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Movie Monday

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: this film is rated R.

Watching Eye in the Sky will infuriate you to no end, no matter what political stance you hold going in. That comes largely from the fact it’s chiefly a political film, and, as shown by our good friend Mr. Trump, politics tend to upset people. It’s a complex, fascinating movie that’s hard to pin down. There are laugh out loud moments followed by ones of quiet suspense. Scenes that elicit empathy are followed by ones of righteous anger. Political Satire probably best describes the movie, but then again it doesn’t truly do the film’s themes or content justice. Eye in the Sky is a war movie with little action. It’s a horror movie with little bloodshed. It’s a comedy with little joy. At its core, Eye in the Sky is just a lot of people talking, all trying not to have to make a hard decision; it’s also incredibly compelling.

Eye in the Sky follows an inter-governmental terrorist capture operation in Kenya, and the many ways in which it goes awry. The outfit is led by the British Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) and about 8 other officers working with her in the war room. She though, of course, is not solely in charge of the operation. Powell answers directly to British Lieutenant General Frank Benson (played by the late great Alan Rickman). Benson throughout the film is surrounded by British officials and politicians, all of which have their own agendas and moral stances. Powel directly commands 2 main things: American Air Force pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), who controls a drone from a shed in Las Vegas and Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq (Babou Ceesay), commander of the actual capture unit in Kenya. There is also an American facial recognition specialist operating out of Hawaii, two key soldiers in Kenya, and a little girl selling bread in Kenya (but more on that in a moment).

The situation complicates further when the terrorists move to a new location for their meeting, and further when they start equipping themselves with suicide vests, and even further when a little girl sells bread right next to the building, complicating the drone strike option. Through it all the characters argue about what the right thing to do is, and no one wanting to take responsibility for a drone strike.

The film is paced excellently and with precision. Every scene is masterfully executed, in no hurry to shock the audience or reveal what will happen. The film rather lets us, the audience, suffer through the indecision and ambiguity, squirming in our seats with anticipation. The suspense caliber is almost something out of a Hitchcock movie: in the execution, the patience, the payoff. It’s nice to see this sort of filmmaking nowadays, the type that requires an engaged and intelligent audience.

Helen Mirren is a commanding central lead, delivering each line with enough conviction, passion, and ethos to thoroughly ground the film. Without Mirren, the film could have perhaps strayed into the realm of unbelievable parody. She is a large reason the movie works and fits together so well. Aaron Paul delivers a lot of pathos, performing in one of the most human and emotional roles of his career. Alan Rickman reminds us just why we’ll miss him, playing a cold, logical, and dryly funny character, similar to others he has played. The rest of the cast was great too, even the little girl, but these three actors really stood out.

Eye in the Sky was a great movie, but it did have a few flaws. An obvious one is that some of the smaller characters acted a bit like caricatures, specifically the American characters. I’m not sure if this is a flaw of screenwriting or an intentional point the filmmakers were trying to make. Either way it is a noticeable blemish in the movie. Also, some of the point of view shots from the drones and other equipment were unbelievable to put it lightly. A robotic beetle flying shouldn’t have such stable footage streaming from it when going through wind. Of course, the filmmakers had to take a few liberties to deliver the movie they wanted to, and I don’t necessarily fault them for it, but this detail nagged at me throughout the whole film.

In the end, it’s their indecision that will frustrate you. You will probably side with one party at the beginning, as I did, and become increasingly angry at the characters with contradictory views, the ones that prevent progress. What Eye in the Sky does so well though, is not vilify or commend any characters. The situation is complicated and messed up; there seems not to be a single right answer about how to respond. In the end, every character tries to do the best thing that they can, but it’s not enough. This intercharacter struggle suggests many deep thematic topics. It suggests that war is terrible, evil, there is nothing right or good about it, but also it’s a necessary evil that cannot, unfortunately, be avoided. It’s a compelling piece of cinema, one that kept me on the edge of my seat, and overall I would rate it 9/10.

 

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Image Credit: Irish Typepad on Flickr

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

I stand by the thought that JJ Abrams is a better producer than director, and here to support this thought has come 10 Cloverfield Lane, a wonderful little thriller produced by the man himself. Abrams’ skill comes from the marketing of films, as well as who he gets to work on them. The original Cloverfield was brilliant, the original trailer revealed nothing about the movie, not even it’s name. This intrigued audiences, and led to an 80 million dollar lifetime gross. This new Cloverfield movie (although it hardly deserves to be called that, for 10 Cloverfield Lane has little to nothing to do with the original movie) has had marketing just as ingenious. The first trailer came out mere months ago and the existence of the movie was kept secret until that moment, a feat that’s practically unheard of. JJ Abrams did a good job with the release of the movie, and an even better job with the movie itself.

10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle. After leaving her fiance and getting in a car accident, Michelle wakes up in a concrete underground bunker. She’s not alone, for also in the bunker are Howard (creepily played by John Goodman) and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.). Howard informs her that there has been an attack on the city and the air is poisonous. He saw her in her car, flipped over on the side of the road, and rescued her. As the film progresses, Michelle starts to doubt the story she was told, as well as Howard's sanity, and how safe she truly is around him.

The film really shines when it comes to the acting. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle wonderfully, who is a tough yet fragile character. She is compelling and intelligent, commanding the focus of the audience. Emmet is also played wonderfully by John Gallagher Jr. He is a sweet, charming southern guy who you can tell likes Michelle but wouldn’t dare try anything. The best performance of the film though has to go to John Goodman as Howard. I have never seen him act so creepy or so unsettling. The whole movie, you can tell that there is just something wrong with him, something wrong with his behaviour. Goodman is equal parts frightening and mysterious. With this allure, he steals every scene and is most definitely the standout of the film.

The director, Dan Trachtenberg, did an excellent job with the film. Every moment cranks up the tension, invoking feelings of anxiety and fear from the audience. This is his feature film debut and certainly delivers on all of his promise. Interestingly, he was chosen for the film mainly due to a Portal fan film he made and posted on youtube. Whatever the reason they hired, I’m glad they did because he just does such a great job. There are certainly worst first movies (David Fincher, after all, debuted with Alien 3).

The writing of the film was also very nice. The development of the film is interesting, for it originated as a spec script (meaning that it was independently made and sold, rather than a studio requesting for a specific script from a specific person) titled The Cellar. It was bought by Bad Robot (JJ Abrams Production company) and then given a few rewrites to conform a little better to the world of Cloverfield. One may think, among all those changes, that somewhere along the way the filmmakers would have lost the magic and essence of the script. Luckily it did the opposite. Most of what I read about the original script is less good than the final project.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a great movie. Not just fine or good, but great. I have a few complaints about the ending, which does not live up to the rest of the film, but for the most part 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers exactly what it needed to. I highly recommend seeing it even if you just go for John Goodman (understandable, he’s that good). 9/10

For more reviews visit my blog

Image credit Kate Brady on Flickr

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned:This film is rated R. 

Most horror movies are bad. It’s not necessarily a judgement on them, for at the very least I understand why they are this way, but it’s still a consistent problem. They are riddled with issues, and very few contemporary horror films succeed at even the most basic standards for quality cinema. Character development, engaging characters, a coherent plot, good acting, all these are thrown out the window in favor of a few cheap thrills. This ideology of thrilling the audience with jump scares and frightening visuals (which, let’s face it, most horror movies don’t even get that right) is ludicrous, as the singular focus cripples the entire film. Because of that thought process, the genre is riddled with terrible films, which really give a bad name to the grouping as a whole. The rare, quality horror films struggle to escape the ever looming presence of their genre. 

Even with this background and struggle, every year it seems a new, exciting, and unique horror movie gets released, restoring faith in the genre. These annual delightful frights break the general horror movie trend of awfulness by being surprisingly good. 2013 brought us The Conjuring, 2014 gave us The Babadook, 2015 It Follows, and nice and early in the year 2016 gives us The Witch.

The Witch follows a deeply religious protestant family living in America sometime during the 17th century, specifically the teenage girl Thomason. They leave their community due to religious differences and move to create a brand new isolated farm at the edge of the woods. Unfortunately for the family, an evil Witch lives in the woods that decides to curse them, stealing their youngest child as the first part of the torment.

Roger Eggers, the writer/director, spent years researching 17th century colonial America. The tagline, A New England Folktale, is really revealing about the story. He scoured over folktales of that era and, under their influence, created his own unique one, one that could easily have been told back in the day. It is less of an in your face horror movie and more of a dark, looming, and horrific story of a family.

The director does an excellent job in every aspect of the film. The cinematography and pacing create a brilliant sense of tension and creepiness. The dialogue, some taken directly from documents written during the time period of the film, is excellently written and revealing of characters. Eggers did his job splendidly, and we can expect a lot more from him in the future.

The acting is top notch, specifically the children actors. You never know how it’s going to pan out, hiring children so young, but they were really quite excellent. Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense good. The whole cast spoke in an olden tongue, with thy and thou and hithers throughout the film. I believed that the actors actually spoke like that too, with all the ease and naturalness they brought to the dialogue. They really held nothing back.

As far as the film itself goes, as a horror movie, I’d say is excellent. With a tone that sort of combines The Shining with The Crucible, The Witch is consistently horrifying. It’s a slow burn horror, requiring attention to the characters and emotional investment in order for each scene to crank up the tension. A few incredibly disturbing visuals and a stunning finale seal the deal, so to speak, in the end.

When the movie finished, and I sat reflecting on the incredibly enjoyable film I just saw, I heard some of the other audience members behind me.

“Well that movie was terrible, what a waste of money.”

Another person farther back was yelling. “Refund.”

I was confused to say the least. Here I had watched one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen, and these other people hated it. Did we even watch the same movie? So that left me with this advice. Know that the Witch is a slow burn horror in which the characters talk a lot like a Shakespeare play. If you can’t handle the sort of mental capacity it takes to comprehend what they are saying, you will not like the movie. If you like your horror movies SAW-like, more like thrillers, and are expecting that from The Witch, you too will be disappointed. But if you go into the Witch expecting a creepy, often horrific film with great characters, a great plot, great cinematography, and patience, well you’re bound to enjoy it immensely. That’s why I give it 9/10.

 

Image credit: Stella Marris on Flickr

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Anomalisa began not as a film, but as a stage play. Written by the brilliant Charlie Kaufman, the play featured 3 actors, standing off to one side of the stage, acting mainly with their voices and with no movement.The staging was designed by Kaufman to spark the imagination of the crowd. Instead of showing the characters doing things, the setup made the audience visualize the wild and crazy story. Anomalisa was intended to be a fleeting thing, a special experience reserved only for those that attended the limited release.

Luckily, for the rest of us who didn’t have a chance to get out to the theatre, Kickstarter funded the film adaptation of Charlie Kaufman’s play, turning it into the stop motion Academy Award nominated beast it has become. The resulting product is amazing, unbelieveable, crazy, touching, and absolutely lovely. It’s world is perfectly realized, with believable characters and a relatable protagonist.

I would like to tell you the story of Anomalisa, what the inciting incident is and the setup and all of that, but I don’t think it’s wise. The trailer does a great job of hinting at the story without spoiling anything, and the official IMDB description reads “A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.” As much as I am generally opposed to vague marketing and J.J. Abrams’ “Mystery Box”(the marketing was a big problem I had with Star Wars), I respect Anomalisa’s use of this strategy, and actually think an audience member will get the most out of the experience knowing the least amount possible about the story. You can find any number of synopsis’ on the internet, explaining what the setup of the film is, and if you’re so inclined, you can find one and read it. And even though you now spoiled the premise for yourself, viewing it is going to be a great experience despite the knowledge you possess. But unfortunately you lose the investigative aspect of the film. You can never gain back the adventure of finding out more and more about the story and world, and it is for that reason you will find no such description here.

All that you need to know about Anomalisa at this moment is that it is a story from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, who created such unique and amazing works as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Well known for his unique and hilarious writing style, he does not disappoint with his most recent endeavour.

The stop-motion animation is very fluid and beautiful, showcasing the ideas and messages pursued throughout the film perfectly. Duke Johnson was chosen to co-direct alongside Kaufman, and he was the perfect choice. Johnson is a true veteran of the stop motion world, having worked on many different projects in the field. I cannot emphasize how important and influential he was for Anomalisa to become a success. He and Kaufman made an affecting stylistic film that stays true to the story’s original vision.

The style really elevates the film creating a consistently wonderful tone throughout. Kaufman was worried that in its transfer to screen, Anomalisa would lose the magical, imaginative aspect it had developed in its theatrical run, but the magic is still very much alive through the puppets, and sets.

Anomalisa is an amazing film. I cannot express enough the emotions that are elicited through this movie. It’s touching, amazing, beautiful, funny, sad, and melancholy. It deserved it’s Best Animation Nomination, and I believe it deserves to win Best Animated Picture (even though Inside Out is totally going to win. Inside Out wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly as good as this was). You are doing a disservice to yourself if you miss out on this one. 9/10

 

by: 
Jen, Teen Contributor

Full disclosure: I did NOT want to see this movie from the beginning. This was one of those situations where I was overruled and had to take one for the team, so to speak. I enjoy zombie movies, don't get me wrong, but I am a huge Jane Austen fan and the thought of this zombie mash-up made me cringe. With that said, I have a few thoughts about this film. 

It is a loose retelling of the classic work by Jane Austen. The characters from different social classes are struggling their way through relationship woes...all while fighting the undead horde. There was a good amount of action and humor to keep me interested throughout the whole film. I wasn't rolling my eyes as much as I expected and though I am a litltle reluctant to admit it, I enjoyed this movie. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a zombie movie who doesn't want too much gore. Expect a B movie with a high production cost. I give it 3/5 stars. 

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned, this film is rated R.

There is not a more hated yet more profitable director than Michael Bay. Year after year, one hears endless bashing on his style, the numerous weaknesses of his plots, his possibly misogynistic viewpoints, and, of course, his endless explosions that litter every one of his films among other problems with his films. And all of the disdain for Baydem (Bay, Mayhem, combined) is undoubtable well founded. Yet, through all that hate, Bay’s films continue, every year, to make profit after profit. That’s why he is continually hired. Most people don’t want high concept things in the cinema, they don’t really want to think, or really to feel. Most people want to sit back, stop thinking for a while, and enjoy a cool looking movie (that’s my theory anyway). Well, if you want a cool movie, Bay is the best around, and delivers more of what we’ve come to expect in 13 Hours.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the most recent film by this master of the mindless Michael Bay, and the title is rather self-explanatory. It follows the real life soldiers, 6 men stationed at a secret base in Benghazi, fending off a terrorist attack provoked by a traveling senator.

Despite Bay (or actually perhaps aided by Bay but I’ll get to that in a bit), the story is interesting. It’s the perfect subject for a biographical movie to be made of, because most people have heard about the Benghazi affair if not entirely aware of what happened. The events are utterly fascinating and it really retains the audience in the story.

The acting is serviceable. There is nothing particularly special, but the actors do the best with what they have. Most characters are incredibly one dimensional, even John Krazinski’s Jack as the main character doesn’t have much depth. But, there are no noticeably bad performances, so I really can’t complain.

The action scenes are consistently and intensely annoying. Last year, the Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road both proved that it is indeed possible to make a good fight sequence and action sequence without a shaky camera, which makes the level of camera shake in this movie almost unbearable, particularly a car chase near the beginning (the whole movie of Mad Max was a car chase but it didn’t need to be unnecessarily confusing).

The writing is clunky at the best of times. The characters are more caricatures than characters, which did not give the actors any favors. It tells the story, but it could have been way more engaging, way more heartfelt, and just better all around.

The most fascinating thing about 13 Hours though is Bay himself, who seems like he is trying his hardest to make a good movie. It’s as if all of the bad word of mouth has finally got to him, and the film is his way of proving he is a good director. It is a noticeable effort, albeit on in vain. In the end, he can’t resist himself, numerous fireworks-like-explosions litter the screen, awkward humor that he is known so well for pokes through in a couple of scenes, and his love of America, specifically the American Flag, is well documented. But at least he’s trying.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a surprisingly passable film, featuring a Michael Bay who is trying. The worst thing I can say about it is that it is entirely forgettable, for after seeing it last week I am already having trouble remembering some things. I wouldn’t recommend paying money to see it, but I can’t blame you if you do. 6/10

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Image Credit: AJ L on Wikimedia Commons.

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned, this film is rated R.

Everything about the production of The Revenant is utterly fascinating and truly amazing. The choice to film only with natural light provided a small window of time every day, sometimes as small as an hour, to pull off certain shots. Filming in Canada as well as Argentina, in the wilderness and snow, was probably a challenge to say the least. The actors gave it their all, DiCaprio especially, who got sick twice and was forced to eat raw bison liver. He is a vegetarian. Tom Hardy also was committed, at one point choking out the director because they had an argument about the safety of certain stunts. One would think, with all of these production mishaps, the Revenant would have no chance of possessing quality. Surprisingly however, through all of the trouble filming it, The Revenant ended up a visceral and amazing film, well worth the tribulations of the team.

The Revenant stars Leonardo Dicaprio as mountain man Hugh Glass. Taking place during the 1820’s in the wilderness of America, he is part of a trading company on the run from the Arikara Indians. While scouting for his fellow huntsmen, Glass is viciously attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by members of his team, specifically the evil and cunning John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the need for revenge, Glass must limp, crawl, and squirm his way back to civilization, all alone.

A great set up for a film if ever there was any which only gets enhanced by the “based on a true story” aspect the film boasts. Every aspect of the film reflects the brutal and enticing premise, delivering excellence.

The acting is amazing, Leo grunting and screaming his way to another Oscar nomination (and maybe this year an Oscar win). Saying that he gave the movie his all is an understatement, his performance is more than committed if such a thing exists. Domhnall Gleason (whose face has been popping up a bunch this year with Brooklyn, Ex Machina, and Star Wars to name a few) gives one of the best performances of his career as Captain Andrew Henry, in charge of the whole trapping operation. The other supporting actors are great, helping create a real and brutal atmosphere, but the real standout is Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald. He steals every scene (even from DiCaprio), and is one of the best villains of the year.

The cinematography for the film is excellent, capturing the beauty of the wilderness as well as the brutality of the men, a jarring juxtaposition that is handled with evident skill. The Revenant is a beautiful movie if ever there was one, lovely shots all around. Emmanuel Lubezki appears to be jousting for his third cinematography Oscar in a row with this one (after winning for last year’s Birdman and the previous year’s Gravity), and I can think of no other person more deserving of the award.

The cinematography’s beauty is only possible through the masterful and experienced hand of Alejandro González Iñárritu. He crafts the film in such away that the suspense always intensifies, the shots are always astonishing, and the story is always engaging. Choosing to film in only natural light gives the movie weight, grounding it in reality. Many long shots are used throughout the film, specifically during intense moments of conflict, also contributing to the realism of it all.

The score is minimal, instead the sounds of the wilderness provide a background to the madness, but when it does come into play, it’s beautiful. 

At the end of the day, the film’s rocky production created an enticing and engaging film. It delivers on almost every level (perhaps it could have built an emotional connection to Glass’s son better, but that’s me nitpicking), and is one of the best movies in theaters right now and absolutely worth the price of the ticket. 9/10

Image Credit: Michael W. May on Flickr

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R. 

The Scottish Play has gone through hundreds, if not thousands of incarnations since it was first written by that brilliant bard, William Shakespeare. While the stage lays claim to the majority of the Macbeth renditions, there have been seven Macbeth films made in the past hundred years, which all began with the original 1948 version. Seven films, all using the same dialogue, the same situations, the same characters. It is inarguable that the writing’s eloquence is unsurpassed, simply because no other work of performance fiction has so often been produced. No one, not even the biggest Star Wars fan on earth, would want to see the original Star Wars IV, A New Hope, made into 7 different movies over 75 years, each with the same script. That is not a good time at all, but rather an exercise in monotony.

So due to the timelessness of the bard, there seems to be a feature adaptation yearly. This year the newest version of Macbeth hit the silver screen (I say screen singularly because that’s how the distribution felt. No major theater chains picked it up for some reason. Ridiculous), and, dare I say, this is one of the best Shakespearean films yet.

First the actors must be acknowledged for their fabulous performances. Michael Fassbender perfectly embodied Macbeth, capturing his descent into madness. This film is the best performance of his career. Marion Cotillard furthers the acting superiority throughout the film, giving a commanding turn as Lady Macbeth. The choice to cast her, a French woman with a French accent, gives the character Lady Macbeth more depth. It makes her a more foreign presence among the Scottish community. Traditionally Lady Macbeth is played as Scottish, so subverting tradition worked heavily in the movies favor.

The supporting cast all give the film their all when on screen. Notably, the fourth witch, a little girl, added to the mystical element of the film more than anything. In the traditional Shakespeare play, there are three witches who tell Macbeth of his fate. The added fourth is a good choice, strengthening the piece as a whole.

As is fairly evident, the film strays from the source material a bit from scene to scene. And this is a consistent thing throughout the film. However, every choice that the filmmakers made strengthened the cinematic aspect of the movie, telling the same story slightly differently, taking advantage of all the tools films possess that plays don’t.

The scenery is beautiful and daunting, great Scottish landscape seems to constantly dwarf the characters in comparison. The costume design is also excellent, each garment feels authentic and necessary. The sets are the same way; they feel as tangible as the performances.

I must end with the direction because it was astonishingly good. The fights were staged beautifully, with blows connecting in every level of the frame. Almost every frame could be frozen and hung on the wall, a truly beautiful film if ever there was one. Justin Kurzel clearly knew what he was doing, which makes his future projects all the more exciting.

Macbeth (2015)  is one of the best adaptations of any Shakespeare play. It delivers the story and language that the Bard is known for while creating a cinematic, engrossing experience. It is powerful, beautiful, and if there was any justice in the world, it would be nominated for almost every Oscar available. 10/10

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Check out other film adaptations of Macbeth at the library

Image credit: Dario on Flickr.

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

It seems like it’s been ages since a heartfelt decent romance came out. Oh sure, scores of Nicholas Sparks films have been released (of course no one in their right mind could say they are objectively good), but even they all seem bittersweet, more concerned with tales of sadness than tales of love. Sparks wants to make the audience cry more than he wants to tell a decent story. Luckily for fans of the genre, romance just came back with a bang in the form of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn begins in the early 1950’s and  tells the story of a young woman named Elias (Saoirse Ronan). She realizes that there is nothing more for her in her hometown in Ireland, as does her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), so Rose enlists the help of a generous priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) to send Elias to America. Elias arrives in New York, where she stays in a boarding house, goes to night school for bookkeeping, and works at a grocery store. Her life really begins when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), an honest and kind Italian fellow who wants nothing more than for them to be together. Their relationship progresses, until a member of Elias’s family dies, forcing her to go back to Ireland for a time. In Ireland, where no one has heard of Tony, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) tries to woo her, a kind and soft spoken man. Not only is he trying to be with her, but everyone else seems to be trying to keep Elias in Ireland. And so the decision is up to her. Elias has to choose Ireland and Jim, or Brooklyn and Tony.

The love story between Elias and Tony is one of the cutest and just altogether best things I have seen all year. Cohen and Ronan have unbelievably great chemistry and amazing acting talent. Every time their relationship progresses, it does so with ease and believability. They are so perfect together, I can’t imagine anyone who would root against them. This is really the star of the film.

The film, adapted from the popular novel by Colm Tóibín, is written splendidly. Nick Hornby, who wrote the adaptation, infuses every scene with heartfelt grounded dialogue. The situations come alive because of him; he gives the actors a lot to work with. Which is really to be expected from Hornby, author of numerous great novels and screenplays like About a Boy. There is a reason why his name is featured on every poster for Brooklyn, he is responsible for the film working so well.

All of the actors take Hornby’s words and enhance them further, all giving grounded and entertaining performances. Jim may be an antagonist in some ways, unwittingly  trying to take Elias away from Tony, but he is in no way a bad guy. Gleeson gives him so much character and meaning, you can’t help but like him, if only a little bit. Another notable performance is James Digiacomo as Tony’s 8 year old brother Frankie. Every time he’s on screen, he steals the scene with his hilarious antics. This film is an acting powerhouse.

The direction is nothing to ignore. John Crowley directs every scene with patience and grace, allowing the story to fully showcase itself. He sets up every frame as only a master can, and composes the picture wonderfully.

The art direction and costume direction are also great in this film. Elias’s gradually increasing bright colored outfits, mirroring her becoming a New Yorker, is done marvelously. The costumes and sets transport the viewer to a happier, more idyllic time.

A classic romance and period piece at the same time, Brooklyn is a fabulous picture. The acting, directing, writing, all come together to deliver a heartfelt love story. This is not a film to miss. 9/10

Check out more titles by Nicholas Sparks here.

Image Credit: Wally Gobetz on Flickr

 

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Standing in line opening night for the new Star Wars movie was a dynamic experience. The excitement in the air was tangibly present, fueled by hushed speculation about different plot points and loads of avid cosplayers decked out in full costume. Everyone waited with mounds of anticipation.

It had been 10 years since the last Star Wars movie, 32 since the last undeniably good one. Everyone was hoping, pleading silently, that Disney wouldn’t mess it up, that they would deliver a good Star Wars film.

Everyone took their seats. The lights went down. The film played, then the credits ended. A triumphant cheer came from the whole crowd. Disney did it, Disney brought back Star Wars.

Episode VII is a fun, good film that captures what classically people loved about the original trilogy. The characters, action, stakes, all are incredibly true to the heart of Star Wars (a little too true in my opinion, but I’ll get to that later). Anyone who loves Star Wars is going to love the new one. Everyone else is still gonna have a good time with it, but may get bogged down in the film’s weaknesses.

Now, I’m going to immediately state that I am not completely enamored with the original Star Wars trilogy. Sure, I watched them when I was little, but I was never completely obsessed or convinced that they were some of the greatest films ever made. I enjoyed them, but did not love them. So this review is going to be a bit more objective than a wholly devoted fan’s review would be.

Also, talking of this particular film is particularly difficult without spoiling anything, mainly due to the fact about everything is a spoiler. This problem stems the way Disney decided to market it. For most every film that comes out, trailers and promotional material tell you the premise, the first act and inciting incident of the film, in order to convince you to pay money and see it. Episode VII doesn’t do this at all, with trailers vague and mysterious, trusting that people will still come see it by the millions  just because it’s Star Wars.

This makes every detail about the plot, characters, anything at all, technically a spoiler. So I am going to talk about this film as if is a normal movie. Discuss the premise, some plot points, characters, and everything that would be common knowledge if it were marketed in a normal way. If you really don’t want to know anything about the new film stop reading now.

 

 

Alright, so here’s the deal. Luke Skywalker is missing. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has acquired a map that leads directly to where Luke is. He needs to get it back to General Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the Resistance-new name for the good guys-so they can get to Luke and get his help.

However the sinister First Order-new version of the Empire from previous films-also wants to find Luke, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleason). They find Poe, but before he is captured, he gives the map to his droid BB 8 on the desert planet of Jakku.

BB 8 finds Ray (Daisy Ridley), a desert scavenger, who wants to help the droid. In addition they meet Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who abandons the First Order, disgusted by the senseless killing.

The actors are all wonderful in their various roles. Adam Driver specifically shines as Kylo Ren, giving scary but surprisingly human depth to the role. Oscar Isaac has always been a great actor, this film makes him look like a perfect movie star. Everyone in the film does great with what they have.

The film also looks great, cinematography miles beyond anything George Lucas ever pulled off. Each fight scene and chase sequence is paced well and engaging.

If there is one problem with the main components of Episode VII, it’s the writing, specifically the dialogue (although I’ll get to the plot problems in a moment). A lot of attempts at comedy are made, a lot fall flat due to needless repetition or the joke getting extended a bit too long.. Director JJ Abrams is so afraid of alienating any audience member that he spoon feeds us plot points, comedy, events, and most other things just to make sure no one gets left behind or confused. If simply a little more faith was given to the audience, the dialogue would work much better.

The plot is not bad as much as it is overly familiar. It is basically the exact same as Star Wars IV A New Hope. I can’t talk much about the similarities without getting into spoilers, but it’s clear from the beginning. A New Hope opened with a droid escaping the evil Empire, carrying a secret message, getting left on a desert planet, and finding a helpful scavenger. The Force Awakens opens with a droid escaping the evil First Order, carrying a secret message getting left on a desert planet, and finding a helpful scavenger.

Abrams and crew seem so afraid of alienating any Star Wars fans that they didn’t even attempt to do anything unique. They went back, analyzed the original Star Wars components, updated them, changed a few things around, and assembled The Force Awakens out of all the parts. Star Wars is a great universe, where possibilities are almost endless for different adventures. It disappoints me that the filmmakers decided to just tell the same story a second time.

If The Force Awakens is essentially a reboot of A New Hope, at least it’s better than the original movie. It’s fun, fast paced, and frantic. Everything you love about Star Wars is probably in the film, just waiting to be discovered. Unoriginality does not make a bad movie, it just tainted the experience for me a little bit. What the film really does well though is point to Episode VIII probably being an even better, bigger, narratively and thematically rich film that continues the intriguing story of The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, we have to wait two years. 7/10

 

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Image Credit: Rooners Toy Photography on Flickr

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