Yesterday

Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, until a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, after which Jack wakes up to discover that nobody except him can remember The Beatles. Soon Jack makes a life-altering decision that sends him to fame as he starts taking credit for the band’s forgotten songs.

Yesterday is a movie with a fantastically original premise, compared to the same recycled formulas in a lot of genres. Though it does sometimes get stuck in mediocre rom-com tropes, like a cheesy romance in the second act that doesn’t know where it’s going until the very end, this movie takes advantage of its genius idea and makes for a fun, humorous, and interesting two hours. Himesh Patel is not only fun and charming but also sings really well and was well-cast — he hasn’t been in much before but may soon make a name for himself after his starring role here — and also entertaining are Lily James as his best friend, and Ed Sheeran as himself — the singer who helps Jack skyrocket to stardom. However, one character I found to be annoying was his manager played by Kate McKinnon, whose comedic turns I usually enjoy on Saturday Night Live, but here her character was simply irritating and unlikable. It’s no surprise the music is so enjoyable — they chose the best band to make this movie about, and as a huge Beatles fan myself, it’s great to hear them all through the film, and luckily they cast a great actor who can sing as well. There’s also plenty of humorous moments I didn’t expect and the jokes almost always land. Like I said, the second half does lose a little bit of steam but once you see where it all ends up, you get to take in some of the themes the movie is going for. There’s also another sweet theme about how the most iconic of pop culture is what touches people’s hearts and should be kept alive. As one character says, “A world without the Beatles is a world infinitely worse.” So I have to applaud director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curits for creating one of the most original films of the year that sometimes doesn’t avoid genre tropes but the fresh plotline makes for some truly great moments, and there’s also plenty of excellent musical moments as well. When everything that’s out has to do with killer toys, superheroes, and animated animals, why not try something new for a change and support this one-of-a-kind film I bet you won’t regret seeing in theaters.

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Rocketman

Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. Taron Egerton proves that he was perfectly cast as the titular role. His singing voice is so fitting and perfectly delivers on these classic Elton songs which are not only integrated into the film through his concert performances but also by musical and dance sequences where Elton’s lines connect to the situations in certain scenes. Egerton also delivers on showing how the leading character felt pride, love, anger, and rejection at certain points in his career. Also great is Jamie Bell as Elton’s best friend, and Bryce Dallas Howard who was an odd choice to play Elton’s mother but still does a solid job. Dexter Fletcher was the one and only person who should’ve directed this film and he brings so much style to the film that makes it easy to enjoy. The sets, cinematography, and editing add to an already interesting script with an artsy feel that heightens the audience’s connection to the protagonist and will make you want to sing and dance along to some of your favorite Elton John songs. What the film does so well is depicting both the highs and lows of Elton’s career and also spends a lot of time addressing and depicting his sexuality, so expect some strong sexual content as well. We see Elton display talent and receive fame, but we also see him deal with rejection from those closest to him, as well as suffering from addiction resulting from a downward emotional spiral. Yet by the end, Rocketman will feel like a rewarding time at the movies with great music, acting, and story that those who love his music will very much enjoy.

My only gripe about Rocketman is that despite its 2-hour runtime, I think a few aspects could have used a little more screentime, like how audiences were affected by his music or how those around him reacted to his addiction, which we could have seen a bit more of. Other than that, Rocketman is entertaining and emotional yet uplifting and very well-directed and acted.

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Hotel Mumbai

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The true story of the Taj Hotel terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. Hotel staff risk their lives to keep everyone safe as people make unthinkable sacrifices to protect themselves and their families.

Hotel Mumbai is a terrifyingly realistic and relevant look at the awfulness of the world and a terrible act of hate. However, it also puts the spotlight on the courage of the protagonists, the workers and guests at the hotel being held hostage. We see in numerous scenes where several characters make the difficult choice to put their guests’ lives ahead of theirs, as they claim “Guest is god”, and that the hotel is their home and they would not leave without first ensuring the safety of others. The guests also are seen never giving up to be with their loved ones and protect them, even if it costs them their own lives. Even though we’re also reminded of the horrible, blind beliefs that radical terrorists follow, even they are given brief moments to remind the audience that they’re also human beings, like a terrorist who is critically injured and calls his father tearfully when he realizes it’s unlikely he’ll make it home. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer deliver solid performances, but a surprising standout is Anupam Kher as the head chef at the hotel who constantly displays leadership, courage, and selflessness during the attack. The dirtector also does a great job building sitatuions of tension and showing certain characters in the same shot to make us uncertain who will make it out alive. Despite being an effective thriller, Hotel Mumbai does unfortanely fall into some “true terrorist attack film” cliches, like the main character who’s new at his job, the white guy who’s mostly there to make more money, the couple who gets seperated, the rich guy who’s kind of an asshole, the brave but foolish cops who are the first to arrive at the scene and the seasoned worker who always maintains his dignity. Though it’s easy to tell where it’s going and who’s likely to die or make it out alive, Hotel Mumbai still remains an intense dramatization that does its job of reminding us of the terror that’s happened in this world and continues to happen today.

Hotel Mumbai is strongly acted, well-directed, and feels very realistically and executed. However, it sometimes falls into cliches of films in the similar genre, while thankfully still remaining intense and timely for audiences.

 

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Fighting with my Family

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This uplifting sports comedy-drama follows WWE wrestler Paige and her real-life journey from holding small matches with her family in England to becoming a worldwide superstar.

Fighting with my Family not only retains some rare, real genius in its humor that all audiences will love, but also delivers a touching and exciting story that will keep you rooting for the characters from beginning to end. Though Paige’s story isn’t a “shocking” or “never seen before” one, the movie lets you forget that it at times has some familiar aspects by delivering a heartfelt script that won’t take you of the scene for a second. Florence Pugh perfectly embodies her character, who is passionate, tough, and isn’t always set on looking “pretty” but not afraid to fight rough, and Pugh really brings some soul to the role as well. Jack Lowden also delivers some great heart as her brother who has an important role in the story that will also make you legitimately care for him and the relationship between the two siblings. Nick Frost and Lena Headey are not only outrageously hilarious parents who love wrestling as much as their kids, and bigger are cast to get some bigger names out there, but they feel like truly loving and supportive parents, despite their outgoing personalities. That’s where the film’s true strength comes — even when the movie goes for monstrous laugh-out-loud moments, it never forgets to deliver some true heart and soul at the same time, which makes it a terrific theater experience in both the enjoyment aspect, and the actual quality the film delivers. Vince Vaughn, who is normally a comedic performer, is surprisingly in the serious role here, and he excellently takes on a coach who goes hard on his wrestlers because he clearly cares about their future in the sport, and also has some down-to-earth moments with the main roles. And wrestling legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has some very memorable appearances that remind us why he is such an icon in both the wrestling and film industries, and its nice to see him go for a more inspirational role than just the badass running from explosions, even if his role in this film is minimal.

Fighting with my Family proves an excellent debut for Stephen Merchant behind the camera, who, like I said, perfectly balances humor with some authentic substance and strong writing that will make you fall in love with the characters. Even though you can tell how the climax will end, this movie will have you constantly laughing out loud but also cheering for the leading character of Paige thanks to some great performances and an ultimately uplifting and cheerful experience you won’t want to forget.

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The Favourite

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In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her friendship with the Queen threatens Sarah’s place in court.
Yorgos Lanthimos has already made a name for himself as a filmmaker with a distinct style and a cult favorite, though his style definitely won’t appeal to all audiences. I, for one, am a huge fan of his dark humor that feels fresh and different from any other films, as well as the pessimism and dark character relationships and themes he presents. The Favourite brings the dark humor he’s known for and will make some laugh and other cringe and feel awkward. However, these moments make for some of the phenomenal scenes in The Favourite, ones that you won’t forget because they dare to break the standards of what one would expect in a period piece, though those familiar with Lanthimos know what they’re in for. The Favourite is a beautiful looking film with the best costumes and sets of the year and inventive cinematography that changes camera distance mid-scene or even mid-action and breaks known filming rules such as the 180 rule. Another standout is the performances from three exceptional women. Olivia Colman is a queen who often appears less as a leader but a woman “stalked by tragedy”, who is often rude and feels sorry for herself but also seeks to care for those closest to her, or her “favourite”. Rachel Weisz is also great as a deceitful woman who is unlikable but also just wants to maintain her relationship with the Queen. Emma Stone was the standout to me, and this is up there with her Birdman and La La Land roles as she nails an English accent and plays the only character you really want to root for, though by the end, the film makes us wonder if anyone was really a good person here. By powerfully showing a rivalry between these women begging for love and favour from the Queen, Yorgos conveys the themes that people want to reach high status and just want to satisfy their immediate feelings and passion, but do these prizes really solve everything? The Favourite is never really a fun film but you will be intrigued by this main storyline, even though the style is not for everyone. At times it does slow down whenever it focuses on the Queen’s leadership and the Parliament, but the main strength comes from the spirit these actresses bring to the screen. The Favourite is a movie that needs a lot of reflecting on, with a final shot that’s as meaningful as it is puzzling and odd but brings so much layer to the film.
The Favourite is top-notch filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos doing what he does best — bringing a unique style to the screen with spectacular prestige cinematography and strong, pessimistic themes anchored by three wonderful leading performances.
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The Mule

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Clint Eastwood directs this new crime film inspired by a true story, and plays a 90-year-old man who becomes a drug mule for the Mexican cartel.

As an actor and director, Clint Eastwood has been influencing generations of cinema for over half a decade, and he’s still staying strong in his career, having released 2 movies this year, and also starring in the leading role in this one. His performance is the standout of the film, as expected from him, and he carries the film with the force he always brings to the screen, making a complex character who isn’t always likable but you are interested to watch him throughout the events of the film anyway. Eastwood’s direction is also top-notch and reminds us why he’s one of the master filmmakers of our time. The overall plot is sometimes well written but also gets slow and repetitive at times, and at the end, a bit predictable. Like I said, Eastwood’s role really is great, but other known cast members such as Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Peña should have been given more to do in the film. The movie tackles some relevant issues like the stereotypes of certain races, but it only does so briefly and not very subtly when it is addressed. It’s got some good themes by the end as well as some good tension that Eastwood crafts well, like two men on opposite sides of the law sitting next to each other in a restaurant, which is intriguing when both talk as they don’t know who the other is. However, it often falls into familiar crime drama tropes and under-uses some of its best aspects. The Mule can be enjoyed for what it is and Eastwood brings the energy he always does to the film, but it doesn’t quite go above what one would expect from an average true crime drama, even though Eastwood’s directing touch is there and those who have been following his career should definitely check it out. But in the end it isn’t as memorable as other films he’s starred and directed in recent years like Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

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Green Book

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Based on a true friendship between Tony Lip, a working-class Italian-American bouncer, and Don Shirley, an African-American classical pianist. In the 1960’s, Lip becomes Shirley’s driver on a concert tour through the American South.

We have received a lot of movies in recent years that focus on race and segregation through true stories, and it’s nice to have one on a very small scale that only focuses on a friendship between two people but still carries its point across as effectively. Viggo Mortensen stands out as Tony Lip, a somewhat selfish character who has a heart but also acts however he ants and isn’t afraid to use violence on whoever he deems needs to learn a lesson. Mahershala Ali is also great, as he clearly spent lots of training to learn how to become such a great pianist like his character, but his role is also sophisticated and caring despite facing racism in such a time in the Deep South. The chemistry between the two makes the film so interesting; Mortensen’s character has a narrow view of those outside of his poor Italian neighborhood in New York but learns to become good friends with those he never though he’d meet and become a friendlier person. The contrast between the two is also excellent — not just between race but also between social class — Tony Lip has a more uncultured manner, also having grown up in a poor neighborhood, while Don Shirley is a very elegant and honest man, and this contrast makes scenes like the two sharing a bucket of fried chicken come off as very entertaining. Shirley is a character who seems like he’s in a higher class and given more opportunity to perform than other black artists at this time due to segregation, but even though he never sees himself as any lesser than the white audiences he performs to, he feels that he’s treated as “just another black man” to the moment he steps off stage, as he explains in a powerful monologue that’s definitely the best scene in the film. This breaking of stereotype, a wealthy black man teaching a poor white man life lessons like kindness (and he even helps him write poetic letters to his wife), but maintaining of realism makes the film even more thought-provoking, and the dynamic between the two main characters while delivering themes about interactions between race and social class in the ’60s makes the film a worthy watch, that I’m sure won’t be ignored in awards categories like Picture and Actor.

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