Tag Archives: review

37 of #52FilmsByWomen: Burn Burn Burn

37-Burn

Burn Burn Burn (2015, directed by Chanya Button)

[No. 37 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Whenever there’s a death of a relative or a loved one, we are naturally prompted to rethink our own purpose in life and our roles in the lives of others. Burn Burn Burn, a British film delicately balances these thoughts friendship and loss, amongst the structure of a road trip comedy.

Two close friends, Alex and Seph (Chloe Pirrie and Laura Charmichael) are driving across Britain to scatter the ashes of a Dan, a recently-deceased friend at four different places of special significance to him. He had left a series of video messages for them to watch throughout the trip, many of them bringing out repressed feelings and hard truths between the three of them.

One of my favourite things about this movie is that it knows when to be funny (slapstick-y, even) when the characters are mourning the loss of a friend. Even the dead friend Dan is portrayed as a kind of an asshole most of the time, which is rare in a society where never speaking ill of the dead is thoroughly ingrained in our minds. Nevertheless, we do end up feeling sympathetic to Dan. This is probably thanks to the great performance by Jack Farthing who could convince us that Dan’s dickish behaviour comes from him lashing out against his mortality.

37-Burnb.jpg

The characters of Alex and Seph are also great. They are close friends despite having very different lifestyles and personalities. Alex is the more introverted character who allows only very few close emotional attachments, while Seph is the outgoing actress who likes to meet new people at parties.

Because their differences are only played for drama, and not for laughs, we appreciate their bond and friendship even more. Both of them are confronted head-on with questions of friendship and honesty with each other, and and also with other people in their lives. When one of them chides the other for making a stupid decision, both of their views are relate-able. I felt invested in their quarrels, and I cheer on when one of them gets protective over the other.

Obviously, it makes no sense to wish for a sequel for a movie like this. Though I like these characters so much that I wish I get to see more of them.

 

Advertisements

29 of #52FilmsByWomen: Me Before You

29-MeBeforeYou

Me Before You (2016, directed by Thea Sharrock, written by Jojo Moyes)

[No. 29 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Emilia Clarke plays Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark, a very un-Daenerys-type character who is cheerful, bubbly, dorky and naive. Without much training or experience, she gets a job as a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), who became disabled after a traffic accident.

The big plot point for the movie is about how Will wants to commit suicide via euthanasia, because he doesn’t want to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. This aspect of the movie is probably doesn’t work as well, and it seemed to have caused a stir on the internet. I might say more about this in a separate post, but within the framework of the movie and the plot, Will’s motivation for this isn’t fleshed out all that well.

The reason for this is probably due to the fact that the story is told almost completely from Lou’s perspective. So the reason we do not understand why Will wants to die is because  Lou (whose nature is endlessly positive and cheerful) doesn’t.

Will’s motivations aside, the movie is utterly captivating and charming, mostly because of Emilia Clarke’s performance. Lou’s happiness and positivity is potent and infections, and I couldn’t help but grin along when Lou gets excited about something.

It is also noteworthy that Lou’s sister Treena played by Jenna Coleman (Hi! Clara Oswald) is loving and supportive for Lou. It is so rare to see siblings that do not antagonise or hate each other in movies or TV, except maybe for Orphan Black. So in their first scene early in the movietogether assumed their characters are not related. Maybe it’s partly because my mind couldn’t process The Mother of Dragons and Clara Oswald as sisters. But Emilia Clarke is a good actor, and very soon I completely forgotten any associations with Daenerys Targeryn and became fully invested in Lou. She also shared many scenes with another Thrones veteran Charles Dance who plays Will’s father, and is almost like a more compassionate version of Tywin Lannister.

Despite the story dealing with tough emotional issues, it is also funny. Despite the controversy on the internet, the movie does depict the life of a quadriplegic character that is not stereotypical manner, or had any jokes at Will’s expense. At least, that’s as far as I can possibly tell, from the perspective of an able-bodied person.

19 of #52FilmsByWomen: Money Monster

23-MoneyMonster

Money Monster (2016, directed by Jodie Foster)

[No. 19 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Money Monster is a movie that mostly takes place in real time, during a hostage situation in a television studio that’s being broadcast live, under the demands of the hostage taker. The hostage taker is Kyle (Jack O’Connell) a down-on-his-luck everyman who had just lost all his money over a bad investment, and he takes on his grievance against Wall Street by hijacking the TV studio and the host Lee Gates (George Clooney). The show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) tries to keep the cameras running while trying to investigate the circumstances behind the gunman and investment at the same time.

 

 

 

Review: Captain America: Civil War (no spoilers)

CACW

When the cast list for Captain America: Civil War was revealed, people have been calling this move ‘Avengers 2.5’, mostly because it involves so many characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It turns out that ‘Avengers 2.5’ is a pretty apt description for the plot, and the place of this film in relation to the rest of the MCU. Despite the filmmaker’s insistence that this is very much a ‘sequel to the Winter Soldier’, the plot is very much about the Avengers. That it is a ‘Captain America’ movie mostly holds true in the emotional sense, and the fact that the Captain is mostly the POV character throughout the story.

[No spoilers aside from the initial plot synopsis]

Continue reading Review: Captain America: Civil War (no spoilers)

Movie Review: Bastille Day

BastilleDay.jpg

While realistically, we may not ever see Idris Elba becoming James Bond in the near future, Bastille Day puts him in the action-spy role in Paris. Albeit an American CIA agent with a bit more grit and less glamour than James bond. I came in expecting a mid-tier, generic pre-summer action-thriller, but was pleasantly surprised by it.

When it comes to espionage action thrillers, it’s nearly impossible by now to set up a completely new premise that has never been seen before. But Bastille Day gives us an fairly interesting plot where a pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden a.k.a. Robb Stark from Game of Thrones) stole a bag which turns out to be a bomb. It explodes, killing four people and he inevitably becomes the prime suspect. Idris Elba is CIA agent Sean Briar who is tasked to find and protect him from the real terrorists behind the plot.

The story moves forward at a brisk pace with good action scenes. Elba proves that he’s more than capable of being an action star, taking down bad guys Bourne-style. Anyone who is familiar with his previous work already knows he’s a good actor, but unfortunately the story doesn’t seem to allow him to show any of this off. There aren’t many character moments for anyone in this movie.

That might be my main complaints about the movie, though competent as it is as a spy thriller. There is hardly any character development happening in the movie. The movie establishes a few basic facts about Elba’s Briar, being `brash and irresponsible’, and that’s about it. It sets him up to be sort of a loose cannon and acting against orders while on the streets of Paris. Never do we really know him as a person, or get invested in him as a character. Briar’s character is mostly blank, as if to accommodate the audience to project themselves into the action movie role. He does not have much motivation throughout the movie aside from preventing a terrorist attack, which feels almost like an arbitrary mission objective for a video game, and Briar being a video game protagonist without personality.

The pickpocket Mason does get a bit of a backstory, which for his case is absolutely necessary since he is the focal point of the entire story. Though he mostly did a good job portraying a scared, young crook that’s in way over his head in the terrorist/spy intrigue, again I don’t really feel invested in that character either. He doesn’t even show that much guilt or regret after causing an explosion that killed four innocent people. In fact, he seems to only care about himself, and doesn’t really bond with Briar throughout the movie. (Not that the plot gave them any breathing room to do so.)

Perhaps the one character that has some semblance of an arc is Zoe Naville (Charlotte La Bon). She’s an activist who was manipulated by the terrorist to deliver the bomb that was eventually stolen by Mason, and she’s the one showing guilt over causing the death of those four people. As the story progresses we understand her actions and reactions to various events in the movie. So, she seems to be the only person whom we understand the character motivation at a deeper level than simply functioning to drive the plot.

Perhaps one might wonder about the sensitivity of a plot which involves a bombing in Paris, given the recent events in real life. At least the villains in this story aren’t stereotypical Muslims or people from Middle-East. But rather very specific characters with their own agenda which has nothing to do with real-world events. Nevertheless they do dip into subplots about how Muslim communities are targeted by the police after the bombing, and how citizens star to protest police brutality. These are used as a backdrop and a plot point, and the film doesn’t seem to want to make any significant commentary out of it.

It’s starting to sound like I didn’t like the movie, when I really did enjoy it. After all, this is a fairly straightforward action movie that doesn’t have a blockbuster-level budget. The plot and action scenes are executed fairly well, which is all I wanted for a straight-up action movie. To put this into perspective, I found this movie much more enjoyable than other mid-range action thrillers, like Tak3nNovember Man and Survivor.

Women’s stories as the driving force of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

 

Jen-vs-ShuLien.png

Although frequently described as a `martial arts epic’, the term `epic’ probably wouldn’t be applied to the story of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon under today’s common usage of the word. There isn’t a huge war between nations, or an evil villain hatching a huge scheme, or a magical McGuffin that everyone is chasing after. Part of why this film is great is that it’s a weave of fascinating character-driven stories. Particularly, the stories of three women.

[Warning: Spoilers for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000). The 2016 sequel will not be mentioned anywhere]

Continue reading Women’s stories as the driving force of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)