Category Archives: romance

Review: Little Women (2019)

Director(s)Greta Gerwig
Principal CastSaoirse Ronan as Jo March
Florence Pugh as Amy March
Emma Watson as Meg March
Eliza Scanlen as Beth March
Laura Dern as Marmee March
Timothee Chalamet as Laurie
Release Date2019
Language(s)English
Running Time 135 minutes

That settles that. I’m watching Ladybird as soon as I can. After having experienced the feel-good delight that is Little Women, I’m more than excited to watch more Gerwig and am super excited for whatever she does next. I came into this movie as someone who has not read the original book or seen any other adaptation (I want to read the book now and then watch the movie again to see how it fared as an adaptation) . I only decided to see it because it was nominated for best picture and I’m glad I did.

The story is a coming-of-age story that follows the women of the March family, four daughters and their mother, Marmee, who are forced to maintain the household as their father is out fighting in the Civil War. Every single daughter is driven and has their own set of passions. Meg, the eldest, has acting aspirations. Jo, the second oldest, wants to be a author and writes stories to get money. Amy, next in line, is more spoiled and wants to be an artist. Beth, the youngest, loves music and wants to be happy with her family. The movie cuts between this past and the present (set a few years later) seamlessly, juxtaposing each of the girls idealistic younger selves with their more worn and mature selves. It creates an expectation because you know what’s going to come, but also a sense of mystery because you want to see how we go from point A to B.

This sense of mystery keeps the movie fresh from a storytelling perspective and happens seamlessly in the background, without you realizing it. I knew that we were going back and forth, but I was never focused on it. My brain just automatically accepted it. Editing and scene placement is on point and it creates a piece that seems to reveal information at precisely the right time. There are meta-narrative moments that are placed perfectly in the third act and allow for a lot of interesting interpretative leeway (I’m assuming on purpose) that I can’t help but admire, especially after reading about the movie and the stories original writer, Louisa May Alcott. Every thread comes together at precisely the right time and it makes the whole experience an emotionally satisfying roller-coaster. I would go from feeling sad, to feeling hopeful , to laughing, to tearing up, to feeling inspired, to some combination of any of these, and all the feelings in between and I never once felt any kind of tonal whiplash. The only issue I felt was ,because there’s no clear passage of time, certain character decisions in the latter portions of the movie feel rushed given the the gravity of what they are. It’s a fleeting issue that didn’t bother me too much in the moment, but after finishing the movie I did feel like some of the later portions of the movie feel less earned.

Acting, characterization, and dialogue are almost always impeccable. Every conversation feels real because each actor/actress nails their motivations from their cadence to their body language. It’s hard to praise any performance in particular because all of them, especially each of the titular “Little Women” completely feels in the moment. Saying that, I have to be honest on how impressed I was with Florence Pugh. I already thought she was amazing in Midsommar being able to portray grief and anguish in an very visceral way. After this, I’m in awe of her acting range. She gives Amy a real brattiness and sense of indulgence in the earlier timeline and projects a lot of maturity and pragmatism in the latter timeline. It’s a surprising blend that had me rooting for her character, in spite of the kind of horrendous things her character does.

The movie is packed to the brim with tons of relatable themes. Despite having a particularly feminist flair, the movie is for everyone. It’s not trying to exclude or ostracize. It never comes off as preachy. The ways that it critiques gender roles, women’s treatment in society, and the functions of marriage are all relevant and presented fairly and naturally. I thought the discourse on marriage as a communion predicated on love versus social ladder was made even more interesting by placing it in front of a discussion of a woman’s agency. If that’s not your groove, the movie tackles common issues we’ve all gone through- being nervous of pursuing our dreams, thinking we’re not good enough, balancing dreams with financial concerns, and trying to find love in a world that often times alienates us. There’s something in here for everyone.

Report Card

TLDRLittle Women is the feel good movie of 2019. The March family’s coming-of-age story has something for everyone and will have you laughing,crying,smirking, and glued to the screen the whole time. A fun time for the whole family with a ton of messages to boot.
Rating9.7/10
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Weathering with You

Director(s)Makoto Shinkai
Principal CastKotaro Daigo as Hodaka Morishima
Nana Mori as Hina Amano
Shun Oguri as Keisuke Suga
Release Date2019
Language(s)Japanese
Running Time 112 minutes

I’ve always liked Shinkai’s work (5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words) but I’ve never fallen in love with anything in the same as I did with Your Name.Like tons of other people around the world, I couldn’t stop gushing over the 2016 runaway hit. As such, I came into this movie with high expectations. I know ,I know, bad idea. Thankfully, Lady Luck was looking out and I got more than what I expected. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the way the movie ended or been able to stop humming the main theme, so suffice to say I think it’s pretty good.

If you haven’t seen trailers- don’t. I think most trailers for this movie spoil too much and the experience will feel more magical if you go in “blind”. The story follows Hodaka, a high-school boy, who runs away to Tokyo and runs into Hina, a girl with the magical power to change the weather. Such an ability would be an amazing in the ordinary, but in this world where huge downpours and flooding are commonplace, a ray of sunshine can mean the world. The movie explores homelessness, climate change, and humanity’s spiritual connection with the environment with almost seamless execution while telling a fun fantastical romance.

I really like the post-apocalyptic/slow apocalyptic feeling the movie has. Hope in spite of the crushing weight of everything is something that I can relate to, especially in relation to the climate crisis we’re in that shows little hope of being reversed. Eventually, when events like mass flooding become more commonplace ,humanity is going to be forced to adapt or be eliminated. Can there still be hope and optimism in a world where everything is slowly being subsumed ,doomed to eventually disappear? Is a world like that tragic or can life still be happy in spite of it all? The story does a good job introducing these beats and developing them in ways that are bittersweet.(Mostly) Nothing feels unearned or easy.

The movie is gorgeous when it wants to be (so most of the time). There are scenes from the 3rd act that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon. Backgrounds look life-like and the rain is mesmerizing. The sheer power of nature comes through each and every frame. There are a few moments of CGI that feel abrupt and really took me out of the movie. The movie is just so beautiful that any incongruous element feels even more off putting than it would be normally. If you liked the soundtrack from Your Name, you’ll be pleased with what RADWIMPS has cooked up for this story.

My problems with the movie lie with the execution of certain sub-plots. The issue is most of the plot lines in the movie are executed almost impeccably. The moments and relations are grounded even though they’re mystical at the same time. Unfortunately, one of the more important plot threads for the third act falls short of the above. It’s not given the same sense of realism and feels more gimmicky. It’s not that big of an issue because thematically the thread is great. I just wish it didn’t come at the cost of the meticulous sense of consequence that had been building up till that point.

Report Card

TLDRWeathering for You is a beautiful fantasy romance that delivers a thematically rich story with wonderful characters. There are only a few plot issues, but by the end of the movie you won’t be thinking about them. If you liked Your Name, check this out. If you’re looking for a meaningful tale about our relationship to the planet , I’d also recommend giving this a view.
Rating9.3/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: Star Wars:Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

Theatrical Release Poster

Wow. All I can say is wow. I was semi-excited for this movie because of how Episode VIII ended and set up respective story threads and character arcs. However, I was also kind of nervous. The last movie, even though I really enjoyed it, felt safe for a lot of the film and I was worried that this film would similarly pull a lot of punches and just be a rehash of Episode V. Thankfully, I was wrong. By the end of this movie, I was more than satisfied with the way previous plot threads were handled and forwarded. Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi innovates and changes the Star Wars formula in ways that I genuinely enjoyed while retaining the magic that has made me fall in love with the franchise.

The film immediately picks up after the end of the last one which I appreciated. One of my biggest issues with a lot of the Star Wars movies is the time gaps between them. I never have a great grasp of what has changed which makes power differences and character motivations feel unearned. It’s a problem I had with the transition between Episodes V- VI and Episodes II-III (yes I know the Clone Wars exist and I’ll be watching them but the problem is still there and noticeable). Because this film bypasses those issues, I wasn’t left asking why or what happened and could just focus on the subsequent plot and character development.

One glaring issue with the last film, is it’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker. He’s missing from a galactic conflict and unresponsive to the plight of the innocents being destroyed by the First Order. When I saw the opening crawl in Episode VII, I could hardly believe it. Luke was a beacon of optimism in the original trilogy and I genuinely enjoyed the way his character developed from a headstrong, passionate, ready to charge in hero to someone more calm and wise in his solutions to problems. In particular, what stood out to me the most was his hope and control of emotions. He gives in to his rage and fear in Episode VI, but manages to control those impulses in favor of the heroic and ethical approach. That stuck with me. So how could such a hero, who saved the galaxy purely through spirit and resilience be away from the situation at play? That’s the question I couldn’t stop asking during the run time of the last movie. Johnson’s answer and direction for Luke, answers those questions in spades, and genuinely surprised me. There’s a satisfying explanation for his motivations and his withdrawal from the conflict. More importantly, there’s a beautiful discussion about the dangers and merits to legends of heroism. Luke is forced to confront his legendary status and this isn’t something I’ve gotten to experience in heroic movies. Yes – legends are great in how they inspire- but looking at how they can debilitate their sources is something I’ve never really bothered to consider and I enjoyed the way the discourse is presented. Mark Hamill’s performance as Luke is breath-taking and I can’t stop thinking about how amazing he was. He’s grumpy, irritated, distraught, hopeful, lost, wise, and everything in between. He’s asked to do so much by this plot and never fails to deliver. I was completely enamored by his presence on the screen and I think that this movie would be an absolute failure if he couldn’t sell the gravitas of his decisions and subsequent character arc. He makes the movie and gives it the emotional weight necessary to elevate it from good to great. If someone had told me Luke still had a dynamic and emotionally resonant character arc left in him, I wouldn’t have believed them, but that’s what I got in this film.

Luke’s not the only character that gets some love in this movie. Finn, Poe, and Kylo all get development in this movie and I love how their character arcs progressed. Finn’s biggest issue in the last movie is how how much he wants to run away. He’s forced to confront that issue and decide his place in the conflict. His ultimate decision in the third act becomes more meaningful as such. Kylo is still emotionally distraught and watching his inner conflict is satisfying. It’s believable and makes his actions and decisions that much more interesting to follow. Poe’s changes are my favorite by far and I loved watching his journey from a guns-blazing hero to someone more tempered. It reminded me of Luke’s journey from Episode V to VI but felt more developed and earned.

The story also continues a lot of the thematic elements I loved from the prequel trilogy- namely the idea that the Sith is “evil” and the Jedi are “good.” Moral grayness is the name of the game and the film explores this through a variety of different character interactions and plot lines. I loved what I got and wish the film had gone further with its deconstruction of those ideas. The primary theme of the film is failure and how we can learn and develop from it. Characters literally come out and tell the audience as much. It’s not a novel lesson, but it’s not something that’s usually explored as much. I mean, no one really loves to focus on their losses. This movie forces the characters to confront their issues and learn or be eliminated. It’s powerful and the lessons some of the group learn are harsh.

This movie shines as a audio and visual treat. There are some gorgeous action scenes that feel larger than life because of the tension and themes that go behind them. The emotional intensity driving these moments kept me engaged and once the action started in the third act, I couldn’t stop staring at the screen in appreciation of the spectacle I was witnessing. John William’s score in this movie is similarly amazing. I paused more than once to find out the name of a track in the background. If you followed my review of Episode VII, this is one of the elements of the movie that I was somewhat disappointed by, so when I heard the riveting score in this film I was genuinely happy.

I know it seems like I’ve gushed a lot over this movie, but I did have a few issues with it. There’s a subplot in the movie that feels kind of out of place. If you’ve watched the movie and seen other reviews online, you know what plot I’m talking about. While I agree that the sub-plot was long and overdrawn, I don’t think it was useless. I enjoyed the way it played with and subverted our expectations while adding to the political commentary and ideas of a moral gray zone. I do think that the section could have been cut down and thought that it did mess up the pacing of the movie. Better editing could have reduced this effect and helped the scene feel less cumbersome to get through.

I lauded the character growth in this movie, especially in relation to failure and development in response. However, because each character is learning a different lesson, sometimes when those lessons are presented one after another it creates a jarring thematic experience. For example, a character learns about the value of patience and then another character immediately acts haphazardly as a martyr. It makes sense for both characters to do what they do (at least in my opinion), but because both arcs are presented with each other it comes off as a thematic whiplash. There’s also an attempt to shoe-horn another theme in the third act, that I thought felt out of place and less resonant.

Speaking of tonal inconsistency, the movie has a lot of humorous moments that follow serious moments. I didn’t mind this in some sections because the comedic moments never felt too serious. However, there are definitely sections that would have benefited greatly from the exclusion of any humorous moments to really drive home the gravity of what was going on.

Rating

TLDR: I loved The Last Jedi. It has some tonal and plot flaws that could have been solved with better editing, but is by and large entertaining and thought provoking. Characters old and new are forced to grow and adapt and I’m excited to see where they end up by the end of the story.

Final Rating: 9.4/10. This movie is a great follow up to Episode VII and I cannot wait to see Episode IX in a few weeks.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode VII- The Force Awakens

Theatrical Release Poster

After the way the original and prequel trilogy wrapped up the tragedy of Darth Vader, I was left wondering what kind of story was left to be told in this latest trilogy. How has the political climate changed since the ending of Episode VI? Are my favorite characters still okay? While J. J. Abrams directorial debut in the Star Wars universe draws a heavy amount of plot lines and inspiration from Episode IV, it also manages to inject enough flair, passion, and intrigue to capture the hearts of new fans while giving older fans a fun romp through some familiar ground.

Like I mentioned above , the story follows a lot of the same beats from Episode IV. There’s a rebel force fighting a big fascist authoritarian government. The odds are stacked against them. There’s even a hidden technological McGuffin like before. What makes the story different is how it changes these elements to further the political dialogue the previous trilogies started. The First Order reminded me a lot of a Russia post USSR- trying to achieve the strengths of the Empire it used to be. The rebel force is a proxy group – indirectly supported by a Republic that doesn’t want to get too involved. It’s incredibly fitting with the political climate we’re in right now, and as someone who reads the news a lot, I enjoyed the way the confrontation was handled. For those of you not that interested in the politics, rest assured, it’s not in your face and never impeded on the more entertaining elements of the movie.

Speaking of the entertaining elements – I loved the new characters and how much energy and fun they bring into the franchise. Daisy Ridley is great as Rey and I can’t wait to see how her arc continues. She can portray desperate and sullen just as well as independent and assertive and it all feels authentic. You can feel John Boyega’s energy seep through Finn’s actions and I hope he gets more to do in the next movie. His character introduces some much needed introspection into the horrors of actual war. We see bodies hitting the floor in other movies, but watching his emotional rejection of the violence and his decision to defect is great and I love his arc through the movie. However, my favorite new introduction is Kylo Ren. Adam Driver does a phenomenal job at showing the angst and emotional conflict at the heart of Kylo’s motivations and his actions in the movie definitely help drive those ideas home. The older characters, much to my surprise, don’t feel that prominent in the film. I wish they were more incorporated – but I genuinely enjoyed Harrison Ford’s return as Han. I didn’t really like the character in Episode VI and was really happy that he came off as his older self with some wear and tear. His scenes with Leia also tugged at my heartstrings and I really enjoyed the way their arcs were revealed.

Now let’s get to the less than optimal sections of the movie. While the film is shot beautifully , there’s a certain special quality that I felt was missing. Upon closer inspection, I realized that, though John William’s score is great, it never quite hit the mark in this film. In every other movie in the franchise, I felt something when the music played in the background. There was at least a few moments that I could hum along to and really enjoyed. This movie didn’t really have that- the music is good but not memorable. While that’s normally fine, it’s weird to have that feeling in a Star Wars movie.

I said the movie follows a lot of the same movie beats- and as someone who doesn’t hate the idea of soft reboots – this was fine for me. If you’re not a fan of them, this movie might still have something for you because of the editing. Familiar scenes get a different feeling because of their position in the movie. For example, the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Episode IV features near the beginning of its respective film but the callback to the scene happens more towards the middle of the film. The chronological placements make the scenes dynamic enough because they’re imbued with a different narrative tension and overall feeling. However, in spite of all of this, the movie still feels too safe a lot of the times. I was entertained but left wanting more experimentation with the formula. I understand wanting to get a new generation of fans but at the very least thought there should have been more in the film for older fans to get latched on to.

This brings me to my biggest problem with the movie- the lack of explanation of what happened between the end of Episode VI to the start of this story. Yes, this is a problem I’ve had for other movies, but it feels like a bigger issue in this one. We’re left with a feeling of peace and finality after the end of the original trilogy so the abrupt change back to the “status quo” is jarring. The intro sequence doesn’t do enough to make this transition less jarring, so fans of the older trilogies might feel like the past movies had no “impact” in a traditional sense. Watching the machination of the First Order or having some scenes with Leia and other members of the resistance would have done wonders in connecting the stories to make it feel like a cohesive piece. I know there are books that explain the gap, but I didn’t need books to get into the other movies, so I don’t think their existence absolves this film of its duty to at least present part of that information.

Rating

TLDR: While The Force Awakens doesn’t revolutionize the Star Wars movies, it’s a great introduction into the galaxy far far away and I think a lot of people can find a lot of fun moments in it. I wish there was more of an effort to explain the events that culminated into the political quagmire we witness, but I still had a blast in spite of that.

Final Rating: 9.2/10. This movie is a great soft-reboot that sets up a lot of interesting political and ethical threads that can be explored more in the future films. I’m excited to see what’s coming next.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode III – Revenge Of the Sith

Theatrical Release Poster

This movie is my favorite Star Wars movie out of the original trilogy and the prequels. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Is it a cinematic masterpiece in the same vein as Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back? No – there are some acting issues, strange lines, and wonky visuals. In spite of that, this is, in my opinion, the best movie. George Lucas’s brilliance and vision for the tragedy of Darth Vader comes to full fruition in this emotionally intense tragedy and it’s genuinely beautiful and devastating.

The plot picks up some time after the end of end of Episode II- Palpatine has been kidnapped by General Grievous and we jump into Anakin and Obi-Wan trying to rescue him. The moment the film starts the action kicks off. We go from a great chase scene, to a frantic air battle involving my favorite little droid, into an series of epic battles. This film redeems the disappointing battles of the last movie and then some. The action is on point and features some of the best moments from the entire franchise. There are FOUR amazing light saber/force fights that are really fun to watch ( even if some of them are shorter than I wanted). I couldn’t believe my mind that we got to see this many duels. Two of these fights are so spectacular that I literally had to pause and go re-watch scenes because of how amazing the choreography and intensity felt. Even R2-D2 gets to fight MULTIPLE TIMES in the film and it shows a real sense of creativity and fun.

Acting in this film is also leaps and bounds better than the previous two installments in the prequel trilogy. Ewan McGregor gives Obi-Wan Kenobi some much needed emotional weight and makes Anakin’s decisions feel that much more painful. Hayden Christensen still has some wonky expressions as Anakin but shines through when it comes at depicting his darker more broken side. Natalie Portman really stepped it up as Padme and gave the pivotal romance between her and Anakin a much needed sense of depth. I could believe in the feelings and intensity between them more so than before and it made the unfolding tragedy that much more meaningful. Ian McDiarmid steals the show everytime he’s on screen as Palpatine and is wonderful to watch. I love how evil he really is and his emotional manipulation skills are on full display here. It’s a masterclass in portraying pure evil and I absolutely adored him.

Presentation also feels a lot nicer in this film. The digital effects are a lot better and don’t feel as dated. There’s a closeup of Grievous that looks absolutely stunning and I kind of want it as a screensaver – the point being that some of the animation looks stunning. It makes the action feel more fluid and hits feel like they have more heft and weight behind them. Lighting, set design, and selection of color palette amplify the epic nature of scenes. The score and mixing also feel on point and help amplify the adrenaline and devastation. The third act and final battle is monumental and feels otherworldly because everything just melds together. There’s so much care put into this film and you can tell how important this climax is.

Anakin’s character arc is satisfyingly concluded and presented . It’s crazy to think about how much heavy lifting the film had to do given the lackluster job the latter two films had done at developing his descent into the dark side. Somehow the movie manages to take those threads, develop them, and be entertaining in its poetic tale. I love that Lucas decided to really embrace doing dark/twisted things in this film. There’s no holding back and when the dominoes start to feel the film feels like a doomsday scenario. There’s a real sense of tragedy and it serves as the emotional weight of the first six episodes. This movie is not only amazing in it’s own right – it retroactively makes the prequels more beautiful because the tragedy of Darth Vader is finally complete. It also makes the original trilogy more believable and emotionally charged because we understand Darth Vader. Certain lines from Episode VI already feel like they hit harder because of how this movie progresses. Somehow managing to make amazing movies even better – I think that’s a feat only a masterclass film can have.

This movie made me cry. There are gut wrenching scenes and the third act just hits you with a slew of them. The implication of certain moments tinges previous events with a feeling of melancholy and tragedy. But the ending is absolutely brilliant and rekindles a sense of hope – leading perfectly back into Episode IV.

Rating

TLDR: Revenge of the Sith was well worth it and proves that George Lucas is a visionary genius. The prequels might have started off rough and had a series of issues, but the end destination made everything worth it. Amazing action, great acting, and a poetic tragedy befitting one of the greatest characters of all time- this film was a home run.

Final Rating: Rating this movie was hard for me – I can recognize its flaws but it’s nothing like I’ve experienced more. So for the first time ever, I’m giving a movie two ratings – my personal rating on how the film felt to me and a rating that’s more “objective” and in line with the criteria I use to rank movies normally.

Actual: 8.8/10
Personal : 10/10.

There are glaring flaws with this movie and I’m aware of them. I just think the movie does so much in spite of that and contains so many phenomenal scenes, moments, and ideas that I can’t help but not mind the issues. For me this movie is everything I wanted and more. It’s a unicorn. If you want to experience the beautiful tale of a tragic anti-hero – you owe it to yourself to watch Star Wars Episodes I – VI. I’m stoked to watch the other movies and get into The Clone Wars.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!