Review : Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Sam_Three_Billboards.jpg

“A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.”

In a world that can make people hard, sometimes the only thing to do is become harder, to become stronger, and in that way I think this isn’t just an amazing movie, but an important one. A few reviews ago, I wrote that sometimes a movie can have no errors, no flaws, but not be a 10/10, and then there are movies like this, that do have flaws, but are still worthy of a flawless scoring. First of all, the screenplay, this screenplay, is incredible, like wow. Not to be outdone though, this movie is absolutely filled with nothing less than amazing acting performances all around. Frances McDormand, outstanding, Woody Harrelson, stupendous, Sam Rockwell, sublime, I mean even the much more minor roles here are just played and acted to an absolute T. Each character has their own motivations and quirks and ways in which they are tied to the narrative here, but no one ever feels out of place or shoe horned in, they all just work as this living, breathing, fascinating collection of characters. Each of their roles builds, and adds, and informs each other characters’ in a way that is so succinct and tight, that you can see how each of these characters is needed, in the way they are needed, to make this all work the way it does. These are the kinds of movies that the world needs. I know I said it isn’t perfect, and I mean it isn’t, Frances McDormand’s character has no real character arch. The role given to her son is solid but it isn’t always used to its full potential, and there’s a really and I mean super weird looking CGI deer smack in the middle of all of this, but honestly, fuck it. I gladly gloss over all of those things because this movie is simply that good, that powerful, and that necessary, that it deserves nothing less than my highest honour.

Review Score : 10 out of 10

Advertisements

Review : Maze Runner – The Death Cure

4ac2f735-8419-4c89-910e-a9e6174f3017

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

So The Death Cure is the third and final movie in the Maze Runner trilogy, and you know what, I think this movie deserves a lot of credit, a lot more than I think its likely to get. For a while there, there was a real glut of YA, dystopian future movies on the market, and one of those franchises was The Maze Runner. If you pardon my pun, on paper, the maze runner might have been the franchise with the lowest ceiling, in that I think it had the smallest fanbase, and least hype, but from that situation, I think we’ve gotten the most consistent, even if not the best, of these franchises. Over the past three movies, these movies have managed to keep on track I think the most, and they were able to stay on target better than those other franchises, and most of all, it let this series finish strongly. The Death Cure sees the return of the entire cast here, and it picks up a little while after the second movie ended, and from the start it really does get to it. Another thing this movie really deserves a lot of credit for, is its world building, and its visual effects. Lets not forget, this movie has a $62 million dollar budget, which is half of the budget of some of the movies it was made to compete against, and from visual effects, to practical effects, to just simply make-up effects, this movie really does look amazing. There is also a lot of really good acting in here. This cast does have some very good dramatic actors, and they are given their moments to really act, and it comes across really well. Even the typical love triangle stuff we’ve grown to get used to, is done I think here, as good as it could have been done I think. They give those emotional moments just the right amount of time, and the right amount of dramatic purpose that allow them enough time to work, but not enough to get over done. This movie is maybe 2 years later than it should have been, because of the really unfortunate accident involving Dylan O’Brien on set, and I’m sure that might drop its box office total a bit, but I think this movie is worth being the finale of this series. All in all, I think The Death Cure is a really solid stand alone movie, and is even a bit better when you consider how strongly it ends this trilogy, especially compared to some others. It gives the main cast here I think also a really nice send off onto their next projects. Just had to let it be said also, I am 100% team Brenda. I do have a huge crush on Rosa Salazar, but that aside, just her character alone would be enough to make me team Brenda, but I must say, I do get why Teresa made the decisions she made, so for once it isn’t one of those ridiculous kinds of love triangles, and another thing I really just needed to shout out about this movie.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10

Review : Lady Bird

17AFS_Film_Poster_LadyBird

“In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.”

Lady Bird is one of those few movies, where after watching it, I need to sit and think about it for a bit, and thats because there is genuinely nothing wrong with this movie, as in, it doesn’t make any mistakes, which is a strange thing. I bring that up because its always a really different kind of review when you don’t have something to point at and say ah yes they lost a point there. Its almost like this movie is in a boxing match and we’re using a 10 point must system. No problems isn’t the stand out this movie though, the stand out is the acting. The only way to accurately describe it is real or honest. Everyone in this movie feels so real and genuine, its like you’re really just seeing the life of this girl go by over time. The movie is even directed like that. It constantly starts and ends scenes in the middle of whatever it wants to show you, and it truly brings you in and makes you feel like you’ve just walked into the room while something was going on. The writing here is also totally spot on. No one ever feels like they were delivering some line they had to, it all comes across as genuinely, intimate interactions, and that takes great writing, directing and acting. So if they are all these things to praise, and like I said, no mistakes or errors to reprimand, this should be a guaranteed 10 out of 10, and yet it isn’t. I hope I can articulate this well enough, but there isn’t anything wrong with Lady Bird, but I do feel like there is something missing. I also don’t know what that is, but I do know that there is something this movie needed, to really make it unforgettable to me, and while the quality of and with which this movie is made is unforgettable, there is still some intangible missing for me. There are movies in the past that I’ve given max scores too, that definitely have things wrong with them, but I think maybe those movies have a certain kind of boldness either in their execution, or in the very story they are telling that make them feel transcendent to me, that make me feel like they will ad something to the history of cinema, and this movie for me is just missing that little it factor to joining those kinds of movies. That being said, this movie still has some of the best acting, writing and directing of the year, and even if there are movies I could like more, there will be few deserving of more plaudits, so I hope that those responsible for the quality on display here get their rewards. All in all, Lady Bird is real honest and unique kind of coming of age story. Its not your typical girl meets boy and so on kind of coming of age movie, its for those of us who want something a little more real, a little more honest, and I’m nothing if not impressed more and more with Saoirse Ronan every time I see her on screen now. You get that Oscar baby girl!

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

Review : Star Wars – The Last Jedi

the-last-jedi-theatrical-blog.jpg

“Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.”

It’s finally here, and even when that opening crawl started, I still felt kind like it wasn’t real, but it was, and …wow. This movie gave me so much of what I wanted, while also not giving me so much of what I wanted, and it truly feels like an entirely new entry in the saga (also steel pan is officially canon in Star Wars). This is most definitely the most different Star Wars ever made, and even when you look at the character development from The Force Awakens to now (which isn’t actually that much time), they take so many of these characters in such different places that I would have never seen coming. Rian Johnson also was able to do something that we don’t often get with these kind of movies, and that’s that he was able to do and show us things that we have never seen in a Star Wars movie before (its also super funny). And that was truly a sight to behold, especially since some of those things, are things we may have considered before, but we have never gotten any canonical version of them, but here, we do. It feels almost needless to say, but this movie is absolutely stunning in its visuals, and it also does some things with its visuals, that no other Star Wars movie has ever done either, and they literally had my entire screen gasp, and to have that happen more than once, was really impressive to see. He also lends I think, the most distinct directorial voice ever in a Star Wars movie. That voice also stretches clearly into the story here, and the story elements that he adds to this long mythology. There really is soooooo much here to dig into, and so many complex situations and decisions, that whether or not you like those decisions, you have no choice I think but to respect the boldness of them. Even down to the Force itself, and what the Force means, is given new and slightly different life here. There is A LOT here I really can’t go into without going over copious spoilers, but just know there are many many surprises in here, and its best to try your best to go into the movie as fresh as possible. A huge part of this movie is also of course the characters, and there really is a great deal of character development here for so many of the characters. And this movie isn’t afraid to make characters make bold decisions and then stick by them. That in itself, is probably the best way to describe this entire movie, and thats Bold. The same way many people found Force Awakens polarising for being very similar to episode 4, many people I feel might also have a similar issue with this movie but in the opposite direction. Carrie Fisher I think also really delivers an amazing performance here that operates on multiple levels, and was really touching and saddening to see given her tragic and untimely death. This movie however, is going to derive most of its controversy from the way it portrays and handles Luke Skywalker. I can’t go over it here, but I definitely will post separately about it. All in all, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an amazing movie, but as a Star Wars movie, is going to be polarising because of its creative choices, and even I’m not fully sure how I feel about many of those moments.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

Review : Justice League

466483_m1500739984

“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.”

So, this movie, and its production has gone through a lot. Family tragedy that caused director Zack Snyder to have to take a leave from the production, the entry of Joss Whedon to finish the film, a cgi top lip fiasco, studio interference in many ways and much more. I say all that because going into this movie, I had the mindset of, if this movie is good I’d be genuinely impressed that they were able to pull all of this together. And there is a lot that they were able to pull off, and some they weren’t. To start, this movie doesn’t feel like its directed by two directors, but it does feel like it was edited by committee, and thats a bit of an issue. Joss Whedon has a writing credit on this movie, so he definitely had to have re-written at least a third of the movie, and it shows in the dialogue that sticks out, and more things at the end of the movie, where I think most of the re-shoot changes really occur. Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, you can say what you want about these movies, one thing you can’t say, is that they’re not bold, because they are, and this movie loses that boldness in favour of a more “tame” version of what we’ve gotten before. Now thats definitely going to add a lot of mass appeal to the movie, but it might lose it much of its deeper credibility. All of that is not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining, it certainly is, and there are so many surprise and stand out moments that leap straight off the page and give you that incredible I never thought I’d see that in a movie feeling, but I still would have liked to have seen those moments through the bold lens of the movies before it. They are some plot holes for sure, and there is another villain who’s motivations are sort of lost on us, there’s the lip, but despite all of that, there is so much here that we know and love from these characters, and that’s where the movie shines brightest. You can say what you want about Zack Snyder, but the man has style, and he definitely has an eye for casting, and this team is casted very well. The surprise stand out of these is actually Cyborg, his portrayal of the character and his exploration into being part man and part machine was fantastic. The movie does run at a bit of a break neck pace, but it was literally mandated to be under two hours (its like one minute less), and the solution they went with was clearly to cut some of the more subtle character building moments, especially some of which were teased in trailers. Also I must say, the score for this movie is done by Danny Elfman, and he’s certainly a great composer, but his work seems so Saturday morning cartoonish when compared to what we got before from the likes of Junkie XL, that it really fell flat for me. They also made some kind of different version of the Wonder Woman theme (Is she with you? from BvS), and that was a real bummer for me as I was just waiting for it to come blasting on in her opening action scene. His score does definitely bring up some good ole nostalgia, but do we really need to keep going back to certain wells? All in all it might seem like I’m being really down on this movie, and I’m really not. Just like I had said in review for Thor Ragnorok, the movie sacrifices some substance for style (in this case that boldness and real grit of the previous movies), but I can’t for one second say that I wasn’t entertained, or that the things that were done right, weren’t really exciting to see. Justice League feels like a step in a different direction than maybe I personally wished they had gone with the franchise as a whole, but the movie does deliver a lot of the things I wanted from a movie like this. And maybe one day I’ll get to see all those cut scenes. (Also just as a side note, I’m not a huge fan of the new super suit, liked the darker one more).

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Also I feel like I have to address it, this movie does make some less than progressive choices with female characters. They don’t come off so egregious as you might think, but they are definitely there, and they are definitely distinct choices. I know many people are trying to blame Snyder for this, and he probably has to take the blame for the more glammed up look of the Amazons, when compared to the Wonder Woman movie, but the impactful moments of this I thought were in moments of dialogue and character decisions, all of which I’m willing to bet were down the re-writes and re-shoots from Whedon. I wish Zack was able to give us his unblemished version of this movie, and we might never know what and who changed what, but I think its at least comforting to know that a lot of those issues that arose, were fought against by the cast and crew, and maybe going forward these kinds of issues can become less and less, as we can not have to talk about them at all one day.

Review : Murder on the Orient Express

Murder-on-the-Orient-Express-poster-1

“A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.”

Murder on the Orient Express is based on the famous book of the same title and is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the title role here along side a laundry list of who’s who of great actors. The movie starts off by setting up our lead character of Hercule Poirot, and why he’s possibly the greatest detective in the world. We then are set off on a journey with only one ending for one of the trains passengers…murder. Branagh does play a very good Poirot here in all his moustached glory, there are some issues however, with the rest of the cast. My real issue with all of them, and its pretty much all of them, is that they’re all more caricatures than characters. Now, they do as caricatures kind of fit and work in the world that was created here because certain things are kind of over the top and they do work very well in that regard, but they never seem as deep and flushed out as Poirot. And thats probably the real story of this entire movie, in that it all seems like everything was created, done, and existed for sole purpose of making Poirot probably the greatest detective in the world. I can’t speak for the solving of the actual crime, compared to how its done in the book and the motivations and all that, but here there was an interesting twist with it, but one that made it much less impactful and much less satisfying to me, and possible to other people who aren’t super familiar with the material. Sidenote, this movie is definitely very very nice to look at, and they do set up some amazing set pieces as backdrops.

Review Score : 6.5 out of 10

Review : American Made

amer-made-poster-large

“A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.”

This is one of those movies, where at best, its a Wolf of Wall Street, and at worst they just come off as unauthentic, cheesy, and boring. This movie is pretty much in the middle. It stats Tom Cruise, who as always, is totally committed to his role and plays it very well, the movie on a whole however, is what maybe holds it all back. Its not to say that this movie isn’t good, or isn’t entertaining. Its certainly funny enough, dramatic enough, the acting is good enough, its all enough yes, but the real issue is that its just enough. Nothing here is special, nothing here takes this movie into a category above, where movies like the Wold of Wall Street live. It gets kind of bogged down in mediocrity that make it great probably for an at home stream, but nothing about it says come see me in the cinema. Also, a lot happens here, and it all needs to happen, but it can almost feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, as the movie often needs to keep up a bit of a break neck pace to get from where the story starts, to where the movie ends it. All in all though, this movie is two things combined. Its Tom Cruise being the consummate professional he always is (the man is never bad EVER), mixed with a rest of movie thats good but not great, and I feel like with this story and talent, it could have been GREAT.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10