Ever After (1998)

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  • Directed by Andy Tennant
  • Starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, and Anjelica Huston
  • Written by Susannah Grant, Andy Tennant
  • Drama, Romance
  • Rated PG-13
  • 121 mins.
  • 31 July 1998

Synopsis

A non-fairy-tale telling of the story of Cinderella, Ever After is a frame story of an old woman telling the Brothers Grimm the ‘real’ story of her great-great-grandmother, the woman behind the legend of Cinderella. In this story, Danielle, a young girl whose father died when she was little, gets wrapped up in a lie when the prince, Henry, finds her while she’s pretending to be a courtier and as he continues to seek her out, they fall in love, all while her stepmother is trying her best to set him up to marry her daughter Marguerite.

How’s the Story?

I love this story so much. I’m not even that big of a fan of Cinderella (nothing wrong with it, it’s just not a favorite of mine or anything), but I love this ‘real’ version because it just has so many nuances and so much depth. Every character has a deeper purpose, and I love that so much. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and though this one has some obvious historical accuracy issues (you know, like everybody having an English accent, haha) it is still an extremely believable setting as long as you don’t nitpick.

How’s the Acting?

The performances in this movie are incredible. Drew Barrymore has always been someone I consider a great actor, and this film is no exception. Her delivery of Danielle as this girl who is so young and optimistic but not at all naive or innocent to the worlds hardships is just so raw and powerful. I also really appreciate Anjelica Huston as Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, because though she is overall ‘evil’, you have enough moments to show that she isn’t pure evil. There are parts of her that have a soul and a heart and I really appreciate how she shows that.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie is so well written holy crap. Guys, honestly, there are a thousand lines in this film that get you right in the heart and that writing is amazing, but if the director didn’t have them delivered the exact way they are it wouldn’t work as well.

A good example would be Dougray Scott’s delivery of the line where Henry says, “You’re just like them.” to Danielle. It’s so gut-wrenching and any other delivery of that line would be wasted.

Also there is just this one exchange that eternally makes me want to rip my heart out and throw it away because it’s just so painful, and in this moment Danielle says to her stepmother, “You are the only mother I have ever known. Was there ever a time, even in its smallest measurement, that you loved me at all?” and you know she’s evil, but you HOPE SO DESPERATELY that perhaps she will say SOMETHING to show she does care and instead her reply is, “How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?”

This movie is full of lines I could quote until the cows come home. It’s just so beautifully crafted and the direction is perfectly on point.

How’s the Cinematography?

This movie is a classic 90s style romance film as far as the cinematography goes, and that is not a bad thing at all. Most 90s romance films had this warm color scheme, this heavy utilization of softer lighting techniques, and a measure of vibrancy in color that I really enjoy. There’s something visually appealing about the basic look of this film that I really enjoy.

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fun use of natural outdoor lighting in the early morning or evening. In the shots in nature, there’s this beautiful utilization of the surroundings that’s just really enjoyable.

Is It Worth Watching?

Ever After is legitimately one of my favorite romance movies ever. I am not exaggerating how much I love this film when I say I would recommend it to anyone, even if you don’t usually like historical films, even if you don’t usually like romance films, just anyone at all. Yes, there are obviously some ‘wtf’ things that are weird, like the British accents and some phrases that are most likely not at all period-accurate, but it’s not a documentary, it’s a different take on a fairy-tale. Things like the inclusion of Leonardo DaVinci as a sort of real life stand-in for the fairy godmother are things that I like about this film, even if they’re sort of out there.

Most of all, this is a movie about family and love and the many shapes and forms they can take, and in that respect, Ever After delivers a very dynamic, nuanced, and human story that I believe anyone can at least appreciate, even if it ends up not being to their tastes.

My Rating: 8/10

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

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  • Directed by Matthew Vaughn
  • Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Written by Jane Goldman
  • Action, Comedy
  • Rated R
  • 129 mins.
  • 13 February 2015

Synopsis

A young man with a troubled home life is drawn into a life of spies and super villains after a chance encounter brings an illustrious spy with a need for an apprentice into his life. Eggsy Unwin must outlast other candidates to join a spy network called Kingsman all while his mentor tries to figure out what the newest threat to the world is and how to stop it.

How’s the Story?

I love this story for so many reasons. I’m a big lover of spy stuff, and a big lover of comedy, and a big lover of Colin Firth (mmmmm, Colin Firth), so you put all those things together and give me an incredibly funny and really interesting spy story with excellent action sequences and you have my attention. I love the relationships between the friends and the enemies, and I really love the interesting idea for the Big Bad Villain’s evil plot.

Overall, this is a unique and intriguing story that I really enjoy.

How’s the Acting?

While this film doesn’t really draw on any BIG performances, I really think they’re all pretty good. This movie is just full of big talents. Obviously, between Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Samuel L. Jackson, you’ve got an all-star cast there. Also, Taron Egerton is an amazing actor! He is a fairly young guy without a lot of stuff under his belt, but I’ve actually seen everything he’s in – not even on purpose, I discovered this when I went to find more stuff he’s in and realized I’ve seen it all – and he’s FANTASTIC!

(You ever seen Testament of Youth? He will rip your soul out in that film)

The only thing that really is kind of ‘wtf’ in this movie is Samuel L. Jackson’s weird lisp thing. I don’t really know what the point of that choice was, but it’s not that bad.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This film is so well written. I love James Bond movies, but they have so many things that piss me off, and though this is meant to be kind of a ‘parody’ of James Bond, mostly what it does is take out all the shitty things about spy movies and inject humanity into the characters.

My favorite thing about this entire film is the fact that everybody in it recognizes the lives around them and the consequences of their actions. Sure, the bad guys don’t care as much, but even then, they made the villain someone who hates violence and upon shooting someone says, “That feels terrible!” because killing someone in cold blood can’t feel good for even the most cold-hearted villain, but in spy movies even the good guys shoot people without even flinching. And as for the ‘good guys’, we have a spy that’s inevitably killed dozens of people at least in his lifetime, but upon killing a bunch of pretty horrible people he is visibly shaken and horrified at what he just did, whereas James Bond blows up a building full of people and walks it off like he didn’t just kill fifty innocent people. This guy kills not-so-innocent people and shows an actual human-like reaction, and it’s wonderful.

Another thing I love about the way this film is written is how it takes the typical spy movie sexism and totally wipes it off the board. There’s basically no real reference to gender differences at all. Even beyond ‘yeah, a girl who kicks ass!’ which is nice but not always ACTUALLY a positive gender role example, we have something as simple as the fact all the recruits are living in one dormitory with group showers and a row of toilets and there are members of both gender living in that dorm. There’s literally no concept of gender separation between the spies, even when it comes to seducing a target. Male or female, they’re all sent to seduce the same person. While this might not even register as something important to many viewers, I LOVE this, because it’s like the antithesis of gender roles and sexism in spy films to have not just badass lady spies who aren’t sexualized but to literally have the gender of the spies be absolutely ignored.

The only thing that I question in the direction of the film is whether or not they meant for it to be so goddamn homoerotic. I’m not sure what the directors thought they were getting out of Colin Firth and Taron Egerton’s scenes together, but rather than ‘kindly uncle figure’ they get ‘sugar daddy’. I’m not complaining, if I was Eggsy I’d TOTALLY have a crush on Harry, but I’m still pretty sure that wasn’t the intent. It comes with the way they interact. The scenes are set up somewhat ambiguous but their tones of voice and expression reads hardcore sexual tension in most every scene they’re alone in.

A good example of this would be the scene where Eggsy shows up at the tailor shop. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, let me set a scene for you:

Young man who just escaped from his mom’s abusive boyfriend comes to a tailor shop after hours because the older gent who got him out of jail earlier told him to. He gets there and it’s dark in the shop with the only light being from the fire beside which a handsome man on the far side of middle age sits sipping a whisky. The young man looks at him and says, in a soft, almost flirtatious tone, “I’ve never known any tailors, but I know you ain’t one” to which the older man chuckles and rises and then proceeds to take the young man into one of the dressing rooms in the tailor shop, stand him in front of a mirror, and in an equally soft tone asks him to look at himself while standing right behind him and starts talking about his potential to do great things and how he would love to show him a new world in which he can do great things, all while referencing Pretty Woman

Come on, what the fuck else would you see that as than sugar daddy??? And that’s just one scene, basically every time they’re in a scene that’s just the two of them, it comes across the exact same way. I really feel like the director either missed the mark ENTIRELY or I missed the mark that says that’s exactly what it was meant to be read as.

How’s the Cinematography?

This film has these really awesome action scenes with a very active camera and very interesting pans and swivels that provide some long-takes that are actually not long-takes because they hide secret cuts, and it’s just really fun and different. It’s not your standard action film camera work. If anything, I would say it kind of reminds me of a Wes Anderson film in places, especially with the utilization of pans as well as the colors used. I just really love how this film looks. It’s got really great cinematography in my opinion.

Is It Worth Watching?

Kingsman: The Secret Service is genuinely one of my favorite movies. I own it on DVD and I have watched it possibly more than I’ve seen any other film I own besides Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier. It’s just such a fun movie, and it’s a great film for spy movie lovers who hate the coldness of traditional spy movies. It has so much heart and so many amazing characters. I didn’t talk much about Roxy and Merlin in the review because it was running a little long, but all of the characters, including those two, are so interesting and you just really love them.

It’s silly and fun and the action is great and the characters are wonderful and it’s gay as FUCK, and it’s just all around such a great time! I cannot impress upon you enough how much I love this movie. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it! If you have seen it, go watch it again!

My Rating: 8/10

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Being 17

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  • Directed by André Téchiné
  • Starring Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila, Sandrine Kiberlain
  • Written by Céline SciammaAndré Téchiné
  • Drama, Queer
  • NR (I’d say Rated R)
  • 116 mins.
  • 30 March 2016

Synopsis

A boy named Thomas, whose mother is ill and whose grades at school are suffering, is invited to live with the doctor who takes care of his mother and her son Damien. However, at school, Thomas and Damien are always at odd with each other, and more than once it has come to blows. When Marianne invites Thomas to live with her and Damien, Damien and Thomas must face the real reason that they don’t get along.

How’s the Story?

The story in Being 17 is really interesting. I genuinely found myself unsure of where things were going at points, and I liked that. This isn’t your typical teen queer romance story, it’s a story that has far more to the plot than just teenage self-discovery, and I found myself genuinely caring about the rest of the story as well.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is great, actually. The performance of Marianne is particularly beautifully done. She’s so believable and you feel like she’s a real person. That said, I’m not at all downplaying how good the boys playing Thomas and Damien are, too. This film, overall, is really well performed.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This is where I get kind of annoyed. This film is very interesting and the story is very cleverly told, but there are things that feel unearned. I’m not even sure if that’s the way I really want to say it, but unearned is the best way I can describe it. Perhaps abandoned? Or unexplored? Maybe all three of those in tandem. Either way, I get frustrated with the film taking directions or introducing things that never get explored well enough and then having conclusions met in a way that seems like it wasn’t earned. And a few scenes are just entirely out of place.

For example, the bear thing is never really explored. There’s this introduction of this motif or theme or SOMETHING they intended about Thomas claiming he saw a bear and then him finding bear tracks in the woods near Marianne and Damien’s house… and that’s it. It’s never studied further. I’m not sure if I’m missing the point of that or what, but it felt entirely abandoned or not explored or however you want to phrase that. Also there’s the whole scene where Marianne is having a sex dream about her husband that is entirely random. It has no place in that place in the movie and I genuinely didn’t get what it was meant to give to the story there.

And most of all, I feel like the way that Thomas and Damien get together doesn’t really feel earned? By the time they get together it makes sense, but there’s a change somewhere in the middle that I just feel like wasn’t really explained. It’s like the character development wasn’t shown, you are just told it happened sometime off screen, and it works okay, but it doesn’t feel earned because I wanted to see it more than I did.

However, for all those negatives, the writing is still very original and the direction is good. I just think there were things that were introduced but never explored to the extent it should have been to warrant being there.

How’s the Cinematography?

The cinematography is stunning. I actually said to a couple of friends while we were doing a podcast recording that this movie felt like someone found this beautiful place in France and knew someone who was a great DP and went, “I’m going to write a film JUST so I can shoot it here!” The nature scenes are absolutely incredible.

Beyond the beautiful location, however, I really like the way this film often stays in tight on people’s faces while they’re walking and talking and stuff. It’s very reminiscent of this short film I saw in a production class called Magnesium. It was ENTIRELY in this girls face the whole time, and while this doesn’t do that, there is that same sense of ‘we are entirely connected to this person and experiencing what THEY experience’ in keeping so close to their faces.

Also, I’m not sure if I love it or think it’s misplaced, but there’s a very interesting use of jump cuts in this film. It’s only in a few scenes, so it feels kinda weird, but I like the kind of feel it gives those scenes. It feels like a nod to the French New Wave and it’s just a very interesting way to make the scenes it’s used in more interesting.

Is It Worth Watching?

I would recommend this to anyone who likes queer film. It’s not only a good FILM for queer film (often queer films are acted/shot/written like really crappy D-movies), but it’s also a queer film where there are no stereotypes played into, nobody gets AIDS, nobody kills themselves, ect. It’s a film that is about more than just somebody being queer. It’s a film about characters and their lives at this point in time and the two teens happen to be queer.

I also recommend it to anybody that is interested in very different film-making approaches with the strange writing and the random use of jump cuts. It’s definitely not your average film as far as just film-making goes. It’s very much a ‘cinephile’ film and I think even if the subject matter isn’t as appealing to you, the film-making would keep you interested.

My Rating: 7/10

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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  • Directed by James Gunn
  • Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Kurt Russell
  • Written by James Gunn
  • Action, Marvel
  • Rated PG-13
  • 136 mins.
  • 5 May 2017

Synopsis

The Guardians of the Galaxy meet a man who claims to be Peter’s father, and through their quest to discover the truth about this mysterious Ego, they learn more about themselves and their team.

How’s the Story?

The story is actually kind of not there. I don’t mean this movie lacks a plot, it’s just that the entire story is basically, “Peter’s got a dad and we don’t know if we can trust him or not.” There’s a lot more individual character development things, but on a whole, this entire movie was pretty much just “Peter has a dad.”

How’s the Acting?

The acting is pretty solid all around. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill is always great, I really enjoyed Kurt Russell as Ego, and Michael Rooker as Yondu stole the show! He was really great, and I liked the acting in this movie overall pretty well.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing and directing are kind of all over the place. This movie frustrates me, because parts of it are INCREDIBLE! The jokes are mostly hilarious and there are spots where you just clutch your chest it’s so full of heart. I laughed myself to tears at some points, and actually had real tears at others. It was so well done in some places!

But then there are moments that are just so ill-placed and ill-timed and unnecessary. The gold people (Don’t remember who they are, don’t really care) were just crap. They were crap. There was no reason for them to be there other than a plot-device to explain Nebula being with the Guardians. Every time the gold people showed up, they just dragged all the good things down, and it was just really poorly done.

There was this scene with the high priestess lady where she’s walking along a carpet (and MAN that was the weirdest ‘walk’ ever) and the carpet roller-outer person gets stuck and it’s meant to be funny but it just really, really wasn’t. It fell so flat. Whoever wrote all the parts with the gold people just really missed the mark, and the direction managed to miss all the right marks with those people.

How’s the Cinematography?

This film is so visually stunning! It’s so beautiful, just as the first was. The CG doesn’t seem like CG and the space scenes are so interesting. The jumps between worlds are absolutely the most visually clever thing I’ve seen in a long time.

There is also a scene at the end, I won’t spoil it for anybody, where something emotional is happening and it’s so beautiful. My friend compared it to the funeral scene in Thor 2, which is still, to this day, one of the most visually moving and emotional scenes ever. This scene I’m talking about was something that couldn’t have been as impactful as it is without the beautiful cinematography of that scene.

Is It Worth Watching?

For all my criticisms about the weird bad moments throughout the film, it’s still worth watching. It isn’t as good as the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s still good. It was a fun movie to go have fun to. It won’t be in the top 5 of anybody’s MCU ranking lists, I would say, but it’s still a solid movie to go laugh at.

I’ve actually never been in a cinema with as much of an active audience laughing at things. My family usually laughs audibly at everything and then nobody else more than titters, so we’re the weirdos laughing until we cry while others chuckle. FINALLY a movie drew the same reaction from the other moviegoers as it did from our laugh-happy asses.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good movie, and it’s well worth the price of admission.

My Rating: 7/10

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Gifted (2017)

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  • Directed by Marc Webb
  • Starring Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, and Lindsay Duncan
  • Written by Tom Flynn
  • Drama
  • Rated PG-13
  • 101 mins
  • 21 April 2017

Synopsis

A man named Frank has been raising his niece Mary on his own without event until he sends Mary to school and they discover her gift for mathematics. After his mother Evelyn discovers that Mary has the same gifts as her mother did, she and Frank get into a custody battle where the choice is between embracing potential genius or growing as a normal child.

How’s the Story?

I really enjoy this story! I like the direction this story takes. If you enjoy sentimental films about family, this film is for you! I loved the father/daughter dynamic going on, and it really touched me.

On a deeper level, I enjoy how the basis of the story is family and how a father (uncle, but father in every way that counts) wants his child to grow up after seeing what the kind of gift she has could destroy her the way it did his mother. I’m familiar with and interested in the way that gifted children often end up being the most destructive adults because they’re not allowed to grow as a person the way that normal kids are. Yes, there may be some aspect of genius that inherently hinders the psycho-social brain growth, but often the issue with gifted children is that they aren’t treated like children as they grow and therefore they are unable to adapt to adulthood well. I love that the way this story goes is between family members who either value the intelligence more or the personality more in this little girl. Most of all, I love how this story doesn’t make the grandmother evil, just misguided.

There are parts of the plot that are a little ‘eh’ but overall, it’s a good story.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is phenomenal. Chris Evans delivers a real ‘Chris Evans’ performance, and McKenna Grace as this little girl is just mindbogglingly good! The other performances are all pretty good, but those two really steal the show.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Here’s where this movie starts to lose some points with me. It’s still good, but there’s more potential in the writing and direction than there is payoff. I think where this story suffers is too many characters. There was no need for so much involvement from Bonnie, Mary’s teacher, and there was REALLY no need for the semi-romance between her and Frank. It was cute, sure, but it wasn’t needed.

Also, Roberta was underutilized. I feel like if they had made Bonnie less of a character and put Robert more into the story, it could have been way better of a film. Roberta starts out as someone important and then she becomes more of a convenient character and then at the end they try to make her importance relevant again without earning it. Roberta is written to love Mary like an aunt or godmother, and yet the only time that’s important to the story is in a few random scenes, and then they swap the focus to Bonnie more in that role, and then at the end Bonnie just kind of goes away and Roberta comes back for the climax. The writing suffers from that because the story feels disjointed from the overabundance of characters.

That said, the direction overall is pretty okay and the same goes for the writing apart from that character issue. In particular there’s one scene I love both for writing and direction in the middle of the film that kind of feels like a darling that wasn’t killed, but I’m happy that it wasn’t, and that is the scene where Frank and Mary are on a sand bar and the scene is all in silhouette of them standing in the setting sun and her hanging and climbing all over Frank and asking him if there’s a god. I like how he talks about faith and belief and how he doesn’t know and he refuses to tell her what he thinks, and when she asks why, he says something along the lines of not wanting to influence her opinion and beliefs with his, because that’s for her to find out.

I feel like this is a very great developmental moment, because it really nails home that Frank’s main concern is allowing Mary to be a person first instead of a genius, and the way it’s written and the way it’s directed really just stands out to me. I love that scene even if it probably should’ve been a killed darling.

How’s the Cinematography?

I enjoyed the cinematography of this film, but there’s nothing that really stands out to me apart from all the times I kept going, “Oh, I know where that is!” because this movie, though set in Florida, was filmed in Savannah, Georgia. If you aren’t aware, the film industry in my dear state has now reached I believe third in North America for number of projects being filmed there, only behind California and Vancouver, and a popular destination for movies to be filmed in recent years is Tybee Island and Savannah. Being that Savannah is my favorite place in the world and Tybee Island is a day-trip-to-the-beach destination for my family, this movie’s visual looks are something I’m distracted from because every shot that isn’t inside a building I’m going, ‘Oh, I know where that street is, that’s right across from that restaurant I like’ or something.

Overall, I would say the cinematography is pretty standard but enjoyable, however the more ‘showy’ visuals are something I’m distracted from fully appreciating because I’m just looking at it in a ‘I know that place!’ way.

Is It Worth Watching?

Gifted is a film I would recommend for the person who enjoy sentimental films about family and the many forms it can take. I’m a sappy person who loves movies like this, so I loved it, but I can see how the cinephile might absolutely hate it. It’s not in any way perfect, it’s very emotional, it pays far more attention to the family and feelings than it does the genius child aspect, and if you are looking for an Oscar movie, this probably isn’t the film for you.

That said, if you are the type of person who likes solid films with that ‘indie film’ vibe, sappy stories, Chris Evans, hilarious sassy children characters, and predictably happy endings, you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did! I cried three times watching this movie and I loved it! The acting is great, the story is solid enough, the ‘bad guy’ isn’t a pure-villain, the conflict makes sense, and it’ll tug at your heart-strings, so all in all, it’s a good ‘Sunday afternoon’ type of movie (which is when I saw it, so it was fitting!).

Also there’s a one-eyed cat, how can you not love a movie with an adorable one-eyed cat???

My Rating: 7/10

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Whale Rider (2002)

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  • Directed by Niki Caro
  • Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, and Vicky Haughton
  • Written by Niki Caro
  • Drama
  • Rated PG-13
  • 101 mins.
  • (US) 29 August 2003

Synopsis

A young Maori girl who lives with her grandparents after the tragedy of her birth, in which her mother and twin brother died, made her father unable to stay and care for her, must prove to her grandfather that she is the rightful future chief of their people in spite of a centuries long tradition of male leaders. Named after their legendary ancestor, Paikea, Pai knows she is destined to lead her people, and yet their community and her grandfather, who is her favorite person in the world, are bound by tradition to deny her what she knows is her rightful place.

How’s the Story?

This story is amazing. I love the look into the culture of this community, and the beliefs of these Maori people, and most of all the story of a young girl trying to prove her place in a patriarchal society. It’s something so beautifully told, because there are just so many issues touched on in this film. It isn’t some trope-laden story about a girl being held back by society. This film is a carefully nuanced tale about family and love and there is no ‘villain’, there are just struggles for every single character, and at the center of it is this little girl who is eleven years old and just wants to do the right thing for herself and her people.

It’s just a beautiful story that will rip your heart out and yet it’s never ‘heavy’ or depressing. It’s a story full of hope and reality, and it’s amazing.

How’s the Acting?

Dear God, Keisha Castle-Hughes delivers the best child acting performance I’ve EVER seen. Like, everybody knows I think Kirsten Dunst in Interview is the best child performance ever, but honestly, this one is better than that. This little girl has this amazing quality where she seems so wise and beyond her years, and yet it doesn’t feel like an adult performance, she still has that very obvious ‘child’ side to her. She delivers this stoic vulnerability that I don’t think most adults could ever pull off, she’s just THAT good.

There’s this one scene where Pai has just had her heart broken by her grandfather, who is the person she looks up to most in the world, and she goes outside and sits in this boat that’s a symbol for her people (long story, won’t bother you with it right now, just watch the film) and her father, who is visiting them, comes out after her. They start talking, and by the end of it her father is the one who is nearly sobbing while she sits there with just a few tears in this moment of stoicism and is the one comforting him even though she’s the child.

There are great performances by so many people, but honestly? You don’t need to know anything about anybody besides this amazing little girl who delivers such an amazing performance she was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress.

(And honestly, she should’ve won. The winner that year was Charlize Theron in Monster which is by no means anywhere near as good as Keisha Castle-Hughes as Pai.)

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing in this film is so well done. There are so many perfect lines in the script and there are so many choices in how the characters’ arcs go that makes the film what it is. This can also be down to direction as well. There are scenes where it would be so easy for the director to make it go big, but instead it went small. Since the director and writer are the same, I can really say that this person meant for it to be exactly how it is, and it’s so good.

There’s this wonderful moment that stands out in the writing for me where Pai’s grandmother walks in while she’s in the bathtub and sits down to wash her hair for her since Pai has been hurt by her grandfather’s rejection, and when her grandmother is talking to her and trying to remind her that her grandfather isn’t always right, and that Pai should believe in herself, the whole time Pai is very stoic and quiet and seems so heartbroken but in this reserved way. And then she says this one line that I’ll never forget, and that is, “It’s not his fault I’m a girl.”

It’s so powerful and just crushing, because as I mentioned before, this film is written in a way that there is no villain. We understand that Koro, her grandfather, loves her more than anything in the whole world. Even when he’s angry at her, he loves this child more than anything. However, he’s the elder in the community, he’s responsible for their people’s well-being, and traditions are not something you challenge. He loves Paikea, but he has the responsibility to do what’s best for their people, and it’s not easy for him to choose everybody else over his granddaughter. And when Pai says that line, you understand that this little girl gets it.

There are obviously so many other things in this film that are just wonderful, but this film manages to impress upon the audience such an overwhelmingly heavy thing to understand in just seven little words from the mouth of a child, and it’s just absolutely masterful.

How’s the Cinematography?

This film is absolutely beautifully shot. There are these beautiful scenes of the island, and visually stunning landscape shots, but there are also these shots inside houses that make you really feel like you’re in someone’s home. It doesn’t feel like a film set, it feels real. I feel like I’m actually in a home, and honestly that’s such a small thing to think about, but for me, that’s a mark of solid cinematography.

There are also these very impressive shots in water and this wonderful scene involving whales. I won’t spoil it for those of you who want to see the film, but the way they manage it all feels so organic and impressive. This is just a beautifully shot film and I cannot express that enough.

Is It Worth Watching?

Whale Rider is one of my favorite films of all time. I would put this in my top 20 films everybody should ever see, top 10 films with a child protagonist, top 10 non-American films, and it’s in my top 5 feminist films. The story this film tells is something so unique to this culture and this community, and yet the themes are something that are universal.

The themes of grandparents as parents, the themes of personal tragedy, the themes of societal expectations, the themes of family vs duty, the themes of a child trying to prove their worth, there are just so many universal things in this film that everybody can feel. This film has so much emotion, so much love, so much pain, and so much hope. It’s a film that will make anybody cry at least once, and yet it’s not heavy and depressing. It’s a film about life and about family and about community, and I cannot express in words how phenomenal every single part of this film is.

Keisha Castle-Hughes delivers a performance that is unparalleled, Paikea is one of the most fascinating child characters I’ve ever seen, this film feels so organic and human, and I don’t think there is a more universally enjoyable film that I have seen.

This film is on Netflix (US), and if you haven’t seen it now, you should go see it immediately, because you need to see this film.

My Rating: 9/10

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Going in Style (2017)

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  • Directed by Zach Braff
  • Starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin
  • Written by Theodore Melfi
  • Comedy, Crime
  • Rated PG-13
  • 96 mins.
  • 7 April 2017

Synopsis

When their bank buys up the company they worked for, discontinues their pensions, and forecloses on one of their homes, three elderly gents, Willie, Joe, and Albert, formulate a plan to rob the bank to get back at the bank and get the money they deserve from their pension fund that has been done away with.

How’s the Story?

I love this story. It’s a genuinely believable tale that so many people can identify with. When the banks steal from everyday, hardworking people and leave them penniless, the whole community suffers, and yet it’s something that we as Americans are sadly very used to after the financial crisis about a decade ago. Add that we have elderly people who can’t afford their rent and bills, who can’t afford to eat what they want, and who can’t afford the healthcare they need in this story, and it’s just another situation we are all at least somewhat familiar with. In fact, Joe makes a comment that, “Worst case scenario, we get arrested and get a bed, 3 meals a day, and better healthcare than we get now for the rest of our lives” and it reminded me of this real life story of an old man with cancer who robbed a bank for $1 just so he could go to prison and have his cancer treated.

And yet, with such a heart-wrenching basis to this story, it still manages to end up being a lighthearted, fun, happy tale of friendship and family and getting back at the corrupt system in tale of classic underdog success. It was both touching and absolutely hilarious, which is honestly the best kind of story.

How’s the Acting?

I really enjoyed the acting. I’ve never had any real opinion of Michael Caine, but he was really good as Joe in this one. Of course, Morgan Freeman can do no wrong, generally, but I really felt like this wasn’t a ‘phone it in’ performance for him, this one was good. Alan Arkin was the best ‘grumpy old man’ you could hope for him to be, as well. I liked these performances, because comedic timing isn’t easy to get down, and these guys all managed to get it right. They always say, anybody can be dramatic, but it takes skill to be comedic.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I’ll start with directing, because to me, the direction of this film was pretty standard. Nothing bad, but nothing that stands out. Generally, to me, unless it stands out as SPECTACULAR, direction that isn’t noticed is a good thing.

The writing, however, was spectacular! I loved the dialogue in this film, I loved some of the jokes in this film, and I absolutely DIED laughing at so many parts. The little bits with Kenan Thompson were all so funny. The “What would your mama say?” “Go big or go home.” “It had to be the brother.” exchange was just hilarious. I giggled my way through so much of this movie, and most of it was down to the writing, as with most comedies.

Honestly, though, if anybody can watch this movie without laughing themselves blue in the face, I sincerely question whether or not your humor-box is broken.

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s nothing spectacular, but that’s to be expected. There aren’t a lot of comedies that are cinematically masterful. There was nothing wrong with the cinematography by any means, but it was pretty standard. There were a few shots that were really beautiful that showed the cityscape, and some interesting locations, but there was nothing over the top incredible.

The cinematography served its purpose here.

Is It Worth Watching?

YES! This was one of the first comedies I’ve seen in a long time that isn’t dirty comedy, and I LOVE comedy that isn’t all dick jokes and stuff like that. (Not to say I don’t appreciate those comedies, I do!) This movie was hilarious, and I’d go so far as to say it’s family-friendly comedy. This is the kind of movie I would’ve loved to watch with my mom. In fact, I tried to get her to come with me, but she didn’t want to come meet me at the movies.

It’s a genuinely touching story with a very comedic delivery, and I love the character dynamics, I love the emotional moments (I almost cried at one point but that was mostly because somebody reminded me of my Papa, who his dead, so maybe I was compromised there), I love the way it’s hilarious without making fun of the elderly, and I absolutely laughed my ass off at the banker – you know the one if you saw it – and his whole presence in the film.

I can’t wait for this movie to come out on home video, because I plan to buy the Blu-Ray ASAP, it’s that good of a comedy.

My Rating: 8/10

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