Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri follows Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), who puts up three billboards to raise awareness about the brutal murder of her daughter after the police have failed to catch the killer after many months. I’ve seen previous films from the director, Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, so I was aware of the talent he has with directing and writing. Both his films, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, were not only directed well but were extremely entertaining and hilarious. I’m happy to say that this film is the best out of his three, because not only does he keep his terrific comedic style, but he blends it with some powerful emotion and relevant themes to make one of the year’s finest films. McDormand is mesmerizing in the lead, because despite lots of her lines being mostly for humorous effect, her delivery of the lines is as great as it can be, and we feel her character’s rage and anger at the world after her loss and at the police for not finding her daughter’s killer. The Ebbing police is led by Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, who is singled out by the billboards and is angered by this yet feels sympathetic for Mildred’s cause. His role isn’t as large as McDormand’s but Harrelson still brings the best out of his character for another memorable performance among his impressive resume. Another highlight of the superb cast is Sam Rockwell, who has worked before with McDonagh, and here he brings lots of fun to his character but also plenty of feeling for the audience to connect with. Also worth mentioning is Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son, and this is definitely Hedges’ best work since his brilliant turn in Manchester by the Sea, as we feel a grieving brother who is looking out for his mother while also under her wing. The cast is definitely one of the best of the year, but that’s not the only part that makes this movie a must-watch.

It’s quite surprising when movies are able to make you laugh throughout but also make you get very emotional and attached to the plot and characters at the same time. We saw this with Manchester by the Sea last year, which had many humorous moments throughout and was even marketed as a comedy, but turned out to be an extremely depressing drama and last year’s most emotionally gripping film. This is a similar situation, but there’s so much humor that McDonagh carries down from his style in his other films that you can even call it a dark comedy of sorts as well. It’s shocking that McDonagh was able to fit so much comedy in this kind of movie, even though the trailer made it look only comedic. Whenever the humor is there, it’s absolutely hilarious, and every joke hit its mark. The trailer gives you a good taste of some of the best humorous moments but a lot of it is for you to see. However, McDonagh understands when we need to feel for these characters, and through this humorous style we get a great taste of who they are and some parts are definitely sad for these people. The themes about anger and hate elevate the story, and there are relevant storylines about the police today, and how the victims of crimes such as the one that triggers the plot of this film react to such loss. It’s almost satirical about the relationship between people and authority, or even just people and other people. When the plot first unravels, you are never told anything too quickly and we get we need to hear bit by bit. The script uses the show, not tell method very well to the story’s advantage, with great directing and scenery used to bring forward the plot and character arcs too. The characters written here have such personality and are so noteworthy that they even reach the heights of what the Coen brothers have been able to do with their characters. You’ll be guaranteed to laugh at the outrageous and brilliant humor but also reflect on what these people are going through and the realistic messages we get. It’s not a film about investigating the crime but rather about how people react to such a crime. The ending may be unsatisfactory to some, but I really liked the meaning behind it that McDonagh was going for. This film will make you laugh, smile, or even cry, but one thing is for sure — you’ll definitely be affected by this film but still enjoy the hell out of it at the same time.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of the year’s most genius films about grief, loss, crime, hate and anger. The over-the-top humor makes this possibly the funniest movie I’ve seen all year but the strong emotion and messages make it the most emotional film to come out in a long time, and also one of the most thoughtful. The cast bring their characters to life wonderfully, and I’m glad to say that Martin McDonagh has found his masterpiece. My definitive pick to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and hopefully it will get nominated for the other awards too, or even win. The lengthy title may make some people stay away from it, but don’t be fooled, it’s a powerful and applaudable must-watch for all that you can also enjoy and laugh with throughout.

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Lady Bird

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Saoirse Ronan stars in actress Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut exploring the senior high school year of a girl living in Sacramento. Lady Bird is without a doubt a sweet and very entertaining coming-of-age film that’s especially impressive for a debut. I’ve always considered Greta Gerwig a great actress, with her touching and quirky performances in Frances Ha and 20th Century Women demonstrating her rare and impressive talent, and here she proves she can create a great story behind the camera as well. Ronan brings out her best performance since Brooklyn as an interesting lead role with a lovable personality. Her character is often self-centered and foolish but her emotion, charisma, aspirations, and love for her family makes her a unique protagonist. The way her relationship with her mother is depicted is very heartwarming and definitely the core of the film, offering another great performance from Laurie Metcalf. The supporting cast including Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges as one of the protagonist’s boyfriends and Tracy Letts as her father also give it their all and they bring a nice approach that make their characters feel like people involved in this world built around Ronan’s character. The plot and emotions from each character feel very human and aren’t exaggerated too often, and although there are some plenty of hilarious moments, it also known when to be more serious and the comedy and drama elements are balanced really well. Every scene flows from one to the other as if it was real life, and the realistic character personalities, emotions, and actions are reminiscent of films Gerwig has starred in herself. Although it doesn’t have any surprises in the story as it is another coming-of-age film, and some of the events at the end feel a little familiar, but Gerwig brings lots of humor and heart to create an affecting and human story about family, adolescence, and life.

Lady Bird is a great debut from Greta Gerwig with a fantastic performance from the talented Saiorse Ronan. Its mature content makes it one to be viewed by teens and older viewers, but its touching emotion, cast, and writing make it a recommended watch for those who are interested in a grounded and human story that will not fail to entertain you.

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Murder on the Orient Express

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In the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, Kenneth Branagh directs and plays Hercule Poirot, who must solve a murder on a train and bring the killer to justice. The large ensemble cast also includes Josh Gad, Michelle Pfieffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and Judi Dench as the other passengers on the train whose guilt or innocence must be discovered by Poirot. Although the classic murder mystery style is entertaining and the cast is great, there isn’t much to offer other than an interesting mystery that is only sometimes inviting. Some of the cinematography feels out of place and some of the green screen effects and CGI feel obvious, but what matters in this kind of movie is the story, which isn’t perfect either. The opening scene set in Jerusalem is very entertaining and sets up a light tone for the rest of the movie, but later some darker elements are kicked in and it feels unbalanced. The titular murder only takes place about 30 minutes into the movie, and there is too much that’s unnecessarily built up before the inciting incident, and this could have easily been shortened. Some of the supporting cast, including Pfieffer, Gad, Ridley, Depp, and Odom, get their moments to shine, and it works really well for them, but lots of the other cast members do nothing and don’t get much significance. However, Branagh is definitely the standout of the cast and the film with his charming and great performance as the famous detective who’s been loved by many generations for nearly a century. He is able to bring his character to life very well and his presence is always fun and exciting. However, he may have not been the best person to direct the film, and although the sets and costume design are outstanding, the pacing and writing are uneven, and while some of the mystery is intriguing, a lot of the runtime feels rather slow and the movie could have been easily been cut down to a shorter runtime of maybe 10 minutes less, which would make it feel more like a nonstop thrill ride mystery like it should have been. Although I liked the big reveal and the solution to the murder, the way the very end was handled was heavy-handed and betrayed the way the character of Poirot was being established throughout the film.

While Murder on the Orient Express is surely not a bad film, it’s a remake that doesn’t offer anything new if you already know the story other than a great cast and some nice production design. The execution is uneven and could have used more balanced runtime and pacing, and it’s somewhat forgettable but will interest those who like the classic murder mystery style.

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Blade Runner 2049

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In the highly anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) discovers a secret that leads him to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who disappeared 30 years earlier.

Blade Runner is a film that’s influenced many sci-fi films and blockbusters to come, and is definitely a very visually beautiful film, although not one of my favorites. I was very excited for this film because Denis Villeneuve has never disappointed with his previous films, including Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and especially Arrival, and I could even call him one of the greatest directors of our time. Although the trailer may mislead you to think that this one’s more of an action movie than before, it’s actually as slow-paced and short on action as the previous film, so don’t be fooled. Thankfully, there’s a very intriguing story, impeccable directing, cinematography and visuals, and great acting. Ryan Gosling plays a leading role who acts more than he speaks, and knowing anything about his character beforehand would spoil the story. His movements, expressions, and interactions with every character make this one of his best performances in recent memory. Although it takes a while for Harrison Ford to make his grand entrance into the movie, it’s gladly pleasing to see him kick ass on screen once again, and it’s great to see that he’s still as good as Deckard as he was back in the ’80s. The rest of the cast, most notably Ana de Armas (who you may remember in a big role from last year’s War Dogs, and here she’s in a brilliant and very impressive role), is terrific as well, also including Robin Wright and Dave Bautista in great supporting roles. However, one performance really bothered me, which was that of Jared Leto. I think he’s a great actor but his acting here was too eccentric and over-the-top, and it felt very annoying, so I’m glad that his character had minimal screen-time in the movie.

I’m surprised that a movie like this was released in 2017, and it’s as big of a deal as it was when Blade Runner came out in 1982, because nowadays every film with so much CGI and hugely billed actors has constant action scenes and familiar cliches, so it’s refreshing to see that this one, like its predecessor, is rather a mystery drama than an action film. Ridley Scott did not have to worry when the sequel to his film is in the hands of Villeneuve, because if you’re familiar with his filmography, you know that nothing can go wrong when he’s in the director’s chair. Every shot is one that can be framed and Roger Deakins, who has already been nominated for 13 Oscars in his career, delivers possibly his best work here. The CGI is Oscar-worthy as well, and it blends in perfectly with the realistic effects in the movie. The music takes plenty of inspiration from the last film, and is done very beautifully thanks to the master Hans Zimmer, and his score for this movie is probably his best since Interstellar. All the technical elements blend in to make every scene intense and unpredictable. The story is more complex than the original and the movie feels like a puzzle as the runtime goes by. The movie is very long, running at almost three hours, but it grips onto your attention in every scene from the very first shot until the last. Some plot points are introduced and then later things are said or implied to contradict what you learned earlier, and then later it’s unanswered what is true or how exactly it worked, but I bet some of these plot points were left open-ended purposely. If you liked the first Blade Runner, you’ll definitely have a great time with this spellbinding, daring, extraordinary sci-fi movie, but if you didn’t, then you might not enjoy this one, as it’s longer and more complicated, but in my opinion, even better than the original. There is not a lot of action, so if you want an action-packed movie I’d recommend you see Kingsman: The Golden Circle, but this is the rare sci-fi feature we get every year that aspires for more, and leaves you thinking a lot, like InterstellarEx Machina, and Villeneuve’s own Arrival. He has made another magnificent feature that’s definitely one of the best of the year. There is occasional violence, language, and nudity, so I don’t recommend it for audiences under 15, but older and more patient viewers should definitely see this fulfilling sequel on the big screen.

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The 2017 FilmToppings Summer Movie Awards

This summer was a great couple of months, as we received lots of great movies in the last few months. I held these awards ceremony for the fourth time, and this year was quite a success! I had lots of votes and more categories this year! Thanks to everyone who helped determine the winners by voting on my Instagram posts! Without further ado, here are the winners:

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

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Best Cinematography: Dunkirk

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Best Score/Soundtrack: Baby Driver

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Best Supporting Actor: Michael Rooker – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Best Supporting Actress: Eiza Gonzalez – Baby Driver

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Best Screenplay: The Big Sick

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Best Director: Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

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Best Actor: Andy Serkis – War for the Planet of the Apes

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Best Actress: Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman

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Worst Movie: The Emoji Movie

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Best Movie: Baby Driver

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Those are this summer’s award winners! Once again, I’d like to thank all my followers who participated by voting on my Instagram posts, as well as all those amazing filmmakers who helped us all have awesome times at the movies this summer! Other great films that were nominated but didn’t win any awards include It Comes at Night, Okja, Wind River, Detroit, Logan Lucky, Spider-Man Homecoming, and more! I agree with most of my followers’ picks this year, including the Best Movie! This summer was awesome and I hope this awards season has many more great movies to offer! What were your favorite films this summer and which most deserved to win?

Detroit

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In Kathryn Bieglow’s latest film, she takes on the 1967 Detroit riot that shook the city forever. Bigelow has done a great job taking on true stories before, like the Iraq War in The Hurt Locker and the assassination of bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, both of which are great films that had me excited for this one. Here, Bigelow’s directing does not fail to stand out. She’s the most successful female director in Hollywood and it’s not hard to see why. The story is depicted mostly in the events of one night, in which the police raid of a motel generates horrible results. Although the setting is mostly small, these scenes are powerful and have lots of meaning in them. The cast is great, including Star Wars‘ John Boyega and especially Will Poulter as a ruthlessly racist white cop, but the real star is newcomer Algee Smith, who plays a musician who is emotionally scarred after the horrifying events of the film. He demonstrates lots of talent through his expression of fear and humanity in the movie. The first 45 minutes are slow and messy, as the historical concept is first introduced, and then we are given many characters to follow without any plot being brought forward until after this long first act. The directing was always great, but the writing in this first part could have been improved, and Barry Ackroyd’s style of quick cuts and handheld cam doesn’t quite work here. However, once the intensity kicked in, the writing became much more interesting and I was on the edge of my seat. The depiction of the excessive violence that the police unnecessarily used on the blacks in this time is painful to watch, and not just because you know it really happened, but because these situations still happen today and nothing his really changed since those violent and awful times. The scariest thing about Detroit is that the theme in the movie not only stands for the time period and the city it takes place in, but what is happening all over the country even today, and that change must be made. The ending is frustratingly realistic but has a point to prove and a state to make, one that will stay with you and hopefully inspire us all to move toward peace.

Kathryn Bigelow has made another great true story with Detroit, a difficult and realistic but moving feature that although not one of the best films of the year, it’s one of the most necessary. It takes on important themes like racism and violence, and is a moving history lesson that has a relevant message to both the past and the present.

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The Big Sick

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The Big Sick is the true story of actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself in the main role. He wrote the film with his wife Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan in the film), and this tells the story of their relationship and how it was complicated by Emily’s sickness, as well as Kumail’s Pakistani culture.

Neither comedy nor romance are up there on the list of my favorite genres, although I’m not saying I don’t like those genres, because I really do. However, most films in those genres nowadays tend to feel recycled and often the same. However, movies like The Big Sick that try to reinvent the rom-com genre (or one of the genres alone) and stay way from the usual tropes, but still remain a film for the mainstream audience, really intrigue me. The rave reviews have gotten me interested and I sure wasn’t let down considering what this film had to offer.  The story is touching and I was interested with the fact that Kumail starred in a film about himself and a story that was personally important to him. It’s not a groundbreaking true story in any way, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s just a smart story about love and relations between cultures. Its modern relevance and terrific humor make it a treat to watch from smart to finish. There was hardly a dull moment, and although a subplot involving Kumail’s stand-up career and his friends could have been developed slightly more and wasn’t as engaging as the rest of the film, I wasn’t really ever pulled out of the film during its 2-hour runtime. Kumail is hilarious and heartwarming and carries the film wonderfully. Of course someone can deliver a great performance as themselves, but he was able to bring something from himself that audiences can connect to and enjoy about his own personality. The way he tells his story is so much fun, and the script from him and his wife is sincere, humorous, and emotionally effective although light-hearted. Zoe Kazan is well-casted as Emily, Kumail’s wife, and she had great chemistry with him as well. An important scene with her character didn’t completely convince me like I hoped in terms of her aacting, but most of the time she was able to bring some heart to the screen. There’s also some big names in the film: Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents. Both of those actors are great, especially Romano, who is hilarious and a fun character to watch and connect with. Hunter is also impressive and the chemistry both the actors have with Kumail on screen is very well done, considering it’s a huge part of the film. By the end of the movie, I was left thinking about the small yet important story that managed to bring a smile on my face, even though the story doesn’t quite wrap up like expected, and this movie proved that you don’t need a huge budget or plot to have a great film that people can connect and have a good time with.

I overall loved the culturally relevant autobiographical true story The Big Sick had to offer, as well as the acting, humor, and terrific writing. This has something in store for all audiences, and one of the more touching films in theaters right now, if you’re looking for a great comedy that has something that will stick with you beyond the laughs.

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