War and Peace (1966)

War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

War and Peace Movie Review

War and Peace is a 1966 Soviet war drama film directed by Sergei Bondarchuk. It truly is an epic, but also wildly uneven work.

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Uncertainty, that’s what one fears most

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War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

It is based on one of the most famous and acclaimed novels ever written and it succeeds as a pretty admirable adaptation of it. It is famous for being the Soviet movie with the biggest budget and that money definitely paid off as the movie is gorgeous to behold. The cinematography in particular is phenomenal and every shot is great and some are even stunning. The camera movements are polished and the imagery, of the battles in particular, is frequently impressive.

I also loved that it was both a war picture and a costume drama. The costumes are exquisite and I found the interiors to be terrific. The dance sequences were some of my favourites here. I also really liked the score and the film is all around technically impressive and ambitious in scope and certainly epic in its tone.

But where War and Peace struggles is in its storytelling and characterization which is why it is definitely a respectable, but still somewhat forgettable and uneven work. Because it is divided in four parts and because of its staggering running time of seven hours, it is naturally uneven, weakly paced and edited. Some segments are better than the others.

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War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

Andrei Bolkonsky is the first and best part for sure and all of the others failed in comparison to it. Natasha Rostova was just overly melodramatic in my opinion. The entire movie suffered from many typical plot points and plot progressions and an overall feeling that it is at its core a style over substance. The characters are also unimpressive. Some are very well developed, but none of them left a bigger impression on me and I have to say that all of them are immensely forgettable, at least to me personally. It received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and although not particularly deserved, it is still one of the better films to win that award during the sixties.

War and Peace is a pretty good film that is style over substance and naturally wildly uneven both in pacing and in storytelling, but it is epic in tone and scope, visually arresting and filled with great imagery, well scored and mostly such an admirable war and period piece that it managed to transcend its many obvious flaws.

My Rating – 4

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Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures is a 2016 biopic starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. It is a clichéd film in every way.

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Here at NASA we all pee the same color

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Hidden Figures Movie Review……………………………………………………………..
This is one of those movies that are so predictable not only in the actual execution, but also in the expected rating and quality. I knew I was going to give it a 3.5 and I ended up giving it that exact rating in the end. It is that kind of middling movie that is so familiar and such a shameless crowd pleaser, but still well acted, imporant and competently made. It is basically the ‘Bridge of Spies’ of 2016.
The three characters themselves are never properly developed, though the actresses playing them are certainly immensely likable in their roles. Octavia Spencer was nominated basically just for being a popular actress and everyone is talking about Janelle Monae and her role is also very slight and not the best. I do not understand that, but clearly Taraji P. Henson gave the best performance and her role was the biggest and best established. She should have been nominated.
This is obviously an important story. These three African American female mathematicians were hugely influential in NASA and it is certainly admirable that we finally see their stories. But although you have that importance factor and it is a charming, certainly extremely likable film, it is predictable from beginning to end and that hurt it a lot.
Hidden Figures is well acted, directed and shot. It is okay in its execution, although not the best. The script is solid and the movie can also be quite funny at times while constantly being likable in its characters. But the dialogue is so on the nose and lacking any subtlety whatsoever that it actually annoyed me hearing some of the more ridiculous lines spoken.

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Hidden Figures Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

I liked the glimpses into their personal lives and the issues were mostly well emphasized. But I would have liked to have seen more of the space stuff as I am a big fan of astronomy myself. But here we mostly only get boring mathematics and some of those scenes were done in the most obnoxious, arrogant manner possible which unpleasantly reminded me of ‘The Martian’.

But overall it is a solid film and although long, it is quite engaging and harmless. It did not deserve to be nominated for Best Picture at all in a very strong year and it is certainly the weakest nominee after the mediocre ‘Hell or High Water’.
Hidden Figures is an expectedly solid and clichéd film. It is very well acted with Taraji P. Henson actually being the highlight, the characters are very likable and this is definitely an important story, but it is told in the most predictable manner possible with not enough astronomy in it, overly annoying science scenes and a total lack of subtlety filled with many ridiculous lines.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Birth of a Nation (2016)

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review………………………………………………….

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review

The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 historical drama film directed by Nate Parker and starring himself opposite Armie Hammer. It is a solid, but very troublesome movie.

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Praise the Lord!

Sing to him a new song!

Praise the Lord!

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The Birth of a Nation Movie Review………………………………………………….

It is based on the true story of Nat Turner, a slave who during the first half of the 19th century organized a rebellion in which around 50 white people were killed. The film is a troublesome experiment as it tries to do many things and it felt muddled in the aftermath. It wants to be a realistic historical drama with excessive violence, but it also wants to be artistic in its third act with some elements which are clearly fantastical in nature. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be and that unclear nature was evident from the beginning.

The characters are all very well realized and the acting is very good. Nate Parker was at first not great, but as the film progressed, his performance became better and better. Armie Hammer is also quite solid and everyone did a really good job in their roles. However, I’ve had the problem with this historical figure himself.

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The Birth of a Nation Movie Review………………………………………………….

Now obviously the film is controversial for its director, but this story is also controversial in and of itself. You have a black man who organized a riot and killed at least 50 white men, but that was understandable as he had no choice and some sort of rebellion had to occur, though it evidently led to nothing and just increased their suffering with more deaths of African Americans and even less rights. But where the man lost me personally was when he killed his “owner” Samuel Turner.

I liked the film for portraying some whites as good people and that they obviously did not like doing all of this torture, but had to because of the pressure of the society of the time. That is Samuel in a nutshell and he clearly was as good to Nat as a white man could be good during that time. And the fact that he still killed him first was baffling to me as he didn’t need to do that and all of them could have just left. I get the symbolism of a free slave, but he still committed that appalling murder of a man who wasn’t all that bad to begin with and that is why I didn’t connect with the protagonist at all.

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The Birth of a Nation Movie Review………………………………………………….

The Birth of a Nation also featured excessive violence in it. It was needed as that really happened, but they still could have made it differently as it turned out to be a movie about blacks versus whites and felt more primitive than sophisticated in my opinion as it had nothing to say and didn’t leave any messages or statements whatsoever. They just filmed it as it happened and that’s it. As for its third act, the ending itself is marvelous and so beautiful and well filmed, but I disliked the fantasy or spiritual elements as they felt out of place. I guess the film is technically polished and it does look good with a couple of awesome shots at the fields plus some great camera movements. But the directing isn’t the greatest, the film was a bit too long and it at times felt like a typical historical/slavery movie. It is solid and sometimes inspired, but sometimes very problematic.

The Birth of a Nation is a solid movie, but very troublesome in some areas. The film is very well shot and acted and it features such a beautiful ending, but that third act also featured some fantasy elements that felt out of place as the entire movie was realistic before that. It doesn’t know what it wants to be owing to unclear direction plus the violence, although needed, was still excessive. I really liked the movie in some parts, but in some I really disliked it as it turned into a primitive black versus white action movie and never really had anything meaningful to say about this rebellion. They just filmed it as it happened and they did that really well, but I wanted more from it and I didn’t connect with the protagonist at all and did not approve of some things that he did.

My Rating – 3.5

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Mulan (1998)

Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

Mulan Movie Review

Mulan is a 1998 animated musical historical comedy film that is the 36th Disney animated feature film. It is a very strong, sometimes admirable Disney effort.

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The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

This is a historical film in the rein of ‘Pocahontas’ where she may or may not have lived and the film took liberties adapting this story which is a famous Chinese story. And I loved the change in setting. This is basically a Chinese Disney film where all of the characters are from that country and some of the animation as well as the actors are also Chinese and I just loved that authenticity about it.

The plot itself is very good. The conflict is great and I found the film to be a solid historical as well as war picture, but mostly excelling in the drama and sometimes comedy department. It is a pleasant mix of genres in a typical Disney fashion and it succeeds in most of its areas. The highlights were of course the musical numbers, the sequence where Mulan cuts her hair is just so inspired, some of the action sequences are excellent, especially that with the avalanche, and of course the entire third act is beautiful and such an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

Fa Mulan is such a strong female main character and is actually one of the most, if not the most, feminist Disney princesses. She is brave and a great person who brought change, but unlike Pocahontas, she is actually very well developed as a character and is both likable and sometimes genuinely charming. Captain Li Shang is also very good and I liked him and the relationship between the two. I know that it maybe would have been better had they stayed just friends, but even though it was a bit rushed, the seeds were still solidly planted for their future romantic relationship.

Now Mushu is your typical Eddie Murphy animated character that came even before his Donkey persona in ‘Shrek’. Although a typical goofy sidekick, I mostly really liked him as he was quite funny at times with a larger than life personality and a good heart. Grandmother Fa is actually funnier than Mushu as she is one of the most underrated Disney supporting characters. She isn’t present a lot in this movie, but whenever she was on screen, she killed it with hilarious lines.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

I liked the Emperor of China in the third act and the villain Shan Yu, although disappointing in the ending, was a solid presence overall with a great menacing look and voice to him. And his animal henchman in the form of a falcon is very cool. But even though all of these characters are quite good, the problem with Mulan is that all of the other male characters as their fellow recruits were quite forgettable and not one of them stood out. That was unfortunate.

The animation in Mulan is quite good with a couple of reservations. The overall visuals are stellar and the film looks like a Disney film, but with strong Asian influences spread throughout too. I loved some of the interiors as well as the imagery, very striking. I also liked the costumes and the movements were well choreographed and the flick is well filmed. My one issue with it is the character design. Some characters such as Mulan and Mushu look really good, but others such as all of those recruits did not look that great. I don’t know why, but some of the character designs here did not personally appeal to me. And I found the fact that most of those men were either skinny or fat or entirely incompetent to be very unrealistic and frankly stupid given the historical period in question.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

Now let’s talk about the soundtrack. It is another good Disney Renaissance soundtrack with a couple of absolutely terrific songs in it, but more importantly a fantastic score. Yes, the score is absolutely phenomenal and most of the scenes were fittingly dramatic in their score or fittingly Asian as well. But Mulan’s Decision stands out as one of the finest compositions that Disney has ever put out as it is just such an iconic, powerful and instantly recognizable theme perfectly incorporated into its scene and story.

There are only five songs here and to me only two stood out as True to Your Heart is catchy, but a typical end-credits song that is forgettable and doesn’t have a context to it, Honor to Us All is a solid movie opener but is overall bland and not memorable and A Girl Worth Fighting For is actually quite catchy and fun, but overall not great.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

But of course Reflection and I’ll Make a Man Out of You are just superb across the board. The former is such a beautiful song accompanied with a great scene, imagery and character drama and it is a perfect vehicle for Mulan to help us connect with her emotionally. It has great lyrics, excellent singing and is catchy, but powerful and moving as well. But the latter is the standout musical number which is unlike any other Disney song and that works in its favor. It is overall such a great and important scene that is one of the best montages that I have ever seen, but the lyrics are excellent and the song even manages to incorporate otherwise boring recruits in it solidly. It is such an entertaining song that is just infectiously catchy to sing along and very original and exciting.

Mulan features some really good voice acting in it and everyone did a good job. And of course the singing is great. But it is also very solidly paced and always entertaining to watch and dramatic. It features a great message and is one of the most feminist Disney movies out there, but is done right instead of preachy. Mulan truly is a great role model for girls. The dialogue is also really strong and some of the lines here are actually quite inspired. And the film was emotionally rewarding, especially in its ending.

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Mulan Movie Review……………………………………………………………………

But there is one problem here that prevents it from being a classic and that is why it is inferior to most of the other Renaissance films and is only better than ‘Hercules’ and ‘Pocahontas’. I am of course talking about the humor. Now the humor is okay and sometimes even quite good, don’t get me wrong. But I just did not find it necessary for this particular film at all. This is the type of film that should have been very serious and somehow Disney put a lot of the humor in it and that signature touch of theirs did not connect in this instance as good as it mostly connects. Some of the characters are too goofy and only Mushu and Grandmother Fa have their comedic moments whereas others are forgettable and some scenes were too lighthearted. But all in all, the film is mostly satisfying and was a wonderful experience.

Mulan is too comedic and goofy at times and some characters are forgettable, but Mulan herself is such a strong female role model, the animation is quite good, the score is excellent, the message is strong and the action is solid. It features a good story, a great Chinese setting and feel to it and two fantastic songs in Reflection and I’ll Make a Man Out of You.

My Rating – 4

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Macbeth (2015)

Macbeth

Macbeth Review

Macbeth is a 2015 British drama film directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It is a solid, albeit problematic movie.

Being the adaptation of a famous Shakespeare tragedy, the movie follows it closely and is littered with appropriately old-fashioned and poetic dialogue. I liked that about it as most of the time it wasn’t that difficult to understand and the attention to detail is evident from the accents to the archaic words spoken to the poetic quality to it. What I did not like, however, are the actors’ pronunciations of those sentences and most importantly their whispering. All of them whisper throughout the whole running time which is super annoying and unrealistic as nobody speaks like that.

The character development is also troublesome. Most of the supporting characters are way too forgettable and it only becomes the show between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Although those two are well fleshed out, they are still lacking having in mind the source material and they should have been much better developed and much more complex. The whole film should have been more sophisticated.

The acting is excellent with Marion Cotillard giving a very good performance. And Michael Fassbender is superb as well, but I still found this to be one of his weaker roles which doesn’t mean that it’s bad because he always delivers, but he’s just not as good as in some of his other roles.

The film is poorly paced and is admittedly dull to watch. They should have made this material more accessible to the modern audience. The filmmakers didn’t quite present those most dramatic scenes particularly well and the war elements are also lacking. Macbeth is best when quiet and during the speeches, but the action is not that good unfortunately and those fights are clearly lacking the majesty they deserve. The cinematography is also done for better and for worse. It is such a love/hate approach as the colors are all over the place, but to me it isn’t as artistic as it clearly aspires to be. Some scenes are interesting with the ending being visually intriguing and some scenes in the middle are also well shot, but the first act is way too dark with uninspired scenery. The tone is also problematic as not that much emotion is present, despite in a couple of occasions. The more emotional approach would have made it much better. The score is also solid and the film is overall very well made. But it is well adapted and well directed by Justin Kurzel and as these Shakespeare adaptations go, Macbeth is an admirable film that is quite solid in the end and has its many strengths. But I just wish that it was better handled as it could have been great.

Macbeth is a solid film with its many strengths, but the one that is pretty troublesome in too many areas. It does have some interesting choices, the acting is really good and the film is well made with quite good dialogue, but it is not that well paced, the action is uninspired, the cinematography  is interesting, but at times problematic and the character development should have been better. 

My Rating – 3.5

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Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)

Baahubali: The Beginning

Baahubali: The Beginning Review

Baahubali: The Beginning is an Indian historical fiction film directed by S. S. Rajamouli and starring Prabhas. It is one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time and it truly is such a fun, charming experience.

The story itself is quite fascinating and although it is a typical story seen countless times, it is still infused with trademark Indian qualities which make it fresh and unique. I really found the first act a bit too difficult to comprehend as the actions and the overall storyline wasn’t properly explained. But it got better in the second and third act and the plot became much more engaging and much better realized.

The characters are all solid, but could and definitely should have been better developed. The protagonist is too typical, but I really found Avanthika to be such a great and likable character that is also such a strong female character. And all of the women here are so well realized which was a surprise as they were better developed and certainly more interesting than their male counterparts.

As is the case with Indian films, this one also has a distinct style which is achieved by a lot of singing and very big tonal shifts that happen quite often. And while that can be distracting and it does take its time to get there and for you to get used to it, I still liked it in the end as it provided many new flavors to this story.

First, let’s talk about the war and action aspects of the story. Yes, the end battle is most certainly extended beyond any reasonable running time, but it is still epic and so entertaining. The action sequences are phenomenal in Baahubali as they are not only well choreographed, but also at times inventive and immensely engaging. Every fight sequence is great here with the sword fights being so well executed. And the camera movements are great, letting you see everything properly. That definitely helps the movie a lot.

Next up is the romance. I loved it! Yes, I found that aspect to be the best here which was really unexpected for me. It is simply magical and the whole movie is like that, but the romance at the center of the story is so well done that you wish that there was more of it. The highlight for me was the moment where he exposes her feminine side in a scene that is undoubtedly the best and most memorable one in the entire film. That sequence is accompanied by a song that isn’t annoying for once, it is visually astounding, even poetic and above all very erotic, but wonderfully so as it isn’t overly sexual, but sensual and energetic and done just right.

But the musical elements unfortunately did not work for me as I found the music annoying and not accompanying the scenery or the time period properly as it was too modern and too fast. But the songs are just very annoying and not one of them is particularly memorable or distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack. The musical aspect was the weakest one here.

Baahubali: The Beginning is technically astonishing. The visual effects are just amazing and the kind of effects that I adore. It always looks bright and colorful and it’s always polished and looks great. The scenery is mesmerizing with many breathtaking shots that just never seized to amaze me. The waterfalls, the caves, the nature, the clothes and everything here is so bright and detailed and just beautiful to look at. The score is also really good and the tone is in the end quite solid for an Indian film. The dialogue could have been better, but the direction is great and the pacing is excellent with the appropriate amount of running time as the movie is truly epic in scope and possesses terrific world-building. It is emotional at times, but not as much as I expected it to be. But the imagination is evident and I just loved this world. The humor is also there and although the movie can be at times too silly with its ridiculous action scenarios, it was still incredibly entertaining and just so effervescent from start to finish. And it is also memorable and authentic and so epic that I am excited for the conclusion a lot.

Baahubali: The Beginning has weaker musical elements, the characterization could have been better and is at times too silly, but it has absolutely amazing mix of superbly executed and entertaining action and wonderful romance with a couple of truly poetic scenes. It is also unforgettable, authentic, so imaginative and filled with terrific special effects, mesmerizing imagery, beautiful score and it is just so engaging and so charming from beginning to end.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Baahubali: The Beginning

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In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea Review

In the Heart of the Sea is a 2015 adventure biopic directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland and Brendan Gleeson. It is a film that received mixed reviews, but is quite solid in my opinion.

Writer Herman Melville comes to visit innkeeper Thomas Nickerson in search of inspiration for his novel which is eventually going to be Moby Dick. The man tells him the story of how he survived the sinking of the whaling ship Essex after it was struck by a whale and how the crew had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. I have always found the stories of how the writers get their inspiration for the novel fascinating and it was like that here as well and those scenes I really did enjoy a lot. And the overall story is very entertaining and always dramatic and involving with a nice sense of adventure.

But the problem is that the story is told in a wrong way. It uses this storytelling device of the story being told rather poorly as the man who tells the story is not the emphasis of said story. Maybe they feared that the child actor wouldn’t deliver and thus shifted the emphasis to another character, but that choice is awkward having in mind how talented Tom Holland really is. That certainly was weak. But the characters are not better either.

Owen Chase is your typical good guy that is made too heroic and flawless and you never really learn a lot about him nor do you learn about anyone here which is a major problem. Captain George Pollard is also a typical creation, but at least the relationship between the two is interesting and has its moments. Thomas Nickerson is boring as a young boy and underused, but is solid as an old man and he tells the story in a typical, albeit professional way. And the rest of the characters are all nothing to write home about.

The acting is quite good with every actor giving a good performance. Chris Hemsworth is very good and proves how he can be used quite effectively in dramatic roles and especially in historical films. Brendan Gleeson is also solid and Tom Holland is good, but underused. And Benjamin Walker could have better as his role was quite big. But the acting is overall quite good.

In the Heart of the Sea is visually such an appealing film. Yes, it is obvious they you are watching the scenes created with CGI, but at least those effects are very good and serve their purpose. Yes, it is too dark at times, but there were also many light scenes as well and the effects overall are very good and the film always looks good with the sea scenes in particular being the highlights with the ports and whales wonderfully realized.

The pacing here is good and the movie rarely is abrupt or slow. It is solidly directed by Ron Howard and is well filmed. The score is also stupendous and the movie delivers in sound design. It is also quite emotional at times, but because the characterization is nowhere to be found, those heartwarming scenes don’t hit as much as they should. The movie is also pretty typical when you think about it and mostly very predictable. The dialogue also should have been stronger, but it has its moments, mainly the conversation between Polland and Chase about the relationship between man and nature which is one of the highlights without a doubt. But it should have been smarter, more emotional and more dramatic and it would have been much better as a result.

In the Heart of the Sea does have weaker characters, typical and predictable story and the lack of sophistication, but it is still an underrated film that has its strengths mainly the entertaining storyline with some heartwarming moments, excellent visual effects and a solid sense of adventure. It is a flawed, but still very involving film that is worth a watch.

My Rating – 3.5

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Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul

Son of Saul Review

Son of Saul is a 2015 Hungarian drama film directed by Laszlo Nemes and starring Geza Rohrig. The film won Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and it is a flawed, but interesting experience.

Saul Auslander is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner whose job is to bury the dead in the year of 1944. He takes a boy for his son and takes it upon himself to salvage a boy’s body and have a proper burial. The plot itself is the main reason why I had problems with this film. It is always inconsistent and too mysterious to the point of a frustration. It works as a whole, but we never get to understand why that task of burying a boy’s body is so important to him. And some scenes were a bit too ambiguous and not in a good way.

However, the reason why the movie still works to a large degree is definitely the impact it leaves on the audience. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole running time as the film possesses such a strong feeling of endless chaos and utter despair. It also transports you to its period so superbly and as if you are actually there and rarely have I felt that in a movie which is why Son of Saul succeeds as a World War II film. It is always so quick in its pace and something always happens and you are the witness of the endless horrors surrounding the main character and he is your guide.

Yes, that cinematography choice truly is interesting. It tells you the story from the perspective of the protagonist by letting you follow him throughout the whole film with the camera emphasis on his face and having his both sides blurred. That was done for better and for worse as it can get frustrating and makes the viewing somewhat difficult, but it is also better as is thus blurs all the nudity and violence which I am never a fan of and for that I was grateful. But overall I liked that approach and no matter how annoying it can sometimes get, it is still an artistic choice that helps a movie a lot and lets you see the emotion on the character’s face more clearly and produces some unforgettable scenes.

The characterization is not that good as you never meet these characters and even the leading character is not particularly well developed. But you still root for him from beginning to end and the character work is expectedly weaker because of the nature of the film.

Some scenes annoyed me here such as the scene with Saul and the girl which is not just ambiguous, but you never know what is going on exactly. Also, the whole movie has that approach with fast pacing and something always happening, but with no true developments occurring, except in the third act. But it still has many memorable scenes such as the ending which is so emotional and very satisfying and also so well realized and the beginning is extremely good and hooks you in instantly. There are definitely many moments here that are priceless and the film produces that uncomfortable feeling in such a good way and it lasts from start to finish which is why this is a successful experiment.

Son of Saul is such a well directed and acted movie with Laszlo Nemes and Geha Rohrig both being incredibly good in their roles. The movie also looks good as it is so well shot. It is realistic and dark as well and transports you the this period so well. It is also quite emotional, especially near the end, and it is a very well edited and paced movie that is never dull or too rushed despite its fast pace which seems natural rather than forced. It is a serious and memorable movie that is flawed in its execution, but is still so authentic and leaves such a strong impression.

Son of Saul can be annoying at times, it is too ambiguous from time to time and the character development and motivations should have been better realized, but it is still such an authentic take on the tired subject matter with such a unique cinematography, emotional approach, many unforgettable scenes and it makes you uncomfortable, leaving such a strong feeling of chaos and despair.

My Rating – 4

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man

Ip Man Review

Ip Man is a 2008 Chinese biographical martial arts film directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen. The movie succeeds as both a rousing historical drama and as an action flick.

It follows the life of the titular grandmaster and martial artist and focuses specifically on the Sino-Japanese War and its aftermath. As I said above, the movie succeeds in both genres. Let’s first talk about the historical one. The first half is action and the second is historical. That second half, although vastly different from the previous one, is so wonderfully executed with a lot of emotional heft. I adored its ending and I loved both the conflict at the end and its conclusion and overall explanation of what happened afterwards. It is a typical stuff seen countless times, but I liked this triumphant ending here as it is emotionally satisfying and so uplifting.

But of course the highlight is the kung fu action. I loved the action sequences in Ip Man as they are so beautifully realized. The choreography is amazing, the abundance of style is evident and the execution is almost flawless. I liked that the camera angles are so good here, letting you see all of the action perfectly. All of the styles are well explained and it is vastly entertaining and so riveting to watch. The highlights are the fight between Ip Man and the Japanese general Miura and the fight between the protagonist and Kam Shan-chu. The former is so dramatic and powerful while the latter one is so exhilarating and even comedic in tone. Yes, the humor here is present from time to time and I really enjoyed it as some moments can be quite funny.

The character development isn’t as great as I hoped it would be, but it is still pretty good. Ip Man is naturally the highlight and he is at first a one-note character, but he quickly showed his human side. I loved his family struggles as it shows how he, though such a powerful martial artist, is still a flawed human being. And I loved the dialogue between him and his wife about his inability to find a job. The wife is really good and their relationship is really sweet and touching, but also quite realistic. I loved that in the film. Miura is really good and Kam Shan-chu is so funny and memorable as this redneck brute.

Ip Man is visually a strong picture, but not as mesmerizing as I expected it to be. The scenery is too forgettable and the photography is overly dark, but it is still well shot, some sequences are quite beautiful and the camera angles are terrific during action. Wilson Yip did a fine job in the director’s chair and the acting is superb throughout with Donnie Yen in particular giving a respectable performance.

But there are some problems here and that is mainly the structure of the film. It does succeed in both of its genres, but it does so at the expense of the tone and pacing. The pacing is all over the place and the tonal shift in the middle is so jarring as it literally changes from action to drama out of the blue and with no subtlety whatsoever. Also, the film is predictable and no matter how satisfying to watch, it is still a familiar farce. And I expected more character work and even more emotion than I’ve got from the end product.

Ip Man has a jarring tonal shift, inconsistent structure and pacing and it could have been even better overall, but it is still quite a good film with fantastic action sequences that are so thrilling to watch and impeccably crafted, solid character development, good acting and it is a satisfying flick both as a historical biopic and as martial arts action.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Ip Man

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Russian Ark (2002)

Russian Ark

Russian Ark Review

Russian Ark is a 2002 Russian historical drama film directed by Alexander Sokurov. It is one of the most famous Russian films and to me it is such an overrated movie.

It is set in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and, through the narrator and his meetings with the people from different eras, it follows three centuries of Russian history and also art. I was so incredibly disappointed with this film, it is indescribably overrated and just so disappointing mainly because it has such a unique premise and a lot of unfortunately misguided and awfully put to use potential. The stories are almost non-existent as is the entire plot of this movie which has a serious lack of identity. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, it isn’t a documentary, but it most certainly isn’t a drama either. The historical part is also mediocre as it was so confusing with its shifting through different time periods that are also not arranged properly of course. All of that I found really annoying.

But what was the most frustrating in Russian Ark is definitely its cinematography! God, do I hate this kind of camera approach. The choice to have just one, uninterrupted take is a bad one because it is awfully executed, very forced and even seems amateurish from time to time. I really found that the most annoying aspect.

The characters are also so forgettable and the narrator is frankly annoying. The acting is solid, but also nothing too remarkable either. And the direction is solid at times, but weak at other times. It is so misguided and so awfully approached as well.

However, Russian Ark has its strengths. The finale is so beautiful and I adored it as it was so satisfying. Also some of the sequences were memorable and the technical aspects apart from the cinematography are all really good. I loved its imagery and of course its costume design which is excellent. I also really liked its score and the overall look of some scenes, no matter how static and badly photographed they were. It surely looks good and a great effort is put into making the sets look real and it paid off as that is the sole reason to see this movie in my honest opinion.

The dialogue is also solid and it has its moments, but it unfortunately never makes use of its premise and it never explains anything either historically or artistically speaking which is why it is such a poor art and history lesson when it could have easily been a great one. The film was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film which was a weird choice and a snub, but to me is good as it is far from a good, let alone great movie. Such a vast disappointment.

Russian Ark is such a huge disappointment and such an overrated movie. It has a great premise, the finale is moving and the film looks good with great imagery and excellent sets and costume design, but the cinematography is just so awfully executed and really annoying and the film is confusing and fails as both a history and an art lesson, while also never knowing what movie it wants to be.

My Rating – 2.5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Russian Ark

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