Category Archives: Musical

Vox Lux (2018) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use & sexual material
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Celeste Montgomery
Raffey Cassidy as Young Celeste Montgomery/Albertine
Jude Law as The Manager
Stacy Martin as Eleanor “Ellie” Montgomery
Jennifer Ehle as Josie
Director: Brady Corbet

Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is a 13-year-old music prodigy who survives a horrific school shooting in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1999. Her talent shines through during the memorial service when she sings a song that touches the hearts of the mourners. Guided by her sister (Stacy Martin) and a talent manager (Jude Law), the young phenom transforms into a rising pop star with a promising future. Eighteen years later, Celeste (Natalie Portman) now finds herself on the comeback trail when a scandal, personal struggles and the pitfalls of fame threaten her career.

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Vox Lux was the one 2018 movie that I had been meaning to watch before making my best films of 2018 list. I had been hearing about this movie for a long time, from the point that Rooney Mara was originally cast in the lead role before Natalie Portman replaced her. While I would’ve loved to have seen Mara in the role, Natalie Portman is still a fantastic actress, Jude Law was also in the movie, the music is done by Sia, and so I was at the very least curious about the movie. The very polarising reaction to the whole movie just got me interested in it more. Having watched the movie, I can confirm that it’s not a movie for everyone but is definitely worth watching.

Vox Lux is split into two halves, the Raffey Cassidy half, and the Natalie Portman half. The Raffey Cassidy half is really great, I really liked seeing the rise of Celeste. There have been plenty of movies following the rise of musicians but Vox Lux is quite original throughout, touching on topics that you wouldn’t expect it to, there’s a lot to unpack with this movie. It’s so out there, ambitious and bold, and much of it won’t work for people, I loved it though. The Natalie Portman is a dramatic shift for sure, while I’m sure most people will like the Cassidy half, the second half is what will divide some people. I will say that it’s a step down from the first half and is the main reason why I don’t love the movie more, however I still really liked it. The problem with talking about this section is that I can’t exactly express why the second half just didn’t work quite as well. The first half I really was invested for the entirety of it. With the Portman half I still was interested in it but not as much as the previous half. While I liked the concert section at the end, there was something that was missing from the conclusion. Maybe if it was a little longer (the movie is only like an hour and 50 minutes long) it might’ve worked a little better. Maybe another viewing of the movie might make things much more clear for me regarding this section.

Raffey Cassidy plays Celeste in her teenage years and also plays the daughter of Celeste in the Portman half and is equally great in both roles, giving a really subtle and effective performance. I’d argue that it’s Cassidy who steals the show in this movie. Natalie Portman’s performance is something that I’ve heard mixed things about, mostly that it’s over the top. Having watched the movie, I do think that the complaints are exaggerated just a little bit, she really is great here and puts everything into her performance. Yes, her performance is larger than life (not sure whether it was her or Corbet’s choice), and maybe a slightly more subtle performance would’ve worked. Most of the problem with that is that Portman plays Celeste completely differently from Cassidy, so it’s very jarring. I get that 15 years later she might’ve been acting differently, but it was so distractingly different. Making it even more so was the accent, it may not have bothered me as much as it did others but it is a little too over the top (not to mention I’m not really sure how Celeste just suddenly gained a completely different accent). Nonetheless her hamming up her performance here was entertaining amd she really gives a performance that I’ve never seen her give before. The rest of the cast play their parts as well, Stacy Martin was really good as Celeste’s sister and Jude Law was also good as Celeste’s manager.

This is the first film by Brady Corbet that I’ve seen and on the whole, he’s really directed this film well. From beginning to end, it’s a great looking movie. The concert scenes were particularly great. The only out of place moment was a very weirdly directed sequence with Portman and Law, is sped up and has some weird looking effect to it. It’s very brief though, it’s just that it stands out a bit from the rest of the movie. The music is also really good, (it’s written by Sia), both Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman also perform the music very convincingly. The film also uses some narration with Willem Dafoe, and while I’m usually mixed about the use of narration, it actually works alright here (not to mention Dafoe’s voice really fitted this movie quite well).

Vox Lux won’t work for everyone, it’s very ambitious and different. However, I do think that it’s worth watching. The first half is definitely the stronger portion of the movie, but I still really liked the whole movie. I really liked what Brady Corbet did with the writing and direction, and the performances (especially from Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman) are really great. Definitely see it for yourself, and it might be a movie I need to rewatch at some point.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2018) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Elle Fanning as Zan
Alex Sharp as Enn
Nicole Kidman as Queen Boadicea
Ruth Wilson as PT Stella
Matt Lucas as PT Wain
Director: John Cameron Mitchell

Worlds collide when Enn (Alex Sharp), a shy teenager in 1970s London, meets the beautiful and rebellious Zan (Elle Fanning) at a party. They set in motion the ultimate showdown between their rivaling worlds and test the limits of how far they will go for true love.

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I heard about How to Talk to Girls at Parties for a while, I knew that Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman are in it and I watched the trailer, and I could tell that it was a sci-fi romantic comedy of sorts. Outside of that I wasn’t really that sure what to expect. I finally got around to it and it was a bit of an odd movie. Not a great movie and I’m not even sure I can call it a good movie, however I guess I was entertained enough while watching it.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is based off a science-fiction short story of the same name by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t read said short story so I can’t comment on the movie as an adaptation. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and I wasn’t really bored throughout, but it was mostly because this movie is so odd and weird that I was paying attention to which direction it would take next. There were so much insane sequences and things that happened that it kept me entertained. With that said I wasn’t really that invested in the actual story, I guess I was on board with the main characters and what they are trying to do, but not hugely, I didn’t care that much about the characters. There were some things that were going on that I didn’t really understand with regards to the aliens, I just sort of went along with the insane things that were going on. There is quite a bit of a comedy as well, some of the comedy can be a little too on the nose, especially with the whole typical ‘alien is discovering and exploring Earth and misunderstandings happen’ comedy, but it was okay enough. I don’t remember much from the movie despite having a reasonably decent time with it.

We really don’t get a sense of any of the characters, but the cast are decent enough in their roles. Alex Sharp is pretty good as the lead human character. Elle Fanning is one of the standouts as the lead alien character, as said previously her character does fall into many of the familiar clichés that alien characters who are learning about the world do, but Fanning plays the role well. We don’t really get invested in Fanning and Sharp’s relationship, but they have decent chemistry. Nicole Kidman is in a supporting role as a punk rocker and she’s also a standout whenever she’s on screen. Ruth Wilson and Matt Lucas are also pretty good as aliens.

The direction by John Cameron Mitchell was interesting, it could be very rough at times but it did add a little something to the movie and just added to the weirdness. Some moments visually were also really trippy. There are also some other pretty weird things that happen in the movie, especially with regard to the aliens. I’ll just say if that was their intention to just be weird, they definitely achieved that.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties was… a weird movie, definitely the weirdest movie I’ve seen released in 2018. It’s not going to work for a ton of people and it’s perfectly understandable why. The performances are good and the strangeness of the movie was enough for me to be entertained, however I don’t think on the whole that it was a good movie. I guess if you’re okay with potentially wasting 100 minutes of your time and you’re the least bit curious about it, then check it out. Otherwise you’re not really missing much.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs
Willie Watson as The Kid
David Krumholtz as Frenchman in Saloon
E. E. Bell as Saloon Piano Player
Tom Proctor as Cantina Bad Man
Clancy Brown as Çurly Joe

Near Algodones
James Franco as Cowboy
Stephen Root as Teller
Ralph Ineson as The Man in Black
Jesse Luken as Drover

Meal Ticket
Liam Neeson as Impresario
Harry Melling as Artist (Harrison)

All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits as Prospector
Sam Dillon as Young Man

The Gal Who Got Rattled
Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh
Bill Heck as Billy Knapp
Grainger Hines as Mr. Arthur
Jackamoe Buzzell as Boarder #3
Jefferson Mays as Gilbert Longabaugh
Ethan Dubin as Matt

The Mortal Remains
Tyne Daly as Lady (Mrs. Betjeman)
Brendan Gleeson as Irishman (Clarence)
Jonjo O’Neill as Englishman (Thigpen)
Saul Rubinek as Frenchman (René)
Chelcie Ross as Trapper
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

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The Coen Brothers have done some good movies in the past but I can never tell how much I’ll like their movies. Hail Caesar wasn’t particularly liked loved a lot of people but I really liked it, whereas their beloved movies Fargo and Inside Llewyn Davis I liked but didn’t love, not to mention I didn’t like their comedy ‘classic’ Raising Arizona at all. This isn’t the first Western movie that they have done, with No Country for Old Men and True Grit showing that they are great with the genre, but it is the first anthology movie that they’ve done. It’s such a weird idea for them and I really didn’t know what to expect. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a odd mix of western stories written and directed by The Coen Brothers that range from okay to actually pretty good. I’m glad I watched it but it’s far from the filmmaking duo’s best.

Now the movie is split into 6 different chapters and it’s just impossible for me to talk about the movie on a whole without talking about them individually. Therefore, I’ll separate my review by the individual chapters. The first chapter is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s about Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a cheerful outlaw and singer who comes across other outlaws and hilarity and chaos insures. So much of this chapter is cartoonish and over the top, I was entertained by it but I was expecting much more. Really the highlight of this chapter was the titular character of Buster Scruggs played by Tim Blake Nelson. He’s so over the top and full of energy that it’s fun to watch him, he’s almost like a cartoon character put into live action. While all of the chapters were directed well, this was particularly well directed and put together. Though it was fun, by the end it just comes across as a fun skit written and directed by The Coen Brothers rather than them actually making part of a movie. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to name the whole movie after this chapter, it’s way shorter than I thought it would be and was just sort of funny and that’s it. While I had fun with this chapter, it did make me nervous about the rest of the movie, and whether it would be just fun western skits for the entirety of the movie. Know that despite what I said, I actually had a lot of fun with it and it’s really good. I just wish that it was longer and had more of a purpose.

The second chapter is titled Near Algodones and stars James Franco as a cowboy who tries to perform a robbery. The best thing I can say about it indicates at least that each chapter of this movie will have a different tone and story, it’s not cartoonishly goofy as Buster Scruggs and is a little more serious, yet it has some effective dark comedy and James Franco is also good in a role that we don’t usually see him in. Again though, it feels so incredibly short, around the length of Buster Scruggs and probably even shorter. The whole movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long yet they couldn’t seem to make each of them at least 20 minutes long. The found footage anthology movie V/H/S seemed to have longer segments. However, it’s not just that it’s short, while Buster Scruggs can get by with it being a goofy comedic skit, Near Algodones is a more serious story, and so doesn’t have that to fall back on. While it wasn’t bad by any means, there wasn’t really anything particularly interesting or even that entertaining about this chapter, outside of some slightly humorous moments. Having watched this segment, I had even more worries about how the overall movie would be.

The third chapter is titled Meal Ticket, starring Liam Neeson as an travelling impresario with an armless and legless artist played by Harry Melling. Again, significantly different tone and type of story and it was such a weird choice of story to make in the western setting, especially in contrast to the previous two stories. However, it’s from this point that things started to look up for the overall movie. It didn’t really have any comedy whatsoever, thankfully though it is done much better than Near Algodones. It’s about as long as the Buster Scruggs segment yet we actually get to learn more about the characters and their situations. Both Neeson and Melling are also great in their roles and their subtle performances made the chapter even better. This story isn’t what you’d typically think of when it comes to western stories but it really works for this movie. It’s a lot more atmospheric and darker from the others, also with a rather bleak ending which fits right along with The Coen Brothers’ other dark endings, all around Meal Ticket was pretty decent.

The fourth chapter is titled All Gold Canyon and is about Tom Waits as a prospector who arrives in a mountain valley and decides to dig for gold, again, very different kind of story compared to the others. Something that’s immediately different is the setting. The first two segments were very desert-western based, and the third mostly took place at towns in night. The fourth chapter however takes place in a beautiful and green field, making it by far the most visually stunning of all the segments. It’s longer than the previous segments and is the easiest to watch of all the segments. It’s really just Tom Waits in the story in terms of characters, and he carries it very well. Overall one of the better chapters of the movie.

The fifth chapter is titled The Gal Who Got Rattled, which is about a woman (Zoe Kazan) and her brother (Jefferson Mays), who are traveling in a wagon train towards Oregon. Now I heard from some people how the movie falls apart from this segment as well as the 6th chapter. It doesn’t feel like a typical Coen Brothers’ movie, both in concept and in terms of writing and dialogue. It is also the longest of the 6 segments, and is more drawn out with a slower pace, which feels really jarring compared to the prior segments which moved rather fast. I will say that it does feel like the most well rounded of the stories. Most of the other chapters feel like either brief snapshots of what the stories as full complete movies could be, or random skits. The Gal Who Got Rattled on the other hand actually works as a short film on its own, with characters effectively fleshed out. You could probably even see the segment turned into a full length movie. The actors all did a great job with their performances particularly Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck and Grainger Hines. Although it’s very out of place compared to the other chapters, The Gal Who Got Rattled is at the very least one of the better segments.

The sixth chapter is titled The Mortal Remains, and is about five people who ride in a stagecoach together to Fort Morgan. It feels like such a weird story to end the movie. Admittedly while I was on board with every chapter leading up to this, when it got to this one I sort of switched off. After the 30+ minute long segment of The Gal Who Got Rattled which was on such a large scale, it felt like an alright place for the movie to stop. However it was immediately followed by 5 people just talking, and through a lot of it, I just didn’t care what was going on, at least before the halfway point. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments to it though, after the halfway point it does pick up quite a bit, also Jonjo O’Neil, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly and Chelcie Ross were quite good in their roles. However it still is one of the weaker of the stories.

To summarise: whether you like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or not, there’s no arguing that it really feels like a Coen Brothers movie… well there are at least plenty of glimpses of it. A lot of the direction and writing, especially the dialogue and dark comedy feels quite a bit like The Coen Brothers’ work. I can see some of these segments working as entire full length stories. Since they titled the movie after the first chapter, I couldn’t see why they didn’t just make the whole movie about that. And if The Coen Brothers’ were committed to doing a bunch of short stories, it might’ve been better if they just made it a mini series, 6 episodes with each episode ranging from 40 minutes to an hour. They don’t really have any connections to each other whatsoever, and each of the stories don’t really seem to serve any point except to every time come to the conclusion that it was rough living in the Wild West. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of good things to this movie. It is visually stunning throughout all the segments and are directed well, and the actors do great jobs, particularly Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a bit of a mixed bag, while all the chapters are well directed and acted, much of the segments are way too short and aren’t interesting enough and as mentioned above aren’t as great as you’d hope given who worked on them. If you’re a fan of The Coen Brothers, I’d say definitely check it out, it’s on Netflix and will just be 2 hours and 10 minutes of your time. As for the rest of you, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it. Despite my thoughts on some of the segments and the overall movie, I will praise the Coen Brothers for at least trying something different. It is one of their weakest movies though.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language, sexual references & drug references
Cast:
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury/Farrokh Bulsara
Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin
Gwilym Lee as Brian May
Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor
Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon
Aidan Gillen as John Reid
Tom Hollander as Jim Beach
Allen Leech as Paul Prenter
Mike Myers as Ray Foster
Director: Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher

Bohemian Rhapsody is a movie based on the true story of the rock band Queen’s journey from the start of the group to their legendary performance at the Live Aid concert at the Wembley stadium. The movie revolves around the groups lead singer Freddie Mercury’s (Rami Malek) part of the story and his life from being an outcast immigrant in society to a world famous artist and his struggles trough the journey of it.

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I was mildly interested in Bohemian Rhapsody as a fan of Queen. I wasn’t sure about Bryan Singer directing (the main reason actually not being his directing skill) but the appeal of seeing Rami Malek play Freddie Mercury and really just the band on the big screen was just irresistible, so despite some mixed reception of the movie, I was holding out hope. I actually ended up liking Bohemian Rhapsody a lot more than I thought I would. It could’ve been better but I was entertained by it and Rami Malek was great as Freddie Mercury.

A large part of the criticisms are about the accuracies and portrayals and so I’ll just address that part first. As much as I like Queen, I’ll admit I don’t know a ton about them, so people who have much more knowledge about the band will probably pick up on some more inaccuracies than me. I did find there are some moments that did seem ‘movie-like’, like moments that probably never happened in real life and was just done for the movie as a wink to the audience. There isn’t a ton of those but they really do stick out when they happen. Also, there’s a bit where they come up with the song “We Will Rock You” and even I knew that they created it a number of years before when that scene takes place in the timeline. However one of the biggest ones I’ve heard after watching the movie was that Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis happens years later on than when the movie shows it. The main reason seems to be that the movie wanted to address the AIDS aspect but also wanted to end at the Live Aid, so they tried to rearrange events so that they could have both. With everything considered, I’m taking the accuracies somewhat loosely, most of it is probably accurate, but some of it isn’t. I know that originally there was going to be a Freddie Mercury film with Sacha Baron Cohen, which was going to be very much in depth with him and really go all the way, but while that sounds interesting, Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t that movie. This movie was more like a tribute and celebration of the band and Mercury, and in that it really works. Besides, just because we recently had a Freddie Mercury/Queen movie doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t get that sort of uncensored movie focusing on him/them.

Now for the actual movie. Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t delve too much into Queen (its mostly focussed on Mercury) but it does try to cover a lot of what happened with them from 1970 to 1984, and so in that it does cover a lot of things briefly. It does feel like they selected a few things that they wanted to cover and were like “Wouldn’t it be nice to see them come up with Another One Bites the Dust and show how it happened?”. With that said, I liked seeing how certain things came to be, even if only scratched the surface of Queen and is well known (because as I said, I don’t know too much about Queen, despite being a fan). However, I think that the film is strongest whenever it shows the different sides to Freddie Mercury. One thing that some biopics tend to fall into is that they sanitise everything about the people their based on, but they don’t really do that here. They show Freddie for the musical genius he is but they also show his shortcomings and flaws, as well as the conflicts and problems that he has. Bohemian Rhapsody was about 2 hours and 10 minutes long but it never felt too long, it always had my attention from start to finish and I was never bored.

Rami Malek is fantastic as Freddie Mercury. When someone is portraying such an iconic person, they can often just slip into doing an imitation but Malek never falls into that. He really just becomes Freddie Mercury on screen and over time you just forget that its Rami and just see Freddie. Obviously the singing isn’t actually Malek’s but they did a great job at making him look like he’s doing it. He has the same onstage and offstage energy, the voice, everything of Freddie Mercury, really great performance. The rest of the cast is good as well. The rest of Queen, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon were great, the 4 of them were really convincing in their roles and played off each other well. Other actors like Aidan Gillen, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech and even Mike Myers were good, and served their roles well.

Now this movie is actually directed by two people, Bryan Singer initially and then later he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher. I didn’t notice any differences in the direction but it is flashy and entertaining. When it comes to the band performances, it’s flashy and entertaining to watch but you can see that they are restraining things, cutting things a little short, you’re almost just seeing them in montages and all that. Part of it is really because the movie is building up to The Live Aid performance in the last act, and that payoff is really great to see. We get to see a few songs from the crowd and from the stage, that whole sequence is really one of the highlights of the movie. With all that, Bohemian Rhapsody is really best seeing in a theatre on a big screen and speakers. It really was an experience watching Queen perform the songs and hearing them.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a little by the numbers and nothing special when it comes to music biopics but I had a good time with it, I had fun with it. Even for what it was going for, it could’ve been better, its not quite the Queen biopic that we wanted but I still liked it and there are some good parts to it. At the very least its worth checking out for Rami Malek’s fantastic performance as Freddie Mercury.

A Star is Born (2018) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine
Lady Gaga as Ally Campana-Maine
Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine
Dave Chappelle as George “Noodles” Stone
Andrew Dice Clay as Lorenzo Campana
Director: Bradley Cooper

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) discovers — and falls in love with — struggling artist Ally (Lady Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

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There had been a lot of hype for A Star is Born building up for a while. I knew Bradley Cooper was directing, and that he would star alongside Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott. It seemed like a very familiar kind of movie that’s been done before, but because of all the attention and acclaim I decided that I would get around to seeing it when it finally comes out. I was not prepared for how incredible A Star is Born would be. The excellent performances, Bradley Cooper’s direction, the whole story, everything was incredibly done and all came together to culminate in a remarkable film and definitely one of the best of the year.

A Star is Born is actually the 4th remake of the original movie, I haven’t seen any of the previous movies and so I’ll treat this movie as its own thing. Going into A Star is Born, I was a little iffy with the story seeming really familiar. Despite the somewhat familiar story, it doesn’t at any point feel cliché. Any time that the story feels like it’s going to go down a cliché route, it subverts into a different direction. And the times where it does some go down the familiar story paths, it executes it in a way that feels genuine and real and not just because the story needed it to be that way. The whole film feels really honest and real, and there is a lot of emotion put into the story. While I haven’t seen the other movies, they did a great job putting this story in today’s time period. One thing that I heard that some people have said that the first half is a lot better than the second half, but while the first half is more enjoyable and entertaining, the second works as it should. The first half is really all about the rise and has a lot of music performances and the second half has some scenes which are a little hard to watch but that’s how it really should be for the story. A Star is Born is about 2 hours and 10 minutes long and from start to finish I was loving it.

Everyone acting here does incredibly well. There’s some recognisable people here but their performances are so great that you just see their characters, not the actors. Bradley Cooper has given some great performances in the past, but this is the best I’ve seen him, and that’s saying a lot. It’s incredibly subtle and nuanced, so believable. It’s also one of those performances where multiple times you forget that it’s a recognisable actor playing the role, and I’ve seen him in a lot of movies. I’m very familiar with Lady Gaga’s music but wasn’t familiar with her acting. She has acted on screen before, winning an Golden Globe for acting on American Horror Story even but her appearances in movies up until now has pretty much been as cameos. However as one of the leads here, she really proved herself to be a great acting talent. She’s not only great on the music side, like Cooper you don’t see her, you just see the character. This movie is heavily focussed on Bradley Cooper’s Jack and Lady Gaga’s Ally and their chemistry is incredible and believable. Sam Elliott is also great as Cooper’s brother. Elliott is always great in everything he’s in but he really brings it as well, again believable and subtle. Even Dave Chappelle and Andrew Dice Clay, both comedians, are really good and believable in their supporting roles in this movie.

A Star is Born is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut but you wouldn’t know that just from watching this movie. His direction is absolutely great and it’s pretty clear that he’s a master behind the camera, I’d love to see him direct more things after this. There are some big concert scenes and it really puts you right there. Because of these scenes, I really do recommend seeing the movie in the biggest cinema near you, especially with a great sound system. One that note, the music is also incredible, with many memorable and great songs. All the singing that you see isn’t dubbed, it’s actual singing. Unsurprisingly Lady Gaga’s singing was great but Bradley Cooper is also impressive, especially considering he didn’t use to sing or play guitar and started it for this movie and he’s a natural at it.

A Star is Born is a fantastic film. Bradley Cooper (both behind and in front of the camera), Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott and the rest of the cast and crew has delivered a really great movie here. A Star is Born is one of the best films of the year and as of this point it might actually be my current favourite film of the year.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains sexual references
Cast:
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie Sheridan
Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan
Lily James as Young Donna
Dominic Cooper as Sky
Christine Baranski as Tanya Chesham-Leigh
Jessica Keenan Wynn as Young Tanya
Julie Walters as Rosie Mulligan
Alexa Davies as Young Rosie
Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael
Jeremy Irvine as Young Sam
Colin Firth as Harry Bright
Hugh Skinner as Young Harry
Stellan Skarsgård as Bill Anderson
Josh Dylan as Young Bill
Cher as Ruby Sheridan
Andy García as Fernando Cienfuegos
Director: Ol Parker

In 1979 young Donna (Lily James), Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies) graduate from Oxford University — leaving Donna free to embark on a series of adventures throughout Europe. On her journeys, she makes the acquaintances of Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine) — the latter whom she falls in love with, but he’s also the man who breaks her heart. In the present day, Donna’s pregnant daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), dreams of renovating a taverna while reuniting with her mother’s old friends and boyfriends on the Greek island of Kalokairi.

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I watched the original Mamma Mia about a week ago and although I was entertained by it, I wasn’t a particularly huge fan of it, I didn’t really consider it to be a good movie but I had fun with it. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect from Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the pre-sequel to the first movie 10 years in the making. So I just expected a dumb and over the top with a bunch of great ABBA songs. However, it actually surprised me quite a lot. Basically all the issues I had with the first movie were fixed here, with a stronger story, better use of songs and some surprising emotion. And like the first movie it is really campy and entertaining.

Something that occurred to me over the course of my viewing was that it seemed that Mamma Mia 2 fixed all my problems with the first movie. First of all, Mamma Mia 2 has more of a story. The first movie felt really like talented actors doing drunk karaoke – ABBA edition. Mamma Mia 2 has much more of a plot, half of it focussing on Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in present day and the other half on Lily James’s younger Donna in flashbacks. The first movie jammed a whole lot of ABBA songs into moments where they didn’t really need it, and almost felt like padding to extend the movie. With the sequel though, there are enough breathing moments and it didn’t feel like they were just shoving ABBA songs into the movie just for the sake of it and all the song segments seem to work appropriately for the story and movie. Whereas the first movie had some humour which didn’t really land (most of the comedy I found in that movie was unintentional), the sequel is genuinely funny. Last but not least, there are genuinely solid emotional scenes. I wasn’t emotional myself during the movie (most movies don’t really get me to be that way) but the emotional scenes were earned and were well done, and I’m not exaggerating when there were some people in the cinema that I was in that were legit crying in some scenes particularly near the end. The movie like the first is over the top and campy. If you were fine with how absolutely silly the first Mamma Mia was, you’ll have no problem with how silly the sequel can get. Whether it be some of the dialogue, the song transitions and segments, and just some of the goofy things that these characters do, for me it was just really fun to watch. I think I should also mention that you really shouldn’t expect much of Meryl Streep here. The film made a really weird decision considering that she was part of what made the first movie so successful. What I can say that it was a risky move that paid off in the end, the story did actually work well for it.

Most of the original cast returns with Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranaski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Dominmic Cooper. It is a little jarring how much older all of them are now (10 years older to be exact) but they are good. One of the highlights of the original movie was that everyone there looked like they loved being there and are having a good time, thankfully that’s the same with the sequel. The younger cast also do well, whether it be the younger Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters played by Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies, or whether it’s the younger Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard played by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan respectively. They all feel like younger versions of the actors/characters. In terms of stands outs however, it’s really Lily James, she is really believable as a young Meryl/Donna and really leaves an impression. The other people in the cast is also pretty good. Cher is in the movie plays Streep’s mother and Seyfried’s grandmother and while she’s good, she really doesn’t end up living up to the hype that the movie was building her up to be, and no I’m not just referring to the trailers or the fact that they got Cher for the part. The problem is that despite the fact that she was built up from the very first scene, when she finally arrives, she doesn’t really do much or leave that much of an impact. It ultimately feels like they could’ve gotten any half decent singer and actress for the part and so in that aspect it felt a little underwhelming after all that build up (or they could’ve cut the character from the movie). With that said, Cher is good in the role. The singing is also generally good. Once again, the women do fare much better than the men, but the men were okay enough for the most part. And yes, Pierce Brosnan does do some singing in this movie but he is actually somewhat okay, then again most of his singing time is spent with dozens of other singers. The one moment when he did some singing on his own actually worked for the scene.

This first Mamma Mia was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, whereas the sequel is directed by Ol Parker, both movies are actually pretty well directed for what they are. Like with the original movie, Mamma Mia 2 takes advantage of its locations, it’s a really good looking movie. The song segments are all entertaining and wonderfully goofy when it needs to be. It’s also always great hearing ABBA songs.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again honestly surprised me, it was a little bit better than just being a dumb and goofy movie (though it very much is a dumb and goofy movie). It fixed the issues that I had with the first movie and I was able to enjoy the movie both ironically and unironically. Speaking as someone who was entertained by but wasn’t a massive fan of the first movie, I really think the second movie is a significant improvement. If you love the first movie and haven’t seen this one, you’ll definitely love the sequel, especially in a packed cinema. If you disliked the first movie, I highly doubt that the second movie would change things for you.

Mamma Mia! (2008) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains sexual references
Cast:
Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie Sheridan
Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael
Colin Firth as Harry Bright
Stellan Skarsgård as Bill Anderson
Dominic Cooper as Sky
Julie Walters as Rosie Mulligan
Christine Baranski as Tanya Chesham-Leigh
Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Donna (Meryl Streep), an independent hotelier in the Greek islands, is preparing for her daughter’s (Amanda Seyfried) wedding with the help of two old friends. Meanwhile Sophie, the spirited bride, has a plan. She secretly invites three men from her mother’s past in hope of meeting her real father and having him escort her down the aisle on her big day.

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Mamma Mia was a movie I heard a lot about every since it’s release in 2008. Although I watched some bits of the movie, I hadn’t ever gotten around to watching it in it’s entirety. With the sequel coming soon, I decided to watch the original movie to see how I felt about it… and I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. It’s not really that good of a movie, but it’s so campy and over the top that I was entertained by it.

Now I think I should mention I’m not familiar with the musical of the same name (although I’m familiar with a lot of the ABBA songs). There is a plot to Mamma Mia but honestly it feels really quite small, and the only reason it is like an hour and 50 minutes long is because of the songs shoved in. It’s like you get 5 to 10 minutes of the story and then it cuts to another ABBA song. The vast majority of the time, there was no reason for the songs used. Sometimes it has nothing to do with anything, and by removing certain song segments, it wouldn’t feel like any part of the movie was missing. I thought that Moulin Rouge used way too many songs for no reason, but Mamma Mia takes it to a completely different level. It does its fair share of songs that worked in certain moments to be fair, and most of the song segments were entertaining enough. It’s just that when they come out of nowhere they can feel really jarring. Outside of the songs, the reason I was somewhat entertained by the movie was how bizarre it was. A lot of the time I didn’t know what was going on, whether that be the absurdity of some of the singing segments, the sudden song segments that come out of nowhere for no reason, some of the bad singing, some of the insane decisions made by some characters, it felt very strange to me. There was a lot of camp to it as well. I think a lot of the intentional humour didn’t really land with me, and those moments where it did, it’s because of how bizarre the concept was. I think the best way to enjoy Mamma Mia is that if you have an issue with something, try to just go with it. That’s not that strong of a compliment but that’s what I did, and I did have a fun time with it. It doesn’t have a particularly strong plot, characters or anything like that, but it was entertaining, it was an entertaining movie.

This movie has a big cast with Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters and others. While they aren’t by any means giving performances that would rank among the best in their careers, they all look like they are having the time of their lives. They don’t seem to be taking it too seriously as well, they sort of know what kind of movie they are in. When it comes to singing, the women fare much better than the men. Pierce Brosnan was infamous in this movie for sounding atrocious, and yes, his singing does in fact sound like a wounded dog. To be fair, props to him, Firth and Skarsgard for at least trying to sing, and Brosnan’s singing was one of the highlights of the film (just not in the way he intended), I’m lowkey hoping it makes a return for the second film. Meryl Streep’s singing wasn’t great (her singing would improve in Into the Woods) but it was actually pretty decent here. In fact most of the singing was fine enough, I don’t really have much to comment about them.

A lot of the musical segments are actually pretty well directed, no matter how crazy it gets a lot of the time. It’s also a pretty good looking movie as well, though most of that is because of the location of the movie, which takes place in the Greek Islands. Also I really like ABBA so I enjoyed the musical segments, and most of the singing was okay enough so I could get into it. Direction-wise, it’s a competently made movie.

I’m still not sure what to say about Mamma Mia. It just seems like a bunch of famous actors and actresses got together to do drunk ABBA karaoke. I can’t say that I was bored. It’s so batshit insane and it does have some entertaining moments (whether it is genuine or just how bizarre everything is). Even though its not good, I had some fun with it (and it feels like everyone involved had fun with it), and not in a ‘so bad it’s good way’. So I guess I might be able to call it okay, I think. If you’re going to watch it for the first time, just know that you can’t take any of it seriously. I’m not expecting much from the sequel, I’m not sure why Mamma Mia is even getting a sequel (especially 10 years after the original) but if it’s at least as half as batshit insane as the first movie, it might be entertaining at the very least.

The Greatest Showman (2017) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum
Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle
Michelle Williams as Charity Hallett-Barnum
Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind
Zendaya as Anne Wheeler
Director: Michael Gracey

Inspired by the imagination of P. T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

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I didn’t know what I would think of The Greatest Showman. There seemed to be quite the hype for it, with it seeming to promise an entertaining musical with some good songs. There was a lot of talent involved with Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and others involved. However, I had a feeling that it would just be entertaining but not that great overall as a movie. Unsurprisingly, that was pretty much what I got. The Greatest Showman is entertaining but there’s not a whole lot of substance, it’s flashy and stylistic and has actors you love performing some great songs but that seems to be all it really has to offer. The movie even gets worse when you look into it more, as the way the filmmakers try to use the story of real life person P.T. Barnum to make it a musical is highly questionable at best. However there is still fun to be had with the movie.

Even outside of its accuracy to real life issues, The Greatest Showman does have some plot issues. At times it was trying hard to get you feel things but it felt shallow and by the numbers. The story is also quite predictable, there aren’t really any surprises. Despite it being an hour and 45 minutes long, it drags at some points, particularly in between the flashy sequences. There are some aspects that feel not as interesting like with Rebecca Fergusson’s character, there was quite a lot of focus on her and then she just disappears from the movie at some point. It feels like all that time should’ve been spent between Zac Efron and Zendaya as their storyline were a little more interesting. Now onto possibly the biggest fault of the movie. From what I can tell, this movie isn’t very accurate at all, usually I’m a little lenient on some movies based on true events but this is a case where a lot of the changes really bothered me. From what little I researched about P.T Barnum, The Greatest Showman makes him unbelievably likable in comparison to his real self. In retrospect, they really should’ve just taken some inspiration from P.T. Barnum and create their own story completely. Earlier I mentioned how Rebecca Fergusson’s character didn’t fit in with the movie, apparently she plays a real life person named Jenny Lind, once again if they only took inspiration for the story they wouldn’t have to put her in the movie (it is also worth noting that they got a lot of things about Lind wrong). Zac Efron and Zendaya’s characters also never existed in real life, despite them being some of the main characters of the film. It’s like someone saw a very rough outline of P.T. Barnum’s life and what he did, took random bits out and turned it into a musical. All the faults of the movie as a story are made even worse by the inaccuracies to real life, if they could just make up things, why couldn’t they write a better story? So for enjoyment’s sake, I just look at this movie as a fictional musical. P.T. Barnum is not a good subject of focus for a musical, if they really wanted to make The Greatest Showman and have it inspired by some of Barnum’s life, they should’ve just taken some aspects but otherwise make just about everything fictional, and also don’t claim to attempt to basing the movie off of him. Inaccuracies aside, the story is just passable at best, nothing really that special.

Hugh Jackman is good as always, whether it comes to acting, dancing and singing. As I said previously, he’s not really playing P.T. Barnum, for the way that his role was written though, he was good at it. Just imagine that here he’s playing someone named P.T. Barnum who isn’t related to the real life P.T. Barnum. The supporting cast with Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, and others were also good. Although her character wasn’t so great, Rebecca Fergusson was good enough in her role, although it felt a little odd and out of place that the rest of the main cast sung whereas her singing was dubbed by Loren Allred.

The Greatest Showman’s greatest strengths aside from its actors is the direction and the music. It is directed rather well by director Michael Gracey, who makes his directorial debut here. The musical sequences are all pretty great, the choreography, cinematography, production design, everything is on point, if rather over the top, overblown and silly at certain points. Nearly all the songs are great, with maybe 2 or 3 songs paling in comparison to the rest of the songs. It is a very flashy and entertaining movie, I can say that, which helps make the so-so story somewhat bearable.

The Greatest Showman was entertaining but that’s all I can really say about this movie. Aside from the good performances from the actors, some flashy and fun sequences and the songs, it really is a sort of passable movie with a shallow and average story which relies way too heavily on its style and its entertainment factor over having enough actual substance. The inaccuracies to the story just make the movie worse and are more bothersome the more you look into it. I will say that I still did enjoy watching The Greatest Showman, but there is a lot of things wrong with it. I’d say give it a chance if you like some musicals, just don’t expect it to be mindblowing amazing and be aware that this movie might as well have nothing to do with the real life P.T. Barnum. Accuracy aside, it is still an entertaining movie and to a degree I recommend checking it out, despite its faults.

Moulin Rouge! (2001) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains offensive language and sexual references
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Satine
Ewan McGregor as Christian
Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
Richard Roxburgh as The Duke of Monroth
John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Director: Baz Luhrmann

A celebration of love and creative inspiration takes place in the infamous, gaudy and glamorous Parisian nightclub, at the cusp of the 20th century. A young poet (Ewan McGregor), who is plunged into the heady world of Moulin Rouge, begins a passionate affair with the club’s most notorious and beautiful star (Nicole Kidman).

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I was very sceptical about Moulin Rouge before watching it, although I liked Baz Lurhman’s The Great Gatsby, I really didn’t like his Romeo and Juliet. It didn’t help that Moulin Rouge seemed to have a lot of elements that I hated in 90’s Romeo and Juliet. Nonetheless I finally watch Moulin Rouge (I didn’t want to judge it without actually watching it) … and it took me a few viewings attempts to do finish watching it. While there are some good things in Moulin Rouge, for the most part it just really annoyed me and I personally don’t understand all the acclaim.

I didn’t care for any of the characters or the story. The movie is surrounding love, however in this movie, everything about love just feels really shallow and doesn’t really have much depth. It just pretty much boils down to “love is good because it’s good and people who don’t like love are bad because they are bad”. I wish I was exaggerating. I can’t say which act is best because it all goes in and out of quality, one moment it’s obnoxious, then there’s something that has potential or is even legitimately good, then it goes back to being annoying again. The movie tries to be funny and quirky at a lot of points and it’s irritating when they do this, it took me 5-10 minutes for me to regret trying to watch Moulin Rouge. A lot of the characters are annoying as well, on top of them being over the top and cartoonish, there really isn’t much to them. They also have a tendency to make stupid decisions for no reason at all, particularly Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s characters. I wasn’t heavily interested in the story throughout, there were times where I was partially entertained by some sequences but I didn’t really care what happened. So when you’re supposed to feel something at certain points, I really felt nothing at all. Of course I know that there are lots of people who had completely different experiences to me, a lot of people love Moulin Rouge, this is just I felt when I was watching it.

I’m very mixed on the acting. Ewan McGregor at times is good, the problem is that I found his character annoying, and at other times I found him unlikable. McGregor to his credit, does manage to elevate his role slightly and he does have some legitimately good moments. Nicole Kidman isn’t so lucky, not only is the character annoying, she has to act completely ridiculous and it’s just embarrassing to watch. There’s particularly a scene with her, McGregor and Richard Roxburgh, it’s their first scene together and it’s just the most embarrassing thing ever. Though really she’s ridiculous throughout. Kidman does try her best. I don’t put this against her acting ability, she’s definitely a very talented actress, it’s really the character, the direction and all the material that she was given that was the problem. In terms of acting, the best was Jim Broadbent, he was legitimately entertaining and I liked it when he was on screen. The villain is played Richard Roxburgh and he is incredibly over the top, and unfortunately not in a good way. The big problem is that we are supposed to take him somewhat seriously at the same time and I couldn’t take him seriously at all.

Baz Lurhmann’s direction is also a very mixed bag for me. There are some good parts to it, for example the sets are great and all well put together, the problem is that the editing a lot of the time doesn’t allow us to appreciate these sets. There is so much cutting during some sequences that is incredibly jarring and obnoxious. There are also some sequences which are legitimately good, even great, one in particular being El Tango De Roxanne. But there are still some parts to most of the direction that really frustrated me. The style and over the top nature was really irritating to me and was for me the most frustrating part of the movie. At the same time I am fully aware that people actually like this style and that’s part of the reason they love it so much, but for me, the erratic cutting, editing and camera movements were obnoxious and only made the whole experience worse. As for the songs, none of them are original, some of the songs are fine, others are not so much. It didn’t blow me away, save for maybe one or two songs.

Moulin Rouge definitely has some praiseworthy elements but it is overshadowed by the more flawed elements that distract from the better elements. It’s really the style, direction and story that brings this movie down, which on top of leaving no positive impact on me, also just ended up being straight up irritating at times. Despite my dislike of the film, I do recommend that people go out and see Moulin Rouge for themselves, I can’t tell who is going to love or hate it. I have noticed that some people who hate musicals really liked it. As someone who despite not being a massive fan of musicals but enjoys a lot of them, I really didn’t like Moulin Rouge, and I really wished I could see what everyone else sees in it.

Song to Song (2017) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language, nudity & drug use
Cast
Ryan Gosling as BV
Michael Fassbender as Cook
Rooney Mara as Faye
Natalie Portman as Rhonda
Cate Blanchett as Amanda
Lykke Li as Lykke
Val Kilmer as Duane
Bérénice Marlohe as Zoey
Holly Hunter as Miranda
Director: Terrence Malick

Set against the Austin, Texas, music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress (Natalie Portman) whom he ensnares — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.

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Song to Song was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. I admit I was a little nervous going in because I didn’t know what to expect. The main attraction to me was the talented cast but even though I liked director Terrence Malick’s films Badlands and Tree of Life, I wasn’t really a fan of Knight of Cups. He has a very unconventional directional style which really makes him stand out, for better or for worse. Fortunately, I liked Song to Song, it seems that Malick had backed off from his style that he indulged in too much in Knight of Cups.

Song to Song, like most Terrence Malick films is very unconventional. It didn’t bother me as much, probably because I had recently seen Knight of Cups, which was way more arty than what we have with Song to Song. I think the reason why Song to Song worked for me more than Knight of Cups is because the main characters had personalities and characters of their own. In Knight of Cups, the supporting characters have more personality than the protagonist, and they usually only appeared in brief segments before disappearing. Here though, the main characters played by Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender have actual characters to work with. On top of that, unlike Knight of Cups, it’s not just a whole bunch of ideas thrown together, there is sort of a story (though not a very conventional or straightforward one at that). It doesn’t have much of a structure, it jumps between time periods and characters so it can be quite jarring and confusing. Despite how jarring and drawn out it could be at times, it had my attention. After a while it does tire you out, I wasn’t necessarily bored but the sequences often take a long time, it requires a lot of patience.

With Song to Song, Terrence Malick again has a great cast and fortunately this time they are actually utilised well. Apparently there was no script for this movie, so it’s a real credit to the actors for the performances that they gave. Rooney Mara is a standout, if there’s a main lead of this movie it would be her. Mara hasn’t really played this type of role before, and she is great here. Mara proves herself to be one of the best actresses working today. Ryan Gosling was also good, a lot of the main relationships that are focussed on most involve both Gosling and Mara and the two of them have really good chemistry. Michael Fassbender is also a standout in every scene he’s in, he really was a screen presence here and was great. Natalie Portman isn’t in it a lot but she is really great in the screentime she gets and made quite an impression. Other supporting actors like Cate Blanchett are also good in their screentime and make an impression. Other actors like Holly Hunter and Val Kilmer are very much just cameos in the movie and don’t really get to do much.

The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (who has worked on many Terrence Malick films) is great and beautiful, like with all Terrence Malick films. Malick also encapsulated the music scene in Texas quite well. Terence Malick is also known for his odd editing, there have even been actors in his films who were cut out of the final product (Christian Bale for example was originally in this movie). So I had come to accept that there would be some odd editing here, however there was a bit of a problem here that wasn’t present in Tree of Life or even Knight of Cups. A lot of the times there are no scene transitions, so it would jump from one scene to the other and it feels clunky and messy, it doesn’t even feel like a stylistic decision. It jumps in time periods and locations and even if that was intentional, the way it was done was very off putting and isn’t particularly smooth. It felt like an amateur filmmaker editing these scenes and not a fully established filmmaker.

Song to Song is not for everyone and I can understand why a lot of people don’t like it. The film did drag as it went along and the editing was quite jarring and clunky. However there were a lot of aspects that really worked, especially the cinematography and its great performances from its talented cast (Mara and Fassbender being the standouts). As someone who liked Tree of Life and didn’t really like Knight of Cups that much, I liked Song to Song. I can’t tell whether you’ll like it or not but if you are familiar with Malick’s other films, I’d say give this a chance.