good way.

There are some weird racial undertones throughout the film. The Adler’s neighbor Roberta Taylor (Octavia Spencer) is yet another iteration of the mammy trope, which needs to be retired. Taylor criticizes Adler for hiring a black lawyer, a comment that is jarring, super racist, and was a very successful laugh line in the theater where I saw the film. Out of any other character’s mouth it would have been unacceptable, but because no one had to think about how white the screenwriter was when Spencer spoke, the joke worked. I’m disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the line made it past a first draft. Ditto to people laughing at it.

Despite having many flaws, I still think that Gifted is worth seeing. The cinematography is beautiful, if sometimes a little self-indulgent. One scene, in which Mary climbs her uncle’s body and peppers him with questions about God, is told completely in silhouette, set against an orange sunset. It’s a beautiful film, with a magnificent cast, and a mostly empowering storyline.

And it’s not simple if you’re paying attention.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘Gifted’? Well, what did you think?