Tag Archives: romance

Review: Let Me In

Director(s)Matt Reeves
Principal CastChloe Grace Moretz as Abby
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Release Date2010
Language(s)English
Running Time 116 minutes

This is a hard movie for me to rate and I’ve struggled with coming up with a number for a long time. I initially saw the movie in 2011 and thought it was amazing. I was completely enamored and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It got me reading the Wikipedia page to find more information ,and I saw that it was a remake of a Swedish movie called Let the Right One In, which itself is based on a novel of the same name. I thought it’d be fun to see the original movie and read the book to see how the Reeves version compared. The process left me in a strange position. While the Reeves version is stellar in composition, it comes off feeling like a replica of the original movie with an English dub. There are slight changes in setting, the starting point the movie leaps off from, and the way the theme of growing up is handled, but it’s not enough to make the movie feel like something wholly unique (like Evil Dead vs The Evil Dead) .

For those of you unacquainted with the book or 2008 movie, the story follows an ostracized young child, Owen, who’s struggling to find his place in life. He’s bullied at school and can’t really relate the adults around him. Eventually a young “girl”, Abby, moves in next door. Unbeknownst to Owen, Abby’s actually a vampire. As the two interact more often, a budding friendship is born, and their lives are radically changed. Given that information, the opening shot of the movie feels completely out of place with audience expectations. It starts in on a disfigured individual who jumps to his death from a hospital building, leaving behind a note that says “I’m sorry Abby.” This initial scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and tinges the experience with a more sinister sense of mystery. Who’s the person , how did they end up there, and why were they apologizing? It gives the movie a lot of action before the slower paced story kicks in and is one of the unique things Reeves did to spice up his adaptation.

Traditionally, coming-of-age stories are about trying to find your path and footing in the world. The unpredictable chaos of everything combined with hyper-active hormones leads to a sense of confusion and wonder. Trying to determine how characters will progress becomes part of the fun. This movie subverts that expectation and is another original Reeves move. Adults are reduced to mere outlines of human interaction. Owen is rarely shown interacting with them and when he does those moments are often reduced to trite conversations with little weight. Hell, in a move I really like, Reeves never shows Owen’s mom’s face. The absence of any positive adult influence makes the progression of Owens story easy to predict, so if you like trying to guess or interpret those types of the things, you may feel like the movie tells you too much. However, if you accept the conclusion, the movie takes on this cool surreal feeling. It’s almost poetic watching the foregone conclusion slowly play out.

Smit-McPhee and Moretz knock it out of the park and give the movie a real heart and spirit. Their chemistry as friends is genuinely touching to watch and reminded me of a lot of moments in my childhood. You can see them warm up to each other, and because the movie takes its time, the subsequent places they go feel emotionally satisfying. Smit-McPhee really hits the nail on the head of bullied kid who desperately wants to feel like he has agency again. He manages to be creepy but sympathetic. You want him to find a path to happiness, even if he gives you the heebie jeebies with his weird masculine inducing rituals. Moretz absolutely nails child vampire. She’s innocent, but she’s also horrifying. She asks basic questions like “What’s a girlfriend?” but then has to consume other people’s blood to survive. None of these shifts feel out of character and it keeps Abby feeling complex.

Just because this is a romance with cute moments of friendship doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and daisies all the time. People are brutally murdered and their blood canvasses the white snow. The contrast is stunning and makes it clear that violence pervades our everyday existence. It can come from anywhere and doesn’t line up with what we think. The visual effects team does a great job at showing the horrors of vampire life by demonstrating the consequences of breaking vampire rules and by making the kill sequences feel deliberately violent. You can feel the pain respective character’s go through. Out of the two movies, I think this one is more visceral in its scares, so if that’s something you’re looking for you should check this out.

Report Card

TLDREven if Let Me In feels a little too derivative of its 2008 Swedish counterpart, its worth giving a watch if you’re looking for a coming-of-age romance with a horror twist. It’s equal parts heartwarming and horrifying and has some of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. I may rag on the movie for feeling like a clone of the original, but that’s not a bad thing. It means it has a great story, memorable characters, poignant and relevant themes, and great horror sequences. Reeves definitely refines and polishes some of these elements and I appreciate him making the movie more accessible to a widespread audience. I just wish that the movie felt more distinct .
Rating9.4/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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 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!