Category Archives: Romance

Pride & Prejudice (2005) Review

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Pride & Prejudice

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet
Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy
Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet
Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet
Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins
Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet
Carey Mulligan as Catherine “Kitty” Bennet
Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet
Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet
Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Director: Joe Wright

The story is based on Jane Austen’s novel about five sisters – Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia Bennet (Jena Malone) – in Georgian England. Their lives are turned upside down when wealthy young Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) and his best friend, Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) arrive in their neighbourhood.

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2005’s Pride & Prejudice was a movie I had heard about and have been meaning to watch for a while. Actually right before I watched the movie, I saw the mini series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, which I thought was quite good. It came with some of the dated aspects and some very tv moments as expected, but I liked it as it was. The movie is similar but different, and treating it on its own, it’s quite good.

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Now there’s something I have to note first of all, I’m not familiar with the Jane Austen story, but from what I can tell, the mini series is pretty much an exact translation of the book. So I’m going on the assumption that I know what the book is generally like. The movie comes with the expected adaptation flaws, and it does simplify and change some aspects, though it’s usually not too much of a problem for me. It’s even set at an earlier time period which was an interesting choice. The only part that bothered me was that some aspects feel rather rushed, mainly in the first act. Going from a 6 episode long mini series to a 2 hour long movie is definitely going to feel jarring especially when comparing the two, but they rushed through so many of the early parts for like no reason at all. They could’ve easily added 10 minutes more to that portion for some moments to breathe. After that first act however it gets better, and I was quite invested in the movie even though I knew of the story and indeed it largely played out the same way as in the mini series. It’s been called one of the most romantic romance movies but some and I can certainly see why. The take on the story feels quite fresh that even people who aren’t as into period piece dramas/romances will likely find something to enjoy here. Side note but if possible, try to watch the American version of the movie. It includes an extended ending and I’m not sure why both versions don’t have that.

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The cast is stacked, and all the actors performed very well. Keira Knightley plays the lead character of Elizabeth Bennett and she was really great. This version of her is quite different to the mini series (and from what I can tell the book), but I thought it worked quite well for the film. Matthew Macfadyen plays Mr Darcy and he was really good, although it is quite hard seeing anyone else other than Colin Firth in the role. The chemistry between Knightley and Macfadyen is top notch and they really sell that romance over the course of the film. The actresses who played the Bennett sisters with Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Talulah Riley, and Carey Mulligan, as well as the rest of the cast which includes the likes of Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander and Judi Dench also do well in their roles.

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This is Joe Wright’s directorial debut and he did pretty well with his first film. It’s a great looking movie, with the costume design and sets being at the level of quality that you’d expect them to be. The cinematography also is what makes this version so special, and the aforementioned romanticism owes a lot to it, particularly with what the camera focusses on in certain moments. The score by Dario Marianelli is also really great and perfect for the film.

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Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, Pride & Prejudice is definitely worth watching. It’s a very well made movie, greatly directed and acted. As to whether I think this or the mini series is better, they both have their advantages and disadvantages, but they ultimately both work for what they are.

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

The Artist (2011) Review

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The Artist

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Jean Dujardin as George Valentin
Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller
Director: Brian Helgeland

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) falls in love with the silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). Things change when Peppy becomes a famous actor while George’s career goes downhill with the introduction of talkies.

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The Artist is one of the odder and more forgotten movies to win Best Picture in recent years. It’s been known as the black and white silent movie that won best film, but that’s kind of it. The Artist was actually the first silent film I watched (currently the only one I’ve seen), it was some years ago, and I wanted to rewatch it to be sure about how I felt about it. I still liked the movie almost as much as when I first saw it, but I began to notice some flaws on a second viewing.

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The Artist is yet another one of those “love letter to Hollywood” movies. In this case, it is about the transition from silent films to ‘talky’ movies. While it’s not the first time that a movie has been made about this period, it’s not a bad idea, and in fact going the approach of actually being a silent film instead of only tributing them definitely made it stand out more. With this being a silent movie, much of the storytelling is visual, and have dialogue cards during speaking parts, although to their credit actually have some restraint when it comes to using the cards and don’t have them every time people talk. The movie has its slower and drawn out sections as expected, this being a silent movie and all. Now for all the praise I have for the movie, unfortunately I can’t say that it’s better than just decent. Ultimately when I think back to this movie, I remember the direction, the style and the visuals much more so than the story or characters. Now I’m not going to hold too much against the movie for not being something its not, but I was hoping for slightly more depth than what we got here. If you strip away all the silent movie aspects with the storytelling, you find that at its core, it is a conventional and familiar story about times changing in Hollywood. It definitely romanticises the era, and while that’s not inherently bad, I feel like if it was on the slightly more realistic side of things it might’ve stood out more. Now I should say that at this point that being a silent movie isn’t used as a gimmick, there was clearly a lot of love and passion put into this film. I just feel it could’ve gone further and been a little better. I will also say that some of the novelty does wear off on a repeat viewing, I still liked it quite a bit though.

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The cast are good on their parts. You don’t get to hear their voices, so like silent film stars pre 1930s, they had to convey a lot through exaggerated body language and facial expressions (while accompanied with subtitle cards), and they did that well. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are both great in the lead roles, and share quite a lot of great chemistry together. There’s a number of supporting actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller who do well in their roles.

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This is the only film I’ve seen from Michel Hazanavicius, but he’s directed this quite well. With this being a silent movie, there was a lot of attention to detail to get the look and feel of everything just right. It’s black and white and used the 4:3 screen ratio typically used in the silent era, as expected, and it’s overall a stunning looking movie. The production design and the costumes match the 20s and 30s era effectively. Sound (and the lack of it) plays a huge part in this movie, as you would expect. It’s a silent movie about silent movies, and it tributes them rather nicely overall. There’s a standout scene where Jean Dujardin’s character has a nightmare where there are audible sounds that he and the audience can hear (in contrast to the lack of audible sound in the rest of the movie) but his voice can’t be heard at all. If anything I wish the rest of the movie had that level of creativity and level of experimental factor all the way through the movie instead of it being ultimately a silent movie about silent movies (nothing bad about that though). The musical score composed by Ludovic Bource is great, it was very key to making much of the film working as well as it did

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The Artist is an interesting experiment of a movie for sure, and there are undeniably a lot of great things, from the direction to the acting. However it unfortunately doesn’t leave that much of an impact beyond that, especially with its unfortunately shallow story, and looking at it on the whole, it feels a little empty. With that said, I still think it’s a pretty good movie. If you’ve never seen a silent movie but want a gateway to them, then The Artist may be what you are looking for. Despite its issues, I do think it’s worth checking out at some point.

 

August 32nd on Earth (1998) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Cast:
Pascale Bussières as Simone
Alexis Martin as Phillippe
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Young Simone (Pascale Bussières) is involved in a near fatal car crash, and as she questions her mortality, she also decides to have a baby. Her candidate for a father is her best friend Phillipe (Alexis Martin) who happens to be seeing someone. He agrees, as long as they conceive in Salt Lake City, in the desert. The trip teaches many lessons about love, solitude, and self-discovery.

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With Denis Villeneuve being one of my all time favourite filmmakers, I’ve been meaning to watch all of his movies. This meant checking out not only Polytechnique and Incendies, but also his very early movies with August 32nd on Earth and Maelstrom. Finding a way to watch this movie was not easy, his first two movies are very obscure and most people think that Polytechnique was his first. Although it’s very clearly Villeneuve’s worst movie, it was still decent enough and I was glad that I watched it.

Out of all his movies, August 32nd On Earth is the least Denis Villeneuve-like film. The opening car crash scene is the closest that the movie gets to his other movies. Outside of that, it’s mostly a dramedy romance movie, most shocking of all however is that it’s not that dark (which is not typical of his movies). In that sense, you have to really view this movie for what it is. For what it is, it’s actually written pretty well, with the dialogue between the two leads being the highlight, which gives the actors a lot to work with. With that said, it’s not exactly riveting and it takes a good while for things to happen. I think it was a good 30 minutes into the movie before I started to really get into the movie. It’s at about an hour and 30 minutes long, which was probably the right length of the movie considering the slow pacing and minimal story.

There aren’t many actors to speak of when it comes to this movie. Pascale Bussières and Alexis Martin are the leads and share good chemistry that really drives and carries the movie. They are basically the centre of the whole movie and it requires the two of them to be great, otherwise this movie really wouldn’t work that well.

August 32nd on Earth is very clearly Denis Villeneuve’s first movie, his direction here really feels like someone who is making his filmmaking debut. It’s a little rough in places, for example the editing, music and cinematography is pretty standard. With that said, on its own it is actually pretty well directed for a first film. It’s competent enough and doesn’t feel amateurish at all. It doesn’t necessarily have a particular style, however he’s just starting out, by Polytechnique he had developed a strong filmmaking style. I guess the locations after the first third taking place in the desert felt authentic and worked best for this story, despite the randomness of its part in the context of said story.

August 32nd On Earth is a decent romance movie, that’s directed and acted well enough to make the movie entertaining. It isn’t anything special and it’s not necessarily a movie that you must seek out. If you are a fan of Denis Villeneuve however, you probably want to watch this one, just to see how his movies have evolved.

 

Judy (2019) Review

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Judy

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans
Rufus Sewell as Sidney Luft
Michael Gambon as Bernard Delfont
Jessie Buckley as Rosalyn Wilder
Director: Rupert Goold

Thirty years after starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) arrives in London to perform sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she reminisces with friends and fans and begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband.

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I’m not too familiar with Judy Garland, I knew that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that she was an actress and singer, and that she was in the 1950s version of A Star is Born. So a Judy Garland biopic sounded somewhat interesting to me at least. I first heard of this movie’s existence as basically Renee Zellweger’s vehicle for her second acting Oscar award, and it seems certain at this point that she’ll certainly nab the award soon. From the looks of things, Judy seemed like a rather typical and generic biopic on Garland, and unfortunately it is that, despite a good performance at the centre of it all.

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I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to what happened in real life. No matter how much or little accurate it is to true events however, it should be handled in a way that it’s able to work as a movie, and they didn’t seem to make it particularly interesting. As I previously said, Judy on face value looked very much like a typical music biopic, and one of those Oscar bait movies, unfortunately it’s both of those. It follows those familiar story beats, and ultimately feels more like a sad and safe tribute to Judy Garland instead of digging deep into her. While there are some issues that she’s dealing with and they are put on display in the movie, it feels like they are deliberately understating them, and not exploring her or them at all. While I knew more about Garland after watching the movie than before, I still feel like there’s a lot I really didn’t know about her. The most I got out of learning about her were in the few flashback scenes of her early in her career, and those were the most interesting parts of the movie. I know a lot of people really hate the use of flashbacks, but honestly a lot more of them would’ve considerably helped to show and reveal a lot more about her. Sadly much of Judy is mainly just showing her a year before her death, which isn’t necessarily bad but you’ve got to have something interesting to say or show about her if you’re going to do that. The end result is just showing her slow decline… and that’s it, not much exploration of her during this period and why things certain things are happening. You’d think that the movie would connect some of the few flashbacks to the events happening in the movie (present day in the story) in some way, but no. Not to mention it’s really slow. I don’t mind a slow moving movie as long as it has something interesting or compelling to show or say, but Judy isn’t any of that. Each scene on its own is fine, but when you’ve got all these bland scenes one after the other and at such a slow rate, it becomes rather tedious to watch. You get the feeling that this movie felt comfortable just sitting back and letting Renee do her thing, which is great for her but terrible for the rest of the movie. Even the attempts at emotion throughout just come across as hollow, and the melodrama and soap opera-ness became grating than actually affecting. The only time it even gets close to being somewhat genuine was a section with Judy and a fictionalised gay couple, which actually worked alright. Additionally the ending scene was among the best parts of the movie, it gets a little cheesy at a point, but honestly that’s still something compared to the rest of the film.

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Literally the only reason to watch the movie is for Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland. She’s definitely throwing everything into this role and the movie very much relies on her performance. However, she unfortunately falls victim to the typical clichés that similar roles and movies have, with a different look, doing a different voice, having large emotional moments (leaving awards shows plenty of options of clips to pick for her Best Actress clip) and her character going through the same scenes that we’ve seen plenty of other movies do before. Now they very well may have happened in real life, but the writing lacks enough depth for it to feel genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger carries much of the movie and elevated it just a little bit. Had everything around her been a lot better, I’d probably go so far as to say that she’s incredible. She handles the singing side of things reasonably well too, she’s no Judy Garland, but not many people are. The rest of the cast aren’t lacklasture or anything either. They are decent, with the likes of Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon doing well in their respective roles.

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Much of Judy is directed okay but there’s nothing that stands out at all about it. Director Rupert Goold previously made True Story, a movie I thought was pretty good and also had more to it on the directing side compared to Judy. Nothing is necessarily bad here, it’s shot and directed reasonably well, on a technical level it’s all fine (the makeup on Renee to make her look like Judy Garland was great). However everything feels like it’s on complete autopilot, and lacks any kind of energy, with maybe the exception of the last scene.

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There’s a lot of potential for a biopic of Judy Garland to be a fantastic movie from a biopic of Judy Garland, but the end result is bland, uninteresting, and not really that good. Even if you want to learn more about Judy, the film doesn’t explore her or really show enough about her for it to be satisfying. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its upsides, the acting is generally good, with the highlight being Renee Zellweger’s performance, and with her winning an Oscar, it might be worth checking it out for that. Beyond the acting however, don’t expect much more beyond that.

Waves (2019) Review

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Waves

Time: 135 Minutes
Cast:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Tyler Williams
Lucas Hedges as Luke
Taylor Russell as Emily Williams
Alexa Demie as Alexis Lopez
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Catherine Williams
Sterling K. Brown as Ronald Williams
Director: Trey Edward Shults

Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike. Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.

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I’ve been hearing a bunch of things about Waves for the past months. I recognised some of the actors like Sterling J. Brown and I recognise the director from his work on It Comes at Night, which I thought was pretty good. The reactions had been interesting, some have been highly praising it as one of the best of the year, others couldn’t stand it and downright hated it. I had no idea how I’d feel about it, but I was actually quite surprised by how much I loved Waves.

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Much of Waves is best seen not knowing too much going in, so I’ll refrain from spoilers as best as I can. Much of the talk surrounding this movie has been how it’s essentially split into two very different and distinct halves, and I’ve noticed a lot of people loving the first half and bored with the second, or hating the first half and starting to like the movie during the second. The first half has some of the most electric filmmaking I’ve seen in a while, and indeed the story in this part is pretty tense too, as things build up towards… something. The second half is a lot more quiet and calm in comparison. For me I personally loved both parts. While I was into the first half, the second half was essential for the movie sticking really the landing, and I never felt bored during that. I was locked into the story and characters throughout, and indeed it’s an emotionally powerful story, and is very affecting, with a number of heartbreaking scenes throughout. The only gripe I guess I might have is that the ending is a little abrupt, even just 30 seconds longer would’ve made it better.

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Waves has a great ensemble cast, and they all perform excellently, with the likes of Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges. They all give some of the best performances of their careers, emotionally intense and powerful. Biggest surprise was from Taylor Russell, who really shines in the second half, and essentially carries that portion. Even if the rest of the movie won’t work for you, I think you’ll at least be impressed on an acting level.

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I was already impressed by Trey Edward Shults’s work on It Comes at Night, but I’m even more impressed with what he did with Waves. So much of this movie is sensory overload, mainly the first half, with the camera work, the music and sound, it’s can be really overwhelming. I get for some people it may be too much but I for one liked it for that. Waves is also a gorgeous looking movie from beginning to end, with a great colour palette that worked perfectly with the movie. There’s even some aspect ratio changes at points that oddly enough fitted the narrative. I don’t recognise really any of the songs used in the movie, and indeed I’m not part of the specific audience that the soundtrack is very much built towards, but there’s a great playlist here, and I thought it accompanied the plot appropriately. The score itself is also really good, I kept wondering why it sounded somewhat familiar and it turns out it was by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who of course composed music for The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and more. Their work on Waves is amongst their best scores, and that’s saying a lot.

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Waves is definitely not going to work for everyone, for me though, I kind of loved it, an emotionally powerful gut punch that I’m still thinking about. It was written directed excellently, and the ensemble performances were outstanding. It surprisingly ended up one of my favourite movies of 2019. While I know that some people will hate the movie, I still do recommend seeing it for yourself, because there’s a lot of great things here.

A Hidden Life (2019) Review

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A Hidden Life

Time: 174 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter
Valerie Pachner as Franziska Jägerstätter
Karin Neuhauser as Rosalia Jagerstatter
Michael Nyqvist as Bishop Joseph Fliesser
Jürgen Prochnow as Major Schlegel
Matthias Schoenaerts as Captain Herder
Bruno Ganz as Judge Lueben
Director: Terrence Malick

Based on real events, A Hidden Life is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War 2. When the Austrian peasant farmer is faced with the threat of execution for treason, it is his unwavering faith and his love for his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner), and children, that keeps his spirit alive.

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A Hidden Life was a movie I was paying attention to for a while. Terrence Malick is a divisive filmmaker, but I’ve seen almost all of his movies (not gotten around to The New World yet) and I liked most of them. After Tree of Life which most people liked, Malick got a little more experimental and loose with his narrative, and not everyone has warmed to his next few movies. A Hidden Life however seemed to be a lot more focused and conventional in terms of story, and I was curious what he’d be doing with this movie, especially with one based on a true story. Having seen it, this might actually be one of Terrence Malick’s best movies.

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First thing to note is that A Hidden Life is nearly 3 hours long. While I really like Malick, I always get the feeling of his movies being stretched out, and this is indeed one of his longest movies. I will say that you do feel the runtime here and I wish this movie was trimmed down just a little bit (probably mainly some parts with the main character’s family in the second half as it begins to be a little repetitive, but otherwise the length didn’t bother me too much, I was pretty invested. It doesn’t do that thing where it meanders like Knight of Cups, Song to Song or To the Wonder, it seems pretty steady with its focus on the story. The story is deeply emotional and reflective, and unlike some of his other movies, there is a strong dramatic backbone throughout. It’s also thematically strong, about right and wrong, faith, and the like. Although it was a long experience, I really felt it was all worth it.

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The acting from everyone is good, but it’s the two main performances that are particularly incredible. That is of August Diehl who plays the main character, and Valerie Pachner as his wife. Both gives generally internalised but very emotional and believable performances, deserving of very high praise. I do think it’s worth noting that this film also features the final on-screen appearances of Bruno Ganz and Michael Nyqvist.

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Terrence Malick as usual directs beautifully. You do get the familiar Malickisms, the beautiful music, the shots following people, the usual editing, voiceovers, if you’ve seen his other movies, you know what to expect here. While his style isn’t for everyone, I liked it, and he’s done some great work here. While Malick films are typically shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, this time the cinematography is done by Jörg Widmer, and it’s a gorgeous looking movie, making great use of the locations and environment. Definitely among some of the best cinematography in a 2019 film. It’s such an intimate movie and not on such a large scale like some of Malick’s other movies, but it’s directed just as well. While some have called some of his most recent uses of voiceovers to be bordering on self parody, with A Hidden Life, it definitely has a strong purpose. The music by James Newton Howard is also great and works perfectly for the movie.

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A Hidden Life is an emotional, at times harrowing, yet beautiful and excellently well made film, and a stand out from 2019. A Hidden Life probably won’t work for those who haven’t seen a Terrence Malick movie before, or aren’t a fan of any of his movies. However to those who are, it’s really worth checking out.

Little Women (2019) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Josephine “Jo” March
Emma Watson as Margaret “Meg” March
Florence Pugh as Amy March
Eliza Scanlen as Elizabeth “Beth” March
Laura Dern as Marmee March
Timothée Chalamet as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence
Meryl Streep as Aunt March
Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood
Bob Odenkirk as Father March
James Norton as John Brooke
Louis Garrel as Friedrich Bhaer
Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence
Director: Greta Gerwig

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy (Florence Pugh) studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore (Timothee Chalamet), a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg (Emma Watson), is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.

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I heard quite a bit about Little Women leading up to its release, mainly the people involved with making it, and the awards hype surrounding it. Greta Gerwig’s previous movie (and her debut) was Lady Bird, which I thought was pretty decent. I didn’t read the Little Women book, not have I watched any of the previous adaptations of them, so I really didn’t know what to expect from this most recent version. However I found it to be rather fantastic really, and one of the highlights of 2019.

I can’t comment on how well Little Women does as an adaptation as I’m not familiar with the story. However this movie did such a good job at making me interested in at least checking out the version from the 90s. There are two storylines that the movie cuts between, present day and the past. For some it was jarring and indeed there are moments where it feels that way, however I actually liked how they handled it, the use of parallels worked particularly well. It’s a really heartfelt story as we follow this family through their lives. One thing I had heard going into the movie was that the ending was changed. Knowing the context of the original book and considering the main character throughout the story, I actually liked it, and it made a lot of sense. Although it took a bit for me to get into the story at the start, I didn’t feel like it stretched on for too long, even at 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was invested in what was going on from start to finish. A minor but nonetheless distracting thing is the fact that early in the flashbacks, Florence Pugh’s (who is very clearly an adult) character Amy is supposed to be 13, however for whatever reason they had a scene with her in school with actual 13 year olds. That choice was more than a little distracting, but the scene lasted for less than a minute. Outside of that there aren’t many problems I had with the movie.

The cast on the whole were outstanding. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen play the March sisters, and they all work really well, especially with each other. Ronan gives one of her best performances, and Pugh was a standout. Laura Dern does well as the mother of the March sisters, and Timothee Chalamet gives quite possibly my favourite performance from him. The rest of the supporting cast was solid too, with the likes of Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk Chris Cooper and others really working.

Greta Gerwig directed this movie exceptionally well. It is larger scale compared to Lady Bird, yet manages to make much of this movie feel very personal. I can’t tell how previous versions handled the story, but her version was done in a way where today’s audiences can easily get into it. Everything for the time period works perfectly, from the costumes, to the production design, and more. It’s such a visually stunning movie and looks great, very well shot by Yorick Le Sauz. The score by Alexandre Desplat was quite good and was also fitting for the movie.

Little Women surprised me by in how great it was. Greta Gerwig has directed and written this exceptionally, and the cast all played their parts well. I have seen some people say that this adaptation of the story has the potential to be a future classic, and I can honestly see that happening. Even if you don’t think you’ll like it, I still highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can, it’s one of my favourites of the year.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Nudity
Cast:
Noémie Merlant as Marianne
Adèle Haenel as Héloïse
Luàna Bajrami as Sophie
Director: Céline Sciamma

In 18th century, France a young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.

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I had been hearing a lot about Portrait of a Lady on Fire leading up to its release. All I knew was that it was a French movie that everybody who saw it loved, and many had been declaring it as one of the best films of the year. Having finally seen it, although I’m not quite at the level of those people, I can confirm that it is great.

First and foremost, it is worth noting that Portrait on a Lady on Fire is quite slow, particularly at the beginning section of the moevie. However, it builds up over time, and only gets better as it moves along, as it builds up towards the end. It’s a very subtle and quiet movie on the whole, just focussing in on our lead two characters and their interactions together. It’s such a genuine and intimate movie, and it’s not melodramatic or pretentious. It’s actually quite hard to explain how the movie works, it’s just something you’ll have to see for yourself. I will say that the slow pacing might’ve detracted from my enjoyment and experience of the movie, at least I’m guessing that’s the reason I don’t nearly love it as much as a lot of other people. I do get the feeling however that it’ll hit harder and work better for me next time I watch it. Even if I wasn’t that emotionally invested or connected to the characters and story, on the whole its plotted out quite well, and I think it was ended quite well, even though I think ending it a scene or two earlier would’ve also worked. I liked many of the ideas that they presented, and I’m looking forward to revisiting this movie.

The two lead performances are some of the best acting of the year, in both Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel. They felt so natural in their roles, and their chemistry was completely believable. Though much of their interactions that bring them closer together are subtle (and these interactions do drive the movie), these two actresses really conveyed the characters and their emotions excellently.

This movie is pretty much perfectly directed by Céline Sciamma, and it’s one of the main reasons why this movie worked so well. It’s a gorgeous looking film, with the cinematography from Claire Mathon making this movie one of the best shot movies of the year. Much of the subtlety that I mentioned earlier, is provided by the direction, and that really worked for the movie. The use of music was great as well, I don’t remember it being used often, but when it was present, it was used excellently. On a technical level it was pretty much perfect, very likely one of the best directed films of the year.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a very well made and visually stunning movie, beautifully directed and excellently acted. Definitely one not to miss from this year. Despite this, I will admit that I do feel like I’m missing something from it compared to the other reactions coming out of this movie, and it’s definitely something I want to revisit sometime in the future. Nonetheless, I’d say to catch Portrait of a Lady on Fire as soon as you can, there’s at least a lot to appreciate in it, even if you don’t completely fall in love with it.

Marriage Story (2019) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Nicole Barber
Adam Driver as Charlie Barber
Laura Dern as Nora Fanshaw
Alan Alda as Bert Spitz
Ray Liotta as Jay Marotta
Azhy Robertson as Henry Barber
Julie Hagerty as Sandra
Merritt Wever as Cassie
Director: Noah Baumbach

A stage director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson) struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.

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I have heard of Marriage Story for a while, and there was much anticipation leading up to its release. I liked the few movies I’ve seen from writer/director Noah Baumbach, and the cast included Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, so there was a lot of talent involved. However, I didn’t really know what to expect except that it was a movie about divorce and a lot of people were hyping it up. Marriage Story is definitely great and for sure worth seeing when you can.

The script by Noah Baumbach is greatly written, at 2 hours 15 minutes or so, Marriage Story is rather engaging. It’s a slower paced dialogue driven drama, I had an idea it would be that going in, and I liked it for what it is. So much of it feels real, from the dialogue to the story and some of the characters (even if it does throw in a few large monologues too). It doesn’t really side with either of the main characters Charlie (Adam Driver) or Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), it portrays both of them honestly, each with their own flaws. However I will say that it feels more like Charlie’s movie than Nicole’s, so Driver had a little more to work with. Side note but wondering about “whose fault it is” between the two is very counterproductive, and is not really a conversation worth having. I don’t know too much about the divorce process, but the movie at least felt like an accurate depiction of it. It showed glimpses of the process, as well as the effect it has on the two leads as well as their child. I should mention that yes, Marriage Story very much has replaced Kramer vs Kramer as the best movie about divorce. I heard going into this movie that it was emotionally devastating and all that. Excluding whether you can relate to it (whether first hand or second hand experience with relationships/divorce), it’s not really that sort of movie. It is a dramedy, while it can be sad in parts, it’s not a consistently depressing or heavy movie or anything, it’s really bittersweet at worst. There are some lighter parts, and plenty of genuinely humorous moments too. Ultimately it’s a hopeful movie, including the way that it ended (not spoiling anything). Not to mention that as far as divorces go, there have been a lot more unpleasant divorces in both fiction and reality than the one front and centre throughout Marriage Story. None of what I said is a tangent to flex about how I didn’t cry during the movie or anything, I’m just talking about what kind of movie it is. I will say though on that note, I wasn’t that emotionally connected to the story and characters. I was definitely invested in it as a movie but that was sort of it.

There is a great lineup of a cast, and they all do some great work here. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give their best performances of their careers, as well as some of the best performances of the year. They felt incredibly raw and human, and while you don’t see a lot of them being together before the divorce (this is just shown in a brief montage), they have such great chemistry and you can believe that these two people were once in love. I’ve noticed people reposting and praising an argument scene between the two (there are a number of arguments but you’ll know which one I’m referring to), watching a couple minutes of it out of context doesn’t do it justice at all. The way it builds up to it and the context really gives it its impact, and both actors did very good jobs in that scene and the whole movie. The lawyers played by Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta also work well in their respective roles. Azhy Robertson is also good as Henry, the child of Charlie and Nicole, who’s caught in the middle of the divorce.

Noah Baumbach directed the movie well, particularly with the dialogue scenes. An example was a monologue by Scarlett Johansson in her first scene with Laura Dern, it’s uninterrupted and focuses on Johansson, letting the scene play out and allowing her performance to take up the focus. It’s a much more intimate and personal movie, and the direction certainly accompanies that, but it’s also edited very effectively. The score by Randy Newman was also quite good.

Marriage Story is really worth watching as soon as possible, it’s fantastically written, and features some excellent acting from its talented cast (particularly Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson). Whether you like Noah Baumbach or not, or if you have you seen his movies or not, check it out on Netflix if it’s not in a cinema near you.