The Last King Movie Review

last_king_dvd_2d.jpgI put on The Last King/ Birkebeinerne on a whim. I just needed some background noise. However, when the film opened up with the allegation that it was in fact based upon some real life events, I knew that it would no longer just be background noise. I’m a huge history fan so my interest was fully piqued.

Basically, the background history is this: from around 1130-1240, Norway underwent a series of civil wars. Prior to this, Norway had often been ruled under a power-sharing agreement wherein 2 kings or so would agree to govern together. This was done so because Norway had vague kingship laws. As long as a pretender had a claim to the throne (regardless of his legitimate/ illegitimate status), they could partake in the sharing of power. However, over time, some kings broke their oaths (i.e. to not claim the throne until someone’s reign was over) or attempted to usurp all power. Inciting these power struggles, were the neighbouring kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark, who would periodically pledge their support to various leaders. As such, various civil wars began. It is important to note that the civil wars weren’t always between the same two groups, as agreements and alliances shifted. However, by 1177, a faction known as Birkebeiner (birchbark leggers), gained power and elected Sverre Sigurdsson (Sverre of Norway) as King in 1184. However, Sverre’s kingship wasn’t peaceful as a number of pretenders challenged his throne. By 1197, the Norwegian Catholic Church also fell into conflict with Sverre, and as a result, backed another faction: the Baglers. Unlike the Birkebeiner who were mostly made up of poorer peasants (hence their name – they could only afford birckbark to wrap their shoes), the Baglers consisted of the richer merchants, noblemen, and clergymen. Eventually, the Baglers and Birkebeiner emerged as the two main factions. Yet, despite the challenges, Sverre managed to hold onto power, until he died in 1202. His son Haakon Sverresson was made king after his death, but Haakon died in 1204, after less than 2 years on the throne. Desperate for a leader, the Birkebeiner put Inge Bardsson, a nobleman, on the throne. On the other hand, the Baglers saw this as the perfect opportunity to strengthen their claim to the throne and began fighting intensely. Amidst this struggle, it became known that Haakon Sverresson had actually fathered a son – thereby strengthening the claim of the Birkebeiner. However, the son, Haakon Haakonsson, was born within Bagler territory, thereby putting his life in danger as the Baglers were determined to kill him to strengthen their claim.

This is where the movie begins (1205/1206). Two Birkebeiner, Torstein (played by Kristofer Hivju) and Skjervald (played by Jakob Oftebro), manage to sneak into Bagler territory and pick up the infant Haakon Haakonsson and his mother. While enroute to a safehouse, they are spotted by Bagler troops. Hence, Torstein and Skjervald take the baby and flee, promising to deliver the child to safety. After a couple of cool skiing sequences (the birkebeiner carried the child while skiing in order to escape), they manage to find shelter for the night and deliver the child to the safehouse. Skjervald then decides to go home to his wife and child. Unfortunately, the Baglers get to his house and kill both his wife and child in their pursuit to find baby Haakon. Skjervald manages to escape and skis to the safehouse to warn Torstein and other Birkebeiner that the Baglers are still on their tail.

Meanwhile, back at the Birkebeiner stronghold, Nidaros, one of Haakon Sverresson’s loyal men, Inge (played by Thorbjorn Harr), is framed for his murder. Behind this conspiracy, is his younger brother, Gisle (played by Pal Sverre Hagen), who wants the throne for himself. It is shown that he indulged in an affair with Queen Margaret of Sweden, the widow of King Sverre, and convinced her to poison Haakon Sverresson. After administering the poison, she flees to Sweden, with the promise that Gisle will become king and then power will be theirs. However, Gisle betrays her and instead attempts to marry her daughter, Christina Sverresdatter (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess), in order to secure his claim to the throne and gain the backing of the Birkebeiner. However, Christina is loyal to the throne (Birkebeiner) and Inge, so she attempts to betray Gisle and free Inge from jail. Unfortunately, she does not succeed.

Concurrently, the Birkebeiner ready themselves for battle to protect baby Haakon from the Baglers. Again, Torstein and Skjervald ski with the baby. The rest of the film deals with the two conflicts. Spoiler alert: Inge gets freed and reigns as regent for the young Haakon, who manages to reach Nidaros safely.

If you’re wary about watching this film without knowing about Norway’s history, I’d tell you to not worry. You actually don’t need to know the history behind the film in order to enjoy it. From a thematic point of view, the movie itself is very well made. Although it is historical in nature, the writers managed to adapt it to the big screen well as the story is (relatively) easy to follow onscreen. Of course you don’t get the nitty gritty details, such as who exactly the Baglers are, why the two (Baglers and Birkebeiner) are fighting, etc. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to know every single detail in order to enjoy the movie. Visually, it’s pretty cool to watch, especially the skiing action scenes (I’d probably call them the highlight of the movie). Plus, there are some nice emotional cute scenes with the baby. If anything, I’d say a prior knowledge of Norway’s history would probably allow you to appreciate the movie more, but again, I don’t think it’s necessary to know to enjoy.

The only big negative for the film, in my point of view, is that the film is not completely historically accurate. First off, from what I’ve been able to gather, Inge and other Birkebeiner actually did not know about Haakon Haakonsson’s existence until after Inge had been chosen to be the next king. So movie-Inge declaring himself to be regent until Haakon came of age is wrong. Secondly, Inge is never really framed for Haakon Sverresson’s murder. Suspicion falls upon Margaret of Sweden who actually does fail a trial and flees to Sweden. Inge is chosen to become the next Birkebeiner King. So movie-Inge being jailed is wrong. Thirdly, the character of Gisle doesn’t really exist in history. Inge did have a younger brother, but his name was Skule and he actually was the ruler of Norway, but after Inge’s death and he technically functioned as Haakon’s regent rather than Inge. So the whole plot of Gisle attempting to usurp power by framing Inge – no idea where that came from. On top of that, Gisle is implied to be a secret Bagler and is semi-supported by the Bagler’s as well. Given that information, it seems like Gisle’s character was partially inspired by the real life Bagler king, Philip Simonssen. Which is interesting, because the real life Christina Sverresdatter actually married Philip Simonssen. All of which implies that Gisle is a made up character, representing Skule and Philip together? I mean, if I squint, I can see why the writers chose to do that. However, as a history lover, I’m not impressed with it. Nonetheless, it’s a decent enough movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re a history lover, knowledgeable of Norwegian history, and/or if you want to watch cool skiing sequences.

 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Movie Review

47980728Movies about depression are always iffy for me. A lot of the time, I either find them too optimistic or I find them too dramatic. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them. That’s why I was a little hesitant to begin It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Basically, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (IKoaFS), is about high school teenager Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psych ward due to his fear of him committing suicide. However, the teen ward is closed for renovations, so he is instead admitted to the adult psych ward. In the adult psych ward, he meets with a number of people and forms bonds with them. There’s his mentor, dealing with his own problems, Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis), the nice and pretty Noelle who struggles with self-harm (played by Emma Roberts), his bed-ridden roommate Muqtata (played by Bernard White), and his psychiatrist Dr. Minerva (played by Viola Davis). Craig stays in the ward for about a week and the film deals with his life. Although, the supporting characters do get some great work to do, particularly Bobby.

What I liked about the film, was how relatable Craig was. Craig was an incredibly anxious, stressed out, depressed and suicidal teenager. He felt like an outsider among his peers, his friends, and even with his family. The pressure of performing well in school, of thinking of about his future in terms of academics, or even asking out a girl, all seemed to mount on him, until he had difficulty coping. Although I’m not a teenager anymore, I could definitely relate to Craig. In fact, a couple of times, I had to do a double take because some of the things he said/ thought actually reminded me of when I was still in school. He feels like an incredibly realistic character.

I also really enjoyed the take on depression this movie had. Although Craig’s story-line left a lot to be desired, I liked how it was contrasted with others. Craig’s storyline actually slightly related to one of my annoyances about movies about depression. Craig stayed in the psychiatric ward for a total of five days and left the facility feeling happier and less depressed than before. According to his final voiceover, it taught him a lot about his life, about the things he had that he could look forward too. While it’s a good message, I also felt that it was a tad too optimistic. I wish the movie had maybe pointed out how his meds were also a reason why he felt better (it was implied slightly), rather than him just learning to be appreciative for the things he had in life.

That said, the other takes on depression in this film were fantastic. One of them was Craig’s roommate Muqtata. Although we weren’t ever given a backstory for Muqtata, he spent most of his time at the facility in bed. He was too depressed to even get out of bed. He did attempt to walk out of his room, once or twice. However, he’d always lose his nerve and go back to bed. It was only through Craig’s interference (he brought music that Muqtata liked), that Muqtata finally found something to get him out of his bed/ room. I thought it was nice of the writers to show how depression effects people differently. In Craig’s case, it manifested as anxiety and eventually evolved to fuel his suicidal tendencies. With Muqtata, on the other hand, it manifested as a debilitating melancholy that made it difficult for him to even get out of bed.

The other take on depression, was Craig’s mentor, Bobby. Like Muqtata, we weren’t given a backstory for Bobby. However, we did see the effect Bobby’s depression had on his family, the depth of his depression, and his struggle to get better. In fact, I think Bobby’s story was actually the most emotional of them all (it probably also helps that Zach Galifianakis acted really well). Despite Bobby’s easygoing demeanour and his attempts to help Craig with his depression, Bobby himself suffered keenly from depression; having attempted to commit suicide six times before. We were also shown the struggles Bobby went through, with finding housing after his release from the facility, with finding a job to support himself, and with his wife’s constant belittling of him and attempts at eliminating his daughter’s relationship with him. It’s an incredibly depressing, but also realistic look at the way depression can really seem to take over your life. It’s not just about dealing with it in facilities, it also affects your everyday life. Plus, it doesn’t always end with a happy ending. In one of my favourite moments, during Craig’s last night at the facility, he throws a pizza party for everyone. Bobby refrains from participating, despite the fact that he is also being released the next day. The audience is shown that Bobby was unsuccessful in landing a job and securing housing. Although it isn’t necessarily spelled out or even explicit, the next morning, when Craig asks for Bobby (just to see him one last time), it’s implied that Bobby killed himself. Although it’s incredibly sad, the movie handles it really well, just hinting at it and showing how depression isn’t just a simple issue; its complex.

On that note, the movie does have some unlikeable elements. There’s this semi-love-triangle thing that happens between Craig, Noelle, and Craig’s former crush, Nia. Although thankfully this story-line isn’t stretched too far, I also felt it was sort of unnecessary? I just wasn’t a fan and didn’t see its need. I’e already mentioned how I didn’t like how the movie was seemingly so optimistic towards depression recovery. It only hints at struggles (through Bobby for example) rather than providing an in depth look at them. I also thought it was a little odd how Craig seemed to be so incredibly talented at drawing and singing when he claimed to not be. It wasn’t bad per se, but just odd. Actually, while talking about that, I liked the animations in the movie when depicting Craig’s maps. I thought they were cool.

Anyways, moving onto the acting. If it’s not clear, the acting was pretty good across the board. All the actors were believable. I’d say a special mention probably goes to Zach Galifianakis, just because of how great his Bobby was. But then again, he is a good actor; it just gets hard to remember that because of how many comedies he chooses to do. Also, I think props also go to Keir Gilchrist who makes Craig so relatable. I haven’t really seen him in other things before, but he was really good in the movie and managed to carry most of it on his shoulders. Similarly, directing was great as well. Also, this is probably not the best place to mention it (my bad in not planning out this review better), but this movie was actually based upon the book of the same name, written by Ned Vizzini, who actually spent a few days in a psychiatric facility. So it’s actually semi-autobiographical I believe. Unfortunately, Ned died in 2013 after his own intense battle with depression.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light but good look at the way depression can manifest itself differently in people, but don’t expect to be blown away.

The Wave Movie Review

92a84ca10642fc94a905a44af57a1c8eI feel like everyone likes a good disaster movie. In my experience, it’s been the single type of film that people watch without fussing. So when my family sat down to do a movie night and I recognized The Wave, after hearing good things about it, I figured it would be a good bet. And, turned out, it was. So let’s get into the review.

In essence, The Wave is about just that, a huge tsunami wave in Norway. Apparently, the Akernes crevasse is due for an avalanche sometime soon, and it is expected that this avalanche will trigger a huge tsunami wave. This wave is expected to hit a few closeby cities, such as Geiranger, where this movie takes place. This event actually hasn’t happened yet, so this movie is sort of a guess as to how it will happen/ what it’ll be like.

Anyways, the movie focuses on geologist Kristian (played by Kristoffer Joner). After working in Geiranger, on the Akernes crevasse for years, he decides to take a job in Stavanger, Norway and move his family. His wife Idun (played by Ane Dahl Torp) seems to be the only one excited, as Kristian, his son Sondre (played by Hoff Oftebro) and young daughter Julia (played by Edith Haagenrud-Sande), are not as happy. During his retirement party, some of the sensors monitoring the crevasse show groundwater disappearing. Kristian is worried but his coworkers (who are all also working on the crevasse), assure him that everything is fine and that he can leave free of worry. However, Kristian is still worried and feels that the groundwater disappearing is the beginning sign of the avalanche. While driving to the ferry with his kids to go to Stavanger, he has an epiphany and instead drives to his old workplace. There, he explains his theory of how groundwater doesn’t disappear and how instead it’s moving through the rocks. Which also implies that the rocks themselves are shifting and thereby an avalanche is upcoming. His coworkers refuse to believe him but he flies to the crevasse with a coworker, and it turns out that their wires have broken. By this time, Kristian is convinced that the avalanche is coming, along with a tsunami, and that the town must be evacuated. His boss, Arvid (played by Fridtjov Saheim), is not as convinced, although he agrees to closely monitor the mountain 24/7.

Meanwhile, after getting tired of waiting for their father, his kids call their mother. Idun has a few days of work left (she works in a hotel), so she didn’t leave for the ferry with them. When she finds out that Kristian never took the ferry and instead is at his old workplace, she is angry and has the kids come to the hotel she works at. When Kristian arrives at the hotel, Idun and Sondre are still quite angry at him and decide to stay overnight in the hotel, instead of going back to their house. His daughter Julia, however, agrees to go back to their old empty home with him and spend one last night there. As Julia sleeps during the night, Sondre feels bored and wanders to the hotel basement to skateboard and puts on his headphones. During the night, Arvid and another coworker sense some problems with the sensors and go to the crevasse. Over there, the rocks begin shifting, thereby signifying that the tsunami is nigh. Similarly, after doing further research, Kristian also realizes this and quickly calls his coworkers to let them know. During this time, Arvid actually ends up dying because of the shifting rocks and one of their coworkers finally sounds out the tsunami alarm. At first, the people of Geiranger are confused, but then they quickly start evacuating and attempting to get to high ground. However, at the hotel, because of his headphones, Sondre doesn’t hear the alarm and does not show up at the hotel evacuation bus. Idun gets worried and leaves the bus to look for him in the hotel. Kristian also realizes that his wife and son are in danger, so after securing Julia’s safety, he goes to rescue them. The rest of the movie deals with their survival.

The movie itself is actually quite interesting and has fantastic visuals. Norway is an absolutely beautiful place and the movie definitely takes advantage of this by adding in some great landscape shots. Similarly, the tsunami is filmed in a decent manner as well. It’s not the imposing and impressive display that was in The Impossible, but it is decent and enjoyable enough. That said, I would’ve probably liked some more scenes of destruction, but that’s just my personal opinion and doesn’t really reflect badly on the movie.

Additionally, coming to the acting, it was decent as well. Kristoffer Joner is a fantastic actor and I actually have seen him in some other things, so I wasn’t too surprised. A large portion of the movie focuses on him and he manages to hold the audience’s attention. Ane Dahl Torp was also quite good as Idun. The only actor I was iffy about, was Hoff Oftebro, and I think it might have something to do with his character.

On that note, I thought Sondre’s character was SO unlikeable. Seriously. First he’s upset with his dad for moving them across the country. Which okay, makes sense. But still, Julia was so much younger and she acted more mature than him. Secondly, it was because of his idiotic need to skateboard with headphones that his mother and some guests missed the bus. In fact, he’s actually indirectly responsible for the death of around 3 (or even more if you count the hotel guests who had to wait for him initially) people. On top of that, he is just so whiny when it comes to survival. His parents have to literally coax him to hold on for a little longer and his father almost dies trying to rescue him. The only redeeming scene he has I guess, is when he saves his father. But even that is marred for me by the fact that the reason his father basically died was because he gave his oxygen to Sondre. I just found him so unlikeable and annoying. I think part of the reason why was because of Hoff Oftebro. Sondre’s actions would’ve been more palatable if he was around 12 years of age or so. However, Hoff looks like he’s around 18 and so instead of feeling sympathy for his character, I just felt annoyed. Like grow up man. Plus, Hoff just looked snobby and whiny through the movie that I had a difficult time connecting with his character. Honestly, he was probably the worst part of the movie for me.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a decent disaster film and to enjoy Norway’s great visuals.

Comet Movie Review

comet-movie-poster-2014-1020771449I first heard of the movie Comet in 2015 and I was immediately hooked. The trailer, music, mood, cinematography all seemed so intriguing. Unfortunately, it was not playing at any theatres near me, and nor could I find it online. Hence I assumed that it would fall into the ‘movies I might watch years later’ category, like Proof did. My assumption was right, but I was off by the number of years, as I was able to watch it just three years after it was first released.

Comet is about two individuals, pessimistic, anxious, super-smart Dell (played by Justin Long) and his girlfriend Kimberly (played by Emmy Rossum). The opening scene alleges that this movie takes place over six years in parallel universes. As such, we’re treated to five different scenes of Dell and Kimberly. Among them, are when they first met, which was during a comet shower where Kimberly saved Dell’s life and Dell managed to talk/ distract Kimberly from her date and convince her into going out with him. We also get their “reunion” scene on a train where they presumably get back together after breaking things off, preventing Kimberly from getting with a new guy. There’s also a scene of them breaking up in Paris, where Dell is attempting to propose while Kimberly talks about her dissatisfaction with their relationship and breaks up with him. Similarly, there’s another break-up scene where Dell is in Los Angeles and Kimberly is in New York and the two are on a phone call where it is revealed that Kimberly’s been texting an old flame (the guy she was seeing during the train sequence) and Dell decides that they should break up. Finally, there’s a scene where Dell comes to meet Kimberly after they’ve been presumably broken up for years, but Kimberly’s in a relationship with the old flame this time.

These events don’t take place in chronological order and the movie flashes back and forth between them. So for example, we’d get one scene of Dell and Kimberly talking during the comet shower and then abruptly flash to Dell following Kimberly to a train. Once on the train, we’d flashback to the two of them in the Paris apartment before flashing back to the comet shower scene. Although the events seem to take place in one universe, the movie alleges that they took place in parallel universes. Building on this feeling (I guess), is the fact that the outside scenery sometimes changes during scenes. For example, while Dell and Kimberly are sitting together on the train, the train window appears to be showing a spot of space vs. the actual route of the train. Furthermore, the scenes sometimes break up weirdly. There’s static during some transition scenes, and even during some scenes in general.

On that topic, it’s also revealed that Dell’s been having dreams of the scenes we’ve been shown. This fact is actually revealed near the middle/end when Dell is in Kimberly’s apartment, where she lives with her boyfriend. Therefore, Kimberly posits the idea that maybe Dell is still dreaming (and dreamed all those scenes we witnessed as well) and kissing her will wake him up (because his dream ended before they kissed). This is supported by the fact that when Dell picks up Kimberly’s thesis book, all the words are gibberish, which is commonly assumed to happen in dreams (can’t read stuff in dreams). She also postulates that perhaps Dell died during the first scene (where he and Kimberly met, during the comet shower), and all the scenes Dell’s been dreaming of/ that we’ve been shown, are in fact those “life flashes right before you die” things. In fact, the ending scene seems to sort of echo this, as when Kimberly and Dell are talking on the roof of her apartment, there are two suns rising and the two suns could perhaps be the lights of the car hitting Dell? Or maybe the two suns are signs of the parallel universes that the movie implies?

Furthermore, the end scene itself presents a number of confusing interpretations. I’ve already mentioned the two suns rising theory (car vs. parallel universe). However, the scene itself also presents vague implications for their love story. On the roof, Dell confesses his love for her and asks her to come back to him, but she reveals that she’s pregnant with her boyfriend’s child. However, in the beginning of the movie, Dell told Kimberly that all relationships have a lie. He already confessed his lie to her in the beginning of the movie and told her to tell him a lie that he would believe when he was vulnerable. So maybe Kimberly’s pregnancy announcement was her lie to him? This is supported by the fact that while Dell ponders her pregnancy announcement, his hand touches his stomach, he pauses and then looks back at her and then walks toward her determinedly. Thereby, the assumption is that he realized that she lied and that he kissed her. Or maybe, he didn’t kiss her at all and decided to finally let her go? Or maybe, none of this even happened?

If you can’t tell already (LOL), this is a very confusing movie. However, the confusion actually works really well for this movie, at least in my opinion. Earlier in the movie, Kimberly had expressed a desire for time to cease existing and instead viewing life as a painting, with no discernible beginning, middle or end (“it’s just there”). Thus, one can view the entirety of the movie as that of a painting. We’re not really shown the chronological movements of their relationships (hell it’s not even clear if what we’re shown is the truth or not LOL), but we are shown moments. And I think the beauty of the movie lies in just that; the moments in their relationship. They just feel so real, despite the fact that the entire film is just so surreal (with the background scenery and musical score).

On that note, the acting was just absolutely phenomenal in this movie, especially Justin Long. He knocked it out of the park spectacularly. His quick-talking Dell was so great. On paper (Kimberly actually mentions this too LOL), Dell is a pretty horrible character. He’s selfish (he claims that he loves Kimberly because she loves him), cynical, and rude (he actually stalked her on the train). Yet, Justin Long makes him somewhat likeable. You actually feel for Dell and root for him. You want him to get his happy ending with Kimberly. On top of that, the entire movie basically rests on his shoulders. There’s really no other actors besides him and Emmy Rossum. Coming to talk about her, she was fantastic as well! Although Kimberly didn’t have much to do, other than reflecting Dell’s thoughts, Emmy still managed to imbue her with charm.

That’s actually a negative for this film though. It’s not visible immediately, but on reflection, it was quite obvious. Kimberly is really not fleshed out as a person. We don’t know much about her, especially compared to Dell. All we know, is that she used to be superficial when dating guys, wrote her thesis on the “Art of Science,” goes to a gun-range, and wasn’t a fan of MTV. That’s it really. She’s just a collection of random traits and thoughts. Whereas Dell is more of a cohesive character with a more distinctive background. For example, we know that he’s super smart, works in pharmaceuticals, created a wonder drug that “cured” his mother’s cancer, goes to therapy, has a motor mouth that gets him into trouble, is self-destructive, etc. In fact, a lot of the dialogue in the movie is mostly just Dell sprouting his thoughts and Kimberly reacting to it.

Yet, even with this critique (which is actually quite significant if I’m being honest), I still really like this movie. Not only are the performances fantastic, but the entire movie itself is really great, especially some of the quotes. Plus, the surreal feel and soundtrack are a treat to feel and watch too.

My rating: watch to enjoy a surreal drama about relationships and to enjoy Justin Long and Emmy Rossum’s acting prowess.

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review

silver_linings_playbookI was actually quite excited to watch Silver Linings Playbook as I had heard that Jennifer Lawrence won an award for her acting in it. Plus, the synopsis for the movie seemed interesting enough.

At its core, Silver Linings Playbook is about a man, Pat Solitano Jr (played by Bradley Cooper), who suffers from bipolar disorder. Prior to being diagnosed, Pat nearly beat a man to death. It was actually this incident that put him in a psychiatric facility and caused his wife to leave him. After 8 months in the facility, his mother manages to get him released, against the wishes of his doctors. As his wife is gone, Pat moves in with his parents. In an effort to win back his wife, he begins reading her classroom reading list (she’s a teacher), and begins exercising in an effort to “take care” of himself (including mentally). He also adapts the strategy of “excelsior,” or looking for the silver lining in stuff that happens to him. During this time, he also ends up meeting Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who is the grieving, widowed sister-in-law of his best friend Ronnie (played by Ronnie Ortiz).

A lot of other things happen in the movie as well. However, instead of writing out a long summary post (as I tend to do), I’ll just discuss the general story-line and acting.

Coming to the story-line, it was okay. It actually wasn’t all that realistic (save for a few scenes) and featured quite a few cliches (the end dance scene being one of them). Plus, there was also this gambling (?) subplot that I felt was really boring. If anything, the gambling plot itself probably caused quite a few cliches. Hence, it wasn’t the most creative or unique story out there. That said, I will say that there were a few really nice elements, like the focus on ‘excelsior,’ for example, that elevate the movie beyond trite romantic comedies. Additionally, it was also quite entertaining as a whole (if you could get pass the cliches). However, I think the acting may have had something to do with that.

On that note, let’s move into discussing the acting. I’d already mentioned that I knew that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance in this movie. So I think I watched her performance with a more attentive eye than usual. In my opinion, Oscar worthy performances are those in which a) not only do the actors challenge themselves and their acting chops, but b) they end up disappearing into the role. Also implied in the winning of an Oscar, is that the performance itself is practically perfect. Coming to this movie and her performance, I actually don’t think her acting was worthy of an Oscar. She definitely had quite a few fantastic scenes where she hit the nail on the head, but she also had other moments where she was just there. She didn’t particularly stand out, and that was my problem. It felt like a run of the mill type of role that any young actress could’ve done. I mean, compare Lawrence’s Tiffany to Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan or even Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. She just doesn’t live up, at least not in this performance.

Plus, her looks didn’t help either. She just looked so incredibly young in the movie. It was especially jarring when contrasted with Bradley Cooper. If I’m not mistaken, they have an over 10 years gap, and it was quite visible in this movie. Her young looks really detracted from some scenes in the movie. I would’ve definitely preferred an older looking actress. But that’s probably not her fault; it’s the fault of the director and casting director.

In my opinion, the real star of the movie was really Bradley Cooper. As the main lead, his character was far more fleshed out than the others. As a result, Cooper got to show off a lot of his range, all while staying within a singular character. Not only did he manage to nail that, but he also went beyond and made Pat quite a likeable character. Even when Pat does some truly bad things, you still feel for him. If anything, I felt as if Bradley Cooper disappeared into his character far more seamlessly and completely than Jennifer Lawrence did. You rooted for Pat, felt his pain and frustration, and could even relate to him sometimes. It was a fantastic performance.

Actually, now that I reflect back on it, the acting in the movie was quite good on the whole. Robert Di Nero was fantastic as Pat’s dad, along with Jacki Weaver as the mother (although she didn’t have much to do). Same goes for Anupam Kher as Dr. Patel, Chris Tucker as Danny, and John Ortiz as Ronnie. In fact, some of the best scenes in the movie were ensemble scenes, wherein all the actors would be the scene together. One highlight, for example, is the gambling scene in the lower half of the movie (Pat’s father bets double or nothing for Eagles winning and Pat and Tiffany scoring a 5). Hence, I think the highlight of the movie was really the acting from the cast of actors. The directing and cinematography just supported them by being good as well.

My rating: watch it if you’d like to watch a happy romantic comedy and witness Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal acting.

The Wedding Party Movie Review

The-Wedding-Party-posterI was immediately taken by how extravagant The Wedding Party looked on its poster. As a visual person, I respond favourably to pretty things and this movie poster was no exception. Plus, when  I heard that this movie was the highest grossing movie in Nollywood, my interest was further piqued. So one fine evening, my sister and I sat down to watch them movie. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Basically, The Wedding Party, is about that — a wedding party. The action all happens within a day and most of it is contained to the wedding party of the main characters, Dunni and Dozie (played by Adesua Etomi and Banky Wellington, respectively). Both leads are descended from rich families (although Dozie’s family is richer), hence the extravagance.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what to talk about because there’s a lot of stuff that happens. During the whole wedding day, we’re shown how the two mothers don’t really like each other. How one mother is so extra all the time (LOL). How an ex comes to try and sabotage the wedding. How a friend ends up almost ruining the wedding. How the wedding planner struggles throughout the day. And how the fathers try to keep calm on the wedding day. In other words, it completely lives up to its title.

And that’s actually something I did not expect. I’m finding it difficult to put into words (I’ve tried to write this over five times and each attempt refuses to stick), but basically, in romantic comedies in which leads are often faced with hurdles in their love, the movie generally contains its focus to the leads and their love. Usually in such movies, we’re shown how the leads persevere through the depth of their love. Yet surprisingly, in this movie, the focus doesn’t really remain on the two leads and their love story isn’t very fleshed out. We know Dunni and Dozie love each other, but we’re really only given hints to their love story (we’re never told how it started, their dates, what they have in common, etc.) and a lot of screen time is actually given to other stuff. We get many scenes devoted to various family members, friends, situations, etc. I mean, the two leads are *technically* front and centre, but rather than being the nucleus of the film, I felt as if they existed as supporting characters in their own film, vs. the main characters.

Similarly, despite each hurdle that cropped out, their resolutions weren’t necessarily very deep. In other words, the problem was handled and that was that. Again, in romantic comedies with hurdles, often times, the resolution of problems preaches a deeper underlying message (ex. getting through problems together, or how differences don’t matter, etc.). Yet, again in this movie, this doesn’t happen. Instead, the problems just get resolved and the movie doesn’t spend much time making any sort of statement.

So like I said, not what I expected at all. In fact, it was almost the opposite of my expectations. However, that doesn’t mean the film was bad. In fact, it was actually a pretty entertaining film and enjoyable to watch. And actually, I think that’s probably a highlight of the film — its just pure enjoyment. It doesn’t attempt to preach to the audience or show an epic romance. It literally just shows a couple’s wedding party and the shenanigans that happen during it. And I think it worked for the film. It was enjoyable to watch. If anything, I think my expectations for the movie’s genre are wrong. Rather than being a romantic comedy, I think it’s more of a pure comedy.

On a more technical note, supporting the movie, was the acting and directing. The leads were pretty solid actors and quite good looking too, especially Banky Wellington. The supporting cast was also good. The mother of the bride, played by Sola Sobowale actually stood out quite a bit. She was a little bit annoying, but always a scene stealer. Fantastic acting. Directing was also really solid, having been done by Kemi Adetiba. I enjoyed the way shots were framed. All in all, a decent entertaining movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re looking for an uncomplicated good time or if you’re a fan of the actors.

Phillauri Movie Review

phillauri-movie-1I’m a HUGE fan of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. In fact, I’d have to say that it ranks up among some of my favourite movies ever. So when I heard that a Bollywood film, Phillauri appeared to be a live-action Corpse Bride inspired movie, I was quite excited. For those of you unaware, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated movie. It’s about a man, Victor, who accidentally marries a corpse, Emily. The marriage in fact, sort of “revives” Emily from a deep sleep. Unfortunately, Victor is in love with the very-much-alive Victoria and in order to be “married” to Emily properly, he’d have to die. The rest of the film deals with the conflict.

Phillauri begins with a similar story. Kanan (played by Suraj Sharma) has recently returned from Canada and immediately, his parents set up his marriage with his childhood love, Anu (played by Mehreen Pirzada). Kanan has cold feet and due to his horoscope, must first marry a tree to ensure that he has a happy married life (?). As he marries the tree, in turns out, that he ends up marrying a ghost named Shashi (played by Anushka Sharma). While dealing with being married to a ghost and his cold feet, the movie also flashes back to Shashi’s past. Shashi was a young woman in an Indian village named Phillaur. During her youth, she used to write poetry and was in love with a singer named Roop Lal (played by Diljeet Dosanjh).

The movie actually played quite similarly to Corpse Bride, beginning from the male leads having cold feet, to the corpse/spirit bride having unfulfilled love stories preventing them from passing onto the next world. However, despite the unique premise, I felt that Phillauri fails to bring forth the heart and emotional depth that Corpse Bride did. There seemed to be a number of things off about Phillauri, for me at least, that prevented me from loving the film.

Firstly, the focus of the story. Phillauri focuses on two love stories simultaneously, those of Anu and Kanan and Shashi and Roop. However, the former story lacks any sort of warmth whereas the latter one is left too long. In other words, Kanan and Anu’s love story never really went anywhere. Anu was shattered with Kanan’s cold feet, but was willing to go through with the marriage anyway. Whereas Kanan’s cold feet never really got resolved, nor did the movie really divulge why he had them in the first place. It just felt so unresolved and void of emotions. On the other hand, Shashi and Roop’s story was definitely sweet. Theirs had a lot more emotion, despite the stereotypical aspect of it. And yet, the stretched-out scenes kept their story from fully impacting the audience. Instead of being enthralled in their romance, viewers just got bored and kept on waiting for one scene to end and another to begin.

Secondly, the acting was a little uninspiring as well. Suraj Sharma started out well. However, his scared act and high pitched squeal started getting grating about halfway through. I especially hated the high pitches squeals whenever he was caught unaware/ scared. Mehreen Pirzada, on the other hand, had nothing to do except look weepy. She was so boring onscreen. The only time where I liked her a little bit, was when she finally saw/ talked to Shashi; but other than that, I didn’t care for her. Diljit Dosanjh was also okay. He gave a respectable performance for sure, but again, it was nothing new or to talk home about. The only person who stood out for me, surprisingly, was Anushka Sharma and the actor who played her brother, Manav Vij. I had initially found Anushka’s looks to be a little too modern and urban for her to play a village belle, but she ended up winning me over. She acted really well. Manav Vij was also spectacular, probably the star of the movie for me. Not for a second did I doubt that he was an actor and not Shashi’s brother; again, fantastic acting.

Thirdly, directing was decent. From what I’ve been able to gather online, this was the directorial debut of Anshai Lal and I think he did okay. Nothing too amazing or standout, but okay enough. If anything, I think what killed this movie (at least for me), was the lack of editing. Some scenes just went on way too long (especially the end scenes), other scenes were just too stereotypical, and some necessary explanation scenes never appeared. A little bit of firm editing could’ve gone a long way. It could’ve saved the movie and move it into “decent” category vs. the just “okay” category.

My ratingwatch it if you’re a fan of any of the actors, but you wouldn’t miss much if you don’t.

The Covenant Movie Review

onesheetIf you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a whole ‘so bad, it’s good” movie marathon for a while (LOL). While The Covenant doesn’t quite manage to make the list for me, I figured it’s still close enough to talk about.

The Covenant is about four teenage boys with superpowers aka “The Sons of Ipswich” as the movie refers to them. The premise of the movie is this: during the 16th and 17th century American witch hunts, the Ipswich colony (located in Massachusetts I think?) managed to survive by forming a covenant. The five families agreed to keep silent about their powers. Unfortunately, one of the five families was still lost, so only four managed to remain by the time the movie rolls around. The four boys (descendants of the four families) possess the power to do anything, including telekinesis, super strength, super speed, invisibility, etc. (except not mind control or reading). They reach the full potential of their power on their 18th birthday, also known as “ascending.” However, the catch is, the more power they use, the more rapidly they age. So if one were to continually use (abuse) the power, their mortal body would age, thereby allowing (for example) one to be only 44 years old, but look over 100 yrs old. Although the movie is about the four boys, the focus is mainly on Caleb (played by Steven Strait) as he is the closest to ascending.

The premise itself, in my opinion, is SUPER cool and interesting. I’m always down for fantasy stuff like vampires, zombies or witches. Plus the inbuilt mythology set up for the film sounded really unique and full of potential. However, despite this strong start and having all the elements for a “so bad, it’s good” film (good looking leads, wooden dialogue and acting, teenage drama), the movie still never manages to reach its potential.

For me, the biggest let down of the movie, is the disparity between the level of special effects. The thing is, some of the effects are fabulous; like literally amazing. For example, in the beginning of the movie, all four boys use their powers to drive a car off a cliff and then back onto the road. Similarly, there’s a scene where Caleb gets into an accident that smashes his entire car but using his powers, he’s able to repair the entire car (including himself) to be as good as new. I’m not describing it that well, but they are definitely pretty good. But then as the movie continues, the level of the effects goes down. This is especially evident in the main fight scene that happens at the end of the movie. All the characters do, are some kicking and punching moves and balls of “power” are released or evaded (LOL). I’m not against bad effects or anything, but I’m definitely very big on consistency. If you want to have bad effects, make them consistent. Similarly, if you start off with good effects, ensure that they remain good. The final battle scene was just such a let down, it really dampened the mood.

Barring that, I think everything else about the movie was spot on — especially in terms of how bad it was. It had everything, from a snail’s pace tone, to random shots, to cheesy groan-inducing dialogue, to a fairly predictable plotline, and some very good looking leads. For reference’s sake, the main four boys were played by Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, and Chace Crawford. The secondary characters were played by Laura Ramsey, Jessica Lucas and Sebastian Stan. Although they all looked way too old to be playing high school students, I didn’t mind it too much. I’m shallow enough to appreciate pretty scenery (LOL).

Had the graphics been consistent enough, this movie would’ve been firmly cemented in the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category, rather than being on the cusp.

My rating: if you’re in the need for some pretty scenery but nothing else, then check out this movie; but it’s definitely skippable otherwise.

 

Battleship Movie Review

battleship_ver15Last week I reviewed Priest and mentioned that there were better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there. An example of such a movie, in my opinion, is Battleship; based upon the literal ‘battleship’ game, wherein players attempt to attack each other’s ships. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed playing ‘battleship’ and so I suppose I was a little biased when it comes to this movie.

Battleship, while about the game ‘battleship’ at its core, also attempts to have larger over-arching plots. Firstly, it’s a maturing story for the main character, naval officer Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch). Secondly, it’s an aliens vs. humans for planet Earth scenario. The two plot-lines intersect (obviously) and are peppered with a multitude of characters. And that’s really it for the plot-line. There are various scenes devoted to both stories. For Hopper’s maturation, we get the typical — bad-boy with an attitude problem who undergoes a major trauma and has great responsibility thrust upon him — story. While for the aliens vs. humans plot line, we get the predictable “Aliens want to destroy Earth for its resources” trope. Although, I think the latter plot is a slight variation on most stereotypical Alien invasion plots. Much like other alien stories, the aliens in Battleship are concerned with communicating with their larger fleet in space. However, the aliens in this movie also aren’t extremely ruthless. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they do kill a fair amount of people and destroy large parts of the world, but they don’t attack defenseless humans. As we’re shown, they do a sort of value judgement and only attack if their value judgement indicated that the object is hostile to them and needs to be attacked (ex. industrial buildings and people shooting at them). I think its an interesting change.

I’ve read a few reviews for this movie online and most of them basically pan the movie. Saying that it has no real plot-line, the acting is bad, that it only has action scenes and nothing else, it takes itself too seriously, etc. And if I really meditate upon it, I suppose I can understand where these reviewers are coming from. Yet, I still really enjoy this movie. This silliness mixed with the overly serious tone just works for me somehow. To give you an example of the two, in one scene of the movie, the main characters are at a stand-still on a dock in Hawaii. Their naval ships have been destroyed by the aliens and the threat still remains. In the background of this angst, we see random patriotic shots of older veteran soldiers standing upon an older American battleship that was presumably used in a war, and now functions as a museum. Seeing them, Hopper gets the idea to use the old battleship museum as a real ship to attack the aliens, with the randomly standing around veterans acting as crew members (LOL). The next scene is a montage where Hopper salutes them, asks them for their help, and they help get the old battleship ready to fight the aliens. It’s literally ridiculous LOL. What type of old museum still has working old ammunitions and when do random veterans ever stand around on old museums in full uniform? Instead of touching upon this absurdity, the movie actually plays these moments for serious patriotic value. And I LOVE it. It’s just so stupidly cheesy that I cannot help but smile.

And that basically sums up how I feel about the movie. It’s definitely cliche, predictable and cheesy, but also so earnest (at least during some parts).

What I also like about the film, is the casting choices. First off, I like how there’s definitely some people of colour in the film. Although Hopper, seaman Ordy (played by Jesse Plemons), and Hoppy’s girlfriend Sam (played by Brooklyn Decker) are shown to be white, the other supporting characters are generally people of colour. The petty officer who convinces Hopper off his self-destructive path with the aliens is played by John Tui. The weapons officer is played by songstress Rihanna. The Japanese captain who actually theorizes and executes the ‘battleship’ game is played by Tadanobu Asano. And retired Lietantant Colonel Mick is played by Gregory D. Gadson. That actually relates to another point I like: some of the extras/ actor were real-life military men. Gregory D. Gadson is actually a retired decorated Colonel. Plus the World War II veterans shown earlier in the film, were also played by real-life retired army men. I just thought it was so cool of the director to include that.

That said, of course as a bad film, it also has its flaws (slight undercurrent of racism in one or two scenes), as mentioned earlier. But on the whole, I still enjoy it for what it is: a movie based upon the game battleship (LOL).

My rating: watch it if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable, dumb, action movie and are not too concerned with depth (or realistic-ness).

Ultraviolet Movie Review

28d093d29d886a1444bf7dd2d96a547aFor the past few weeks, Netflix kept recommending Ultraviolet to me. I wasn’t particularly into the plot of the movie, but I decided to take the plunge anyway. Long story short: it was a bad idea. That said, I could definitely see why Netflix thought I would like it. It falls into the sci-fi action genre, which I love. It deals with the idea of ‘vampires,’ which again I’m generally a fan of. And the lead is a woman, which is something I’m always down with. Unfortunately, none of these things could salvage the movie for me. And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little annoyed I actually sat through the entire thing.

Basically, the plotline of the movie is this: humanity was somehow infected (it isn’t explained how) with this disease that could turn ordinary people into ‘vampires.’ However, these vampires were really just people with fangs, super speed, and greater intelligence (no blood lust or blood sucking here). Anyways, the human population ended up getting intimidated by these ‘vampires’ and hence started a war to exterminate the ‘hemophages’ (as they’re referred to in the movie). In the process, an Archministry took over the country (?) and basically wiped out most of the hemophages. In order to deal with the remaining few, a new weapon was created.

The protagonist of the film, Violet (played by Milla Jovovich), a hemophage, manages to usurp the weapon from the Archministry. She plans to take it to the remaining hemophages who plan to destroy it to ensure that they aren’t wiped out. However, when she sneaks a peak at the weapon, it turns out that it’s a little boy. Apparently, the boy’s blood contained some sort of antigen that could destroy all hemophages. Having lost her own child in a tragic miscarriage and feeling motherly towards the idea of a little boy (although she remains in denial of the latter for a long time), Violet decides to save the boy from the hemophages. She justifies her actions by claiming that she could use his blood to create a counter-antigen that could reverse the effect of turning into a hemophage and make her into a normal human being again. Of course her kidnap not only gets the other hemophages to turn on her, but the Archministry also goes after her to reclaim the boy weapon. The rest of the film deals with this conflict.

For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that this was a good film. That only if I watched long enough, I’d enjoy it. That it would turn into those ‘so bad, it’s good’ films. I couldn’t have been more wronger. The film did NOT get better, in any way.

First off, the effects for this film are ridiculously bad. And I mean ridiculously bad. It was made 2006 so I knew that it wouldn’t have the most realistic visual effects. But my god, were they terrible, even for 2006 standards! Everything was so obviously fake, it hurt my eyes! That’s another thing actually. Maybe its just my eyes, but the colour tone for this movie was insane. Everything was just so bright and colourful, I felt like my eyes were being assaulted! The closest graphics that compare to the movie, in my opinion, are video games. In fact, in the beginning of the film, I actually though that I was indeed watching a video game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t, the entire film itself was shot like that. It was an eye sore.

Secondly, regardless of the VFX, even the action stunts seemed so unrealistic. I mean, Violet would literally just do these random stretches and movements and magically she’d dodge every bullet and sword and end up the victor. Like WTF? There comes a point where instead of being funny and ironic, super unrealistic scenes end up becoming annoying. And this movie remained at the latter point the entire time. It was not fun to watch.

Thirdly, the entire plot of the movie is just so weird. I had so many questions while watching and not one of them was ever explicitly answered. For example, how did Violet manage to hide the fact that she was a hemophage from the facility? What was the injection exactly? How was she revived? How did Six survive?  How were the hemophages able to live undetected in a freaking hotel in the middle of the city for so long? Who were the Blood Chinois and why did they even feature into the film? What was Violet’s backstory exactly and why was it so relevant? What even was the ending about? Like ????

And finally, the acting itself was also a big WTF. I actually haven’t really seen any of Milla Jovovich’s movies before. So I don’t really know about her acting skills. But she was so weird as Violet. I don’t even have the words to explain it. Plus I found Six to be so creepy. Everything was weird and made no sense.

The only positive for the entire film, (and I’m sorry if this is super shallow) is that Milla Jovovich looks pretty good. Her body was on-point, and really that’s it. There’s nothing else good about the film.

My rating: miss it, do not watch it. If your friend suggests it, unfriend them immediately (LOL jokes, but seriously).