Guest Review: Everything, Everything (2017)

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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.

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

FlixChatter Review: Jurassic World (2015)

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It’s been twenty two years since the release of Jurassic Park, the phenomenal sci-fi thriller that’s still as timeless as ever when I saw it recently. So even though Steven Spielberg is no longer in the directing chair (but still served as executive producer), I was still anticipating my return to Isla Nublar.

This time around we’ve got a sprawling dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as envisioned by John Hammond. It’s been fully operational for about a decade but even with a giant shark-eating Dino-Shamu attraction, visitor rates is on the decline. So of course a new, shinier attraction is created to entice the masses.

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I have to say that there’s not much of the way of surprise or even suspense in Jurassic World. When they engineered a bigger, louder and scarier dino called Indominous Rex, you know it will somehow escape and wreck havoc on the park. There are thrills and special effects extravaganza when that happens and that’s really the reason to see a dinosaurs movie, but for me, it’s not enough for a movie to only succeed on a technical level.

I miss the wit and emotional depth of the original film. Richard Attenborough’s Hammond had such warmth when he first welcome us into the park… and he loved the creatures he built in that park so it was not just about profit. There’s also an intoxicating and contagious energy as the group begin their journey to Isla Nubar that just wasn’t present in this film. This time around we’ve got billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the Bollywood actor adds gravitas to the film despite not having much to do. Simon doesn’t really have emotional investment in those dinos other than what they could do to his pocket books. Same could be said about his employee Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who’s portrayed as an ambitious go-getter who’s all business and no time for *frivolity* like spending time with her two young nephews visiting the park.

The only person who seem to have a semblance of relationship with the lab-engineered creatures is Owen (Chris Pratt), a former navy who’s been working as a velociraptor trainer at the park. He even gave them cutesy names: Charlie, Echo, and Blue. The scenes involving him and those raptors are pretty cool. He had no idea the park is engineering this monstrous creature called the Indominous Rex, part T-Rex, Raptor, cuttlefish and frog which gives it all kinds of superpower like chameleon camouflage. The monstrous beast is truly the star of the show, not even Pratt’s charisma can compete with THAT. More of that later.

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So it’s during its paddock inspection when all hell broke lose. As if that mammoth lab rat weren’t vicious enough, the fact that it was bred in captivity means it’s got zero social skills and loves ‘killing for sport.’ The scene inside his paddock is the moment with genuine spine-chilling terror in the film, and the first time we get a sense just how horrible things would get in the park. The rest of the movie is pretty much a series of chase and action sequences, with the most thrilling parts involving dino vs dino fights. Seems that the Indominous Rex is kind of an analogy for the movie itself. Yes, it is bigger and louder, but bigger does not always mean better or more exciting. It doesn’t help that some of the human story is so lackluster and cheesy.

The romance between Owen and Claire falls flat for the most part and I cringe during the brotherhood story of the two young boys trapped in the park. It’s supposed to be heartwarming but it feels so forced that it comes off as hackneyed and annoying. It’s too bad because I really like Nick Robinson in the indie flick The Kings of Summer and Ty Simpkins seems like an adorable child actor. Don’t even get me started with Vincent D’Onofrio as the bad guy Hoskins, head of InGen’s Private Security division. He’s just irritatingly verbose and not nearly as sinister as his turn as Fisk in Netflix Daredevil. Omar Sy and Judy Greer are completely wasted here so not much for me to say about either of them. Jake Johnson basically served as comic relief in this movie and not much else, but at least he made me laugh a couple of times.

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Back to Mr. Pratt, Hollywood’s Boy Du Jour who’s charismatic and sexy in this movie. He’s definitely my first choice to play Indiana Jones, and here he even looks the part. But he’s not given much to do in this movie and most of the time his alpha male character across smug, not charming. I like Dallas Howard as an actress but her character is kind of tough to root for, which is the problem with the way she’s written. I mean, why the heck would they have her running around in heels the entire movie?? It’s not a question of whether she can pull it off [she did], but why?? Apparently that was the actress’ choice according to this article, “… those heels were her shield in a certain way as a woman. She felt like surrendering the heels felt like surrendering the femininity of the character…” Huh??

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But in any case, that’s one small quibble as the movie has other issues. Despite some of the spectacular action, the movie felt pretty boring at times. Even the most thrilling moment involving the Indominous Rex still didn’t hold a candle to the moment the t-rex escaped from captivity during a power outage in Jurassic Park. I suppose it’s not fair to compare it to the original and most of us knew it’s never going to top that first film. But at the same time, this seems to have a lot going for it to be much more memorable than it is.

Similar to a recently-released blockbuster Tomorrowland, this film has an intriguing concept and lots of attention to detail, but the movie as a whole just doesn’t gel as well as I had hoped. The emotional connection is non-existent either, despite the ever increasing peril the humans are subjected to. Humans are either being gobbled up like a piece of meat or thrown around like mere playthings, but it hardly matters because they didn’t earn our sympathies. Heck, the most emotional moment for me actually involves an injured dino as a result of Indominous Rex’ killing spree.

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It’s interesting that the producers hired director Colin Trevorrow, who only has one feature film credit under his name, the charming & quirky sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. So this is his first foray into blockbuster territory, and though I think he is talented, I wonder if he’s really the right fit for this job. At times this movie plays like an action comedy, instead of a mystery thriller with some comedic elements. We’ve got the visual and effects spectacle, but yet the sheer terror and that sense of wonderment Spielberg gave us in the first film is largely absent.

Final Thoughts: Jurassic World is nothing more than popcorn cinema and no less disposable as the nameless extras gobbled up by Indominous Rex. I suppose if you go in expecting a ton of dino-chomping action and all kinds of chase scenes, then you probably enjoy this movie immensely. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this film, it just doesn’t leave a lasting impression to me. I’ve rewatched Jurassic Park countless times and still in awe, but I doubt I’ll be revisiting this film anytime soon. The only thing that remains epic, evocative and powerful is John Williams‘ score, even when a few notes came on in the beginning of the film, it made me feel nostalgic about the Jurassic universe. It speaks volumes about this movie when the classic score is still the most spectacular and memorable piece about it.

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Have you seen Jurassic World? Well, what did YOU think?

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2013 viewings

Since I started last year, I’m going to make this post an annual thing (well, for as long as I have this blog that is). I mentioned in the first post that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. Again, I may not necessarily love the film they appear in, but the actor(s) in question could still make an impression to me to make the list. The obvious case for me this year is last year’s Honorable Mention Oscar Isaac (who in hindsight should’ve been on my MAIN list) in Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not terribly fond of the film but I LOVE his performance and I’d love to see more of him in Hollywood.

So like last year, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2013, or that for some reason I just didn’t notice them until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. It’s perfect timing that I had just read the BAFTA Rising Star nominees earlier this week, and a couple of their nominees make my Honorable Mentions.

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In any case, based on my 2013 viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Riz Ahmed

FiveNewFaves_AhmedI had never heard of Riz Ahmed before but apparently the British Pakistani from Wembley London is a pretty well-known actor and rapper. Well he didn’t rap in the movie I saw him in, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but he gave a pretty soulful and affecting performance as a Pakistani man pursuing the American dream. I was pretty mesmerized by the 31-year-old, though apparently he also had a bit part in Michael Fassbender’s swashbuckling actioner Centurion in 2010.

What’s Next: Well according to IMDb, he’s got supporting roles in Nightcrawler and Violent Talent, not sure yet about the release dates. I hope he’d get a leading role again in the future as he definitely has the talent AND gravitas to pull it off.

Lake Bell

FiveNewFaves_BellApparently miss Bell has been acting in various movies and TV shows like The Practice and Boston Legal, but I haven’t seen a single film of hers until her directing debut where she also starred. The film was this comedic gem In A World … which I saw at the MSP Film Festival in a sold-out showing.

The leggy and beautiful actress could’ve been a fashion model (and she probably was at some point), but she made herself to be a disheveled mess in her own movie, but yet she’s so fun to watch! I hope she does more comedies as she’s so naturally goofy and has quite a knack for physical comedy. As a voice over talent trying to break into a male-dominated industry, she proves her mettle both in front and behind the camera. I love that she explored a plot that hasn’t been explored much but definitely ripe for a hilarious comedy!

What’s Next: I just saw her in the trailer for sports drama Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm, and she’s also up for a thriller with Owen Wilson (??) and Pierce Brosnan called The Coup. But what I’m looking forward to is Bell teaming up with Simon Pegg in British comedy Man Up, now I don’t know what the premise is yet, but it sounds like fun!

Daniel Brühl

FiveNewFaves_BruhlNow, I’ve already been aware of Brühl from his memorable supporting role as a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. But everyone’s performance in that movie was practically eclipsed by that Austrian Christoph Waltz. But this year, I was impressed by the 35-year-old German actor in not one but THREE films: RUSH, The Fifth Estate, and Joyeux Noël. I’m thrilled that he’s nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Niki Lauda in RUSH, but hopefully Oscar won’t overlook him.

There is a quiet charisma about him that I like, not to mention his versatility. Apparently he’s part Spanish as his full name is Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo (wow!) and he’s fluent in German, Spanish and French on top of English, of course. No wonder he’s able to pull off different accent, which is key to being offered roles of various nationalities.

What’s Next: I saw him in the John le Carré’s spy thriller A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but looks like he’d have a more prominent role in the drama The Face of An Angel with Kate Beckinsale.

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David Oyelowo

FiveNewFaves_OyelowoHe’s one of the trio of British-African actors I’m really loving lately, along with Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I first noticed him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and then The Help, but last year I saw him in Jack Reacher and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Now, it’s the latter that REALLY made me take notice as the 37-year-old actor somehow can pull off playing a teenager and college freshman believably. Not only that, the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) graduate also has the on-screen charisma to match his natural acting talent.

Like many British talents, Oleyowo are often mistaken for being an American as he effortlessly pulls off various accent. In fact, most of the roles I saw him in was him playing an American. Many Brits might recognize him from earlier season of Spooks (MI-5) as well, so he’s perhaps one of the most successful Spooks-alum as Hollywood’s taken notice of him.

What’s Next: He’s got no less than seven projects listed on his IMDb page, yay! One of them is Interstellar. But what I’d love to see is him in leading roles as he surely deserves it. Sounds like he’s the protagonist in Nightingale and Five Nights in Maine, and a supporting role (rumored) in Jurassic World.
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Andrea Riseborough

FiveNewFaves_RiseboroughWhen I first saw Riseborough in Disconnect, I was blown away by her performance… only to be floored later on when I realized she’s British!! I’d say her role as an ambitious journalist was one of the most grossly-overlooked performances of 2012! Later in the year I saw her in OBLIVION where she uses her natural accent and she was truly the best performer in that entire movie!

The third film I saw her in, Shadow Dancer with Clive Owen, she plays an IRA member-turned-informant and pulls off an Irish accent beautifully. She reminds me of my favorite actress of all time Cate Blanchett, who has the same chameleon-like ability with not only her looks but her accent, demeanor, etc. The 32-year-old English actress was trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), so I guess we can expect quality work from this future thespian.

What’s Next: She’s part of an ensemble cast of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming film Birdman (also starring Emma Stone, Ed Norton and Naomi Watts), as well as The Silent Storm with Damian Lewis. Hopefully she’s got a bigger role in the latter.


Honorable Mentions:

These five names did an impressive performance last year, though two of them (Robinson and Nyong’o had not acted before). Poulter and Nyong’o are one of this year’s BAFTA Rising Star nominees year’s nominees, too.

Tye Sheridan (Mud)

Somehow I didn’t notice him much as Brad Pitt’s son in The Tree of Life, but here he’s definitely memorable. As one of the two young boys in MUD who befriended a man with a shady past (Matthew McConnaughey), Sheridan’s character was the heart of the film. I’d love to see what else he’s got going on next.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

It’s definitely one of the most talked-about performance of the year but her sensational performance hopefully won’t be a one-hit wonder. The Mexican-born Kenyan actress was a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama’s Acting program and she has a pretty extensive stage credits. She’s starring with Liam Neeson next in the actioner Non-Stop [sigh], let’s hope Hollywood finds a project worthy of her talent soon enough.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer)

Soulful. That’s how I’d describe this newcomer. Though it’s his feature-film debut, the 18-year-old has a certain confidence and charisma to carry off a leading role. He also seems wise beyond his years which made him so perfect in this coming-of-age tale.

Will Poulter (We’re The Millers)

Here’s another young Brit who manage to fool me as an American. I totally forgot he was in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but the tall, lanky 20-year-old was absolutely convincing as an geeky American teenager who somehow got entangled with a small-time pot dealer pretending to be a family vacationing in Mexico. His rendition of TLC’s Waterfall alone proves that this kid has amazing comic timing, it’s worth seeing just for that part (I’m sure it’s on Youtube).

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, Parkland)

Here’s another actor who I’ve never heard of before then suddenly I saw three of his movies in one year (same as Riseborough above). I didn’t really remember him in World War Z but he was definitely memorable in Iron Man 3 and Parkland, two VERY different roles that he pulled off nicely. In the former, he somehow reminds me a bit of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, though perhaps not quite as iconic. As in Parkland, as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, the 35-year-old displayed his dramatic chops. I hope he won’t get stuck playing supporting roles in the future.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

Indie Review: The Kings of Summer

thekingsofsummer-posterI almost lost my opportunity to see this movie on the big screen. I was invited to a screening by TCFF a few weeks ago but I couldn’t make it as I wasn’t feeling well. But thankfully, I was able to make it to this press screening and boy, am I glad I did!

This film definitely reminds me of Stand By Me which I saw ages ago. Two best friends Joe & Patrick desperately trying to escape their families and they spend their Summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. The third guy Biaggio, ended up joining them as Joe ‘didn’t know how to get rid of him’ ahah.

I immediately connected with the characters, especially Joe (Nick Robinson) who lives with his overbearing widower dad Frank (the hilarious Nick Offerman). His BFF Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also live with his insufferable parents (Megan Mullally is a hoot as his overprotective mom – oh btw, I just learned today that she & Offerman are real-life married couple!). Both parents are harmless really, but I could see why their um, parenting style drive the kids away from home. And one night after Joe got lost in the woods after a party, with an oddball schoolmate Biaggio in tow, found just the perfect place to escape to.

This movie is billed as a comedy and it’s certainly has some laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s surprisingly heartfelt as well. For all of us who are young at heart, this film is quite relatable and also brings back memories of our youth. The scenes of the three teens trying to survive in the woods and wanting to prove that they’re capable ‘men’ not boys are both moving and funny.

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Top: Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Robinson

I’m glad to see an indie film that paints an earnest picture of teens and the struggles of adolescence without resorting to something sinister or somber.  I mean, there are dark moments but by no means bleak. It’s also not overtly sexual, which is very refreshing for a teen film (though it is rated R for the foul language). Even the romance storyline is handled quite well here. It’s not frivolous or gratuitous and fits well with the coming-of-age theme of the story.

This is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ feature film debut as he did mostly TV work, but I hope he does more movies in the future. This is one of the funniest and refreshingly honest films I’ve seen, boasted by engaging performances and beautiful cinematography that makes you want to book your next vacation camping in the woods!! [If you know me at all, that’s saying a lot as I’m not even an outdoor person]

I love movies with memorable characters, and this film is chock full of them. The younger actors are wonderful, they don’t seem as if they’re acting at all, which is impressive in its own right. I’m especially impressed with 18-year-old Nick Robinson as Joe, and this is also his debut feature film! He’s quite a natural on screen, and you could say he’s the protagonist of the film.

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Moises Arias as the quirky Biaggio is a hoot and practically stole every scene he’s in! Those who watch Park & Recreation no doubts would be entertained by Nick Offerman and his deadpan comedic style. His scene with the delivery guy about some large wontons had me in stitches!

I can’t recommend this enough, folks. I hope you get a chance to see this one the big screen or at the very least give it a rent. It’d likely end up in my top 10 of 2013. It’d make an excellent diversion to the big blockbuster Summer movies hitting theaters in the next few months. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film. But mostly, watch it for the funny and engaging story of friendship and family.

This film was nominated for this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I’d think it might even deserve to win more awards!

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Anybody else’s seen this yet? What do you think of this film?