Little Women (2019)

This re-imagining of the classic tale tells the story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on their own terms. This story has been adapted plenty before, but be careful before you can pass on it just for that. Greta Gerwig, who made her transition to the director’s chair with the universally beloved Lady Bird, once again proves her directing skills and breathes energy and light into the screen. The gorgeous production value always stands out, as the costumes and sets are colorful, but the cinematography enhances the beauty to the eye, and this visual appeal combined with Alexandre Desplat’s ambient score makes for an engaging theater experience. However, what truly makes this film resonate is its cast of characters, played by A-list names including some who have worked with Gerwig in the past. Saoirse Ronan, beautifully embodying the soul that is Jo March in every moment on the screen, graps the film and the audiences in her hands with a charming, humane, and poignant performance, rivaling her terrific turn in Gerwig’s previous film, as well as being deserving of awards buzz. The camera beautifully captures every expression of hers and it’s hard not to fall in love with Jo’s ambition, playfulness, and spirit. But she’s not the only performer who steals the screen. It really has been the year of Florence Pugh — this his her third role in 2019 in which she’s really shone as a leading part, and although it’s not as excellent as her gut-punching role in Midsommar, her performance as Amy packs plenty of dimension and ferocity, and every instance with her on screen belongs to her. Amy is sweet and vengeful, tough and vulnerable, and realistically human above all — often she longs to be independent yet sometimes her emotions get in the way of that. Laura Dern also stands out as Marmee, the selfless and loving mother of the girls, in a touching and later heartbreaking performance that’s even more hard-hitting than her much-talked about Marriage Story role. Marmee continuously displays endurance through hardships and role model-like behavior to her daughters on how to behave towards others and themselves. A few actors, like Emma Watson and Timothee Chalamet, just feel like themselves for the majority, but Chalamet has an excellent scene in the latter half of the film in which he really impresses. Meryl Streep also makes the best of her appearance as a judgmental and scene-stealing Aunt March, and Chris Cooper also shows up as a more likable and lighthearted character than his typical role.

Little Women packs a strong punch with its actors and its glamorous prestige, but occasionally loses itself along the journey. This is due to the fact that the movie has many themes going for it, but a few important ones feel too underutilized and weren’t focused on enough. The movie is about female independence (expectations of women vs. their own desires), “owning your story” — literally so in the case of Jo wanting to publish her book yet continuously being asked to make changes to the female character’s journey (making the plot feel very meta in that way), and sisterhood and familial love. Regrettably, these themes didn’t really get the strong focus they deserve, instead only addresses in throwaway lines that are powerfully acted but sometimes out of place in the context of a scene. There’s even a few plot instances that contradict the moving messages the film may have been trying to say — most notably, I found the film in its core to actually be about life and the flow of time, as the movie depicts its protagonists growing up into “little women” (hence the title), and adjusting to change, including travel, passion, and heartbreak. So how ironic that even the center force of the script gets undercut by Gerwig’s choice to tell the story in non-linear fashion, and ultimately the jumps in time feel unnecessary and take away from what could’ve been a beautiful Boyhood-like “lifelike flow” to the runtime. This is why, in the first act of the film, a couple of moments just feel like a compilation of sequences rather than one overarching premise. Thankfully, the second half is especially emotional and memorable in the delivery of its messages and dialogue, but often it feels like the actors and director empowering the script which would’ve felt unpolished on its own.

Little Women would’ve been even more fantastic if not for its nonlinear narrative and a few script choices that feel rushed or untrue to the bigger picture, yet still resonates because of the characters, who so magically embody the hearts of what feel like real people, so sensibly livened by the ensemble cast. The visual appeal’s only there to accompany this already vigorous premise, proving that some stories may really be timeless, even though the runtime drags in the beginning and a few major themes are muddled by a few decisions Gerwig makes. Still though, if this is where Gerwig is after only two directorial works, then I solemnly request that she never stop making films.

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The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water is the latest other-worldly story written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962, where a mute janitor working at a lab falls in love with an amphibious man being held captive there and devises a plan to help him escape. Guillermo del Toro has recieved acclaim throughout his career for being a visionary director and writer, and his ability to bring fantasy stories like this one with as little CGI as possible is incredible. He’s finally getting Oscar buzz for The Shape of Water, his latest film that, while the concept of a character bonding with a creature of some sort and trying to save it from those attempting to kill it having been depicted in many films such as E.T.How to Train Your Dragon, and Beauty and the Beast, this one is far different in execution — and definitely not a film for kids. There is strong sexual content and violence, but it fits the overall tone and themes the movie is meant to deliver. Sally Hawkins is absolutely fantastic in the leading role of Eliza, and she delivers one of the greatest performance of the year — and her character has absolutely no dialogue! She is able to deliver an emotional performance with only her expressions, and she makes us care for her character deeply without having to speak a word. Another excellent performance is from Michael Shannon, who plays the main antagonist who is filled with rage and hate against the creature and anyone who gets in his way of hurting it. Octavia Spencer, who plays Eliza’s best friend at work, has some great moments of both humor and emotion, and Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg are very good too. Not to mention Doug Jones, who plays the creature himself, with lots of costumes and makeup and no CGI for his transformation, which helps his performance feel more realistic and interactive with the other actors in the film.

Guillermo del Toro has stated that this is the movie he is most proud of, and it’s not hard to see why. He such a great eye for these stories and has a creative way of telling them, not just with his style but also with his writing. First of all, his directing of the film is marvelous, with some beautiful ways of capturing certain images and everything looks so artistic throughout the film. The production design and colors also stand out, and del Toro constantly references classic cinema throughout, there’s even a scene where Hawkins imagines herself dancing with the creature in a ’50s-style musical number. The music from Alexandre Desplat is also very nice to hear and it’s one of his best scores in recent years. Not only does the film look majestic, but the writing is very good because although the concept isn’t the most original, the themes and turns the plot takes are unexpected and different. Guillermo del Toro writes and creates this story like a fairy tale, like he does most of his stories, and though it’s not a literal fairy tale, he treats every character importantly and brings this story to life as if it’s a Pan’s Labyrinth-esque fantasy tale. The themes aren’t mostly about being kind to those who are different, about about those who feel lonely and incomplete, and how we try to fulfill ourselves. There is a lot of gore and nudity in the film, which may disturb some, so just a warning to those who don’t like explicit content. The overall plot may feel weird if you think watching a romance between a woman and a creature will disturb you, but the writing feels complex and the story is thrilling and powerful, bringing the story to life on the big screen very effectively. Although some of the scenes without Hawkins on screen felt less intriguing than the scenes with Hawkins as Eliza and Jones as the creature, and the ending, while not bad at all, felt a little bit like a missed opportunity, this joins Pan’s Labyrinth as one of del Toro’s best films, and the awards buzz for this one is quite well deserved, so I recommend you check this one out in theaters before the awards come around.

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The Big Sick


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 acting, 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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The Light Between Oceans


After a lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia rescue a baby from an adrift rowboat, they must decide whether to keep her and raise her as their own or report her to the police. Derek Cianfrance has brought us something truly beautiful with The Light Between Oceans, a poignant, tear-jerking, well-acted piece of film that will impact you emotionally like no other movie this year. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are astonishing in the film’s lead roles. Fassbender conveys every little emotion his character feels without having to use words. I don’t know if his performance here can beat what he gave us in last year’s Steve Jobs, but this film is undoubtedly another great example of how incapable Fassbender is of delivering anything less than great. Vikander fabulously helps carry the film and delivers what is by far the greatest performance of the year. It was hard to imagine her out of character for a moment because of how impeccably and marvelously she portrayed her role. She brings so much emotional strength that it even becomes disturbing in a few scenes. I haven’t seen too many performances like her’s in recent years. Rachel Weisz is also emotionally exquisite in her strong supporting performance.

The Light Between Oceans doesn’t only bring the best out of its A-list actors. The cinematography is dazzling and the score from Alexandre Desplat is easily the best this year. Every shot in the film is captured so gorgeously and perfectly, and it’s all accompanied very well to Desplat’s marvelous soundtrack. The movie tries very hard to get you emotional and depressed, and thankfully it doesn’t miss. Some scenes in this film managed to break my heart and almost made me shed a few tears. There are parts that are very tough to watch, so I’d only recommend this film for teens and older, but every one of these scenes are boasted by the cast’s strong performances and nearly flawless directing. I’m so impressed by how Cianfrance was able to put all of this to film and capture it so powerfully. All of this is what ultimately makes The Light Between Oceans a modern cinematic achievement.

The Light Between Oceans is gorgeously shot, acted, and directed, and is easily one of the best and most depressing films I’ve seen in theaters this year. It slows down a tad in the final act, but there’s no doubt to say this is the first true Oscar contender of the year. I can’t understand what critics find to be so mediocre about this movie, and I’d highly recommend you go see it if you’re 14 or older.

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Café Society


Café SocietyWoody Allen’s new period comedy-drama, focuses on young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), who moves from Manhattan to 1930’s Hollywood, starts working for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), and falls for his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). This leads to a series of twists and an adventure filled with romance and crime.

Earlier this week, I saw an early screening of Woody Allen’s latest feature, Cafe Society, which Allen also wrote, and even narrated himself. Woody Allen is one of the many fantastic faces behind the cameras and screens of Hollywood. Despite how much effort and ambition he puts into every one of his films, not many of them have been recognized as well worth remembering, with the exceptions of Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. Is Cafe Society able to hold up to what Allen can really do? From a directing standpoint, mostly. Allen does a fantastic job bringing the ’30’s back to life with the vivid sets, costume design, and striking cinematography, all of which pay homage to the way films in the ’30’s were shot and made. Although the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! from earlier this year did a much better job bringing the old days of Hollywood back to life and making me feel like I was watching a film from decades ago (and with a smaller budget than Cafe Society), Allen still tries his best to bring both the old Hollywood scenery to life, as well as the late night party terrain of New York. Allen always cares a lot about his characters, which really shows here. The cast gives it their best, with Jesse Eisenberg playing another one of those “young characters in a big world”, and once again, Kristen Stewart plays Eisenberg’s love interest. We’ve seen these two actors onscreen together many times before, but there’s always something new with their characters that we haven’t seen before. Eisenberg is quite hilarious in this film and he carries the film along very well. Steve Carell is also a standout here, with some great lines and a personality that he delivers very well. Another thing that the movie handles very well is its humor. Every instance of comedy was written superbly and made me crack up. Also, if you don’t know who the movie’s narrator is, save that surprise for after you watch the movie, if you don’t happen to recognize whose voice it is during the film.

The place where the movie really struggles and does not hold up at all is the story. The movie starts out as an entertaining dramedy set in the ’30s, which quickly turns into a romantic film. I only started to have a problem with this later, when every twist is revealed too quickly and the dramatic irony is sacrificed. Following this is just a bunch of scenes that take the film nowhere, although there is a subplot in the film that managed to work. Fortunately, the movie’s humor is consistent and never dropped, but the movie’s plot became so aimless and got to a point when it felt uncomfortable to watch, and soaked away almost everything else that made it entertaining. I never understand where the film was aiming and why. Not every movie has a message, but every movie goes a certain direction for a reason. Allen’s films usually end by either trying to teach you something, or by showing how the characters have changed throughout the film. There was absolutely none of that in this film. When I got out of the film, I was still wondering, “What was this movie trying to teach me? How did the characters change throughout the movie and how did the film’s events even affect them?” The film’s ending was probably when Allen gave up on the screenplay and decided to give the movie and abrupt ending instead of a more thoughtful one. I can imagine how much better this movie would have been of Allen wasn’t trying to leave his comfort zone with the writing. The scenery, cast and humor are all spot-on and help bring this movie a lively surrounding and feel, but the story ultimately plummets and didn’t feel like Allen put in his best work. If you’re a fan of Woody Allen’s movies, then you may want to see Cafe Society, but otherwise, I wouldn’t strongly recommend this film.

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An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Brooklyn is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of the year. Brooklyn is  incredibly stylish, sweet, heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted. Saoirse Ronan delivers my favorite female performance of the year as a very compelling and interesting character who immigrates across the globe and has her life changed in both New York and Ireland. Ronan conveyed every feeling and emotion so realistically, and allowed the audience to relate to her closely. Throughout the film, I felt myself emotionally compelled, at times I was laughing, smiling, and even almost crying at other times, all thanks to Ronan’s deep and strong performance, as well as the way this movie was able to convey every emotion into the film. When Ronan’s character has to make decisions, you are always provoked to think how you would make them yourself. The movie delivers with a great story and screenplay, with a necessarily moderate length, a tad less than 2 hours, but still fits the story perfectly. Everything about the set and costume designing was great as well. I found Brooklyn to be a movie that has something great that has something for everyone, so I definitely recommend a big screen experience for this film.

Brooklyn delivers a great story with fantastic emotions, performances, and has something for everyone, no matter what your taste in film is like. If you want a charming and amazing time at the movies, I would recommend you see this.

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Playing for Keeps

My rating: ratings2

George Dryer (played by Gerard Butler) is a divorced former professional soccer player who wants to be closer to his son, Lewis (played by Noah Lomax), so he decides to coach his son’s soccer team and falls in love with the players’ moms (played by Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer).

This movie probably isn’t on my top 10 or 20 or 30 favorite movies list. But I still like it. I really liked Gerard Butler’s role, as well as Jessica Biel’s role as George’s ex-wife, Stacie. I would recommend this film for children 13 and over, but I think mostly adults would like this movie.

Also, here is the website and the trailer for the movie.


My rating:

This 7-minute black-and-white short film is theatrical with Wreck-It Ralph, and it is a combination of hand-drawn animation and computer animation. I really liked this technique. In this short film, a man tries to send a paper airplane to his love. The director of the short is John Kahrs and the producer is John Lasseter (director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2).The technique they used that blends hand-drawn animation and computer animation, called “final line advection”, gives the artists and animators a lot more influence and control over the final product as everything is done within the same department; the artists quoted, “In Paperman, we didn’t have a cloth department and we didn’t have a hair department. Here, folds in the fabric, hair silhouettes and the like come from of the commited design decision-making that comes with the 2D drawn process. Our animators can change things, actually erase away the CG underlayer if they want, and change the profile of the arm. And they can design all the fabric in that Milt Kahl kind-of way, if they want to.”

Also, here are some videos from the short.

Moonrise Kingdom

My rating:

Yesterday, I saw the movie Moonrise Kingdom with my grandmother. We both really enjoyed the movie. It was pure pleasure and we both felt like we didn’t want it to end. Set in the summer of 1965 on an island called New Penzance, the protagonists are two 12-year old kids, Sam and Suzy. Sam is an orphan raised by foster parents and attending a scout summer camp. Suzy is a somewhat sad girl, living with her parents and her 3 brothers in a house called Summer’s End. Sam is rejected by everyone, including his foster parents and fellow scouts, while Suzy’s parents are constantly fighting and are showing no affection for their children and for each other. Sam and Suzy had met a year earlier at a church performance, became pen pals, and finally decided to run away together and leave on a remote beach away from everyone else. When their absence is discovered, everyone on the island begins to search for them, including the scout master, Sam’s fellow scouts, the local police captain, and Suzy’s parents. Sam and Suzy soon realize that they are soul mates,very much in love and won’t live without each other. Their love touches the hearts of Suzy’s parents, the police captain, the scout master and even Sam’s fellow scouts, and when Sam and Suzy are found, they all decide to help them stay together and the police captain decides to become Sam’s foster parent.

The setting of the movie felt like a fairy tale. It was partly funny and partly sad and touching and the drama was intensified by the forces of nature (flood, hurricane and lightning storm). The main idea which I found extremely touching, that the love between Sam and Suzy changed their lives and the lives of everyone around them. Sam and Suzy were both loveless children, but the love between them made all the difference and changed everyone’s lives.

The cast of the movie includes Bruce Willis as the police captain, Edward Norton as the scout master, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, Jared Gilman as Sam and Kara Hayward as Suzy. Moonrise Kingdom will be available on DVD and Blu-ray starting October 16.

Also, here is the Moonrise Kingdom trailer.

The Artist

My rating: 

4 months ago, I went to see the movie The Artist with my grandmother, who had come to visit us from Israel. Even though the movie was silent ( like the old movies before the talkies), I enjoyed it. Some parts were sad, but some parts were also funny. It is about a silent movie actor named George Valentin, who falls in love with a young woman named Peppy Miller. When talking movies begin, George refuses to start making talking movies with his studio, while Peppy, on the other hand, becomes a big star of talkies. George goes on making silent movies by himself, which fail, and leaving him unemployed, miserable, and alcoholic and he even tries to kill himself. At the end, George and Peppy end up starring in a talking movie together. It is a tribute to the first films ever made ( the silent films), and as a movie lover, I enjoyed experiencing the beginning of cinema. It is a movie about love, friendship, believing in yourself and moving on with time/progress.

Also, here is the trailer of The Artist: