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This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
Great cast, decent movie
This is not a typical Hollywood comedy (not that that is any guarantee of quality comedy these days though). It is offbeat and weird and uncomfortable...and if the book is anything to go by, it is supposed to be. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, just something many people did not expect it seems.
The Altmans are your run of the mill, dysfunctionally functional family. The four Altman siblings (and their mom) are forced to spend a week together (something they're all "thrilled" by) sitting Shiva for their recently deceased father. Being together under one roof again they are forced to face not only their grief about the loss of their dad but also to come to terms with the problems and issues of both their past and present.
It is a decent dramatic comedy about families, love and life, with a fantastic cast and fair amount of funny moments, yet it does fall short of the depth the book is able to reach in terms of character development. Adam Driver is a star on the rise, definitely an actor that keeps impressing with his acting talent in each role he takes on. Jane Fonda shines in the role of an uncomfortably progressive psychotherapist mom. The film is worth seeing for the ensemble cast alone. I feel it tried to be too many things at once and in trying to divide the screen time between the actors, it ended up falling short of the greatness it could've achieved.
The Maze Runner (2014)
A movie that misses the point of the book it is based on
Reading a book right before watching the movie could be a double-edged sword - and the movie version ended up impaled on it this time around. It's kind of ironic because the trailers for the film got me to pick up the book in the first place. I enjoyed it so much that it took me less than 24h to finish it. Based on the trailer I was already inclined to like the casting choices for the characters and was really excited to finally see the film. And then ended up spending half the film battling with an overwhelming sense of frustration.
I've started noticing that the "book adaptation" scripts I often have issues with, are the ones that were not done/written by the book's author. (as is the case with this film) The part that frustrated me the most was the sense that the director was "dumbing down" the story. Part of the appeal of the book is that they feel just like those boys while reading it - clueless, guessing, emotionally invested, with very little to go on in terms of understanding why they are there and what is going on. Trust the movie version to hand it to the audience on a platter way too early.
The book did resemble Lord of the Flies in many ways - it is not just about the mystery and adventure, it also takes a closer look at human nature and what lies underneath when you take away societal norms and distractions of "normal" life. Characters were insufficiently developed making it harder for audience to connect to them on an emotional level. I'd recommend this movie only to those who haven't read the book yet, who are usually drawn to this genre and are only looking for a bit of mindless cinematic distraction that will not leave any sort of major impact on their mind or life. Kind of a waste of a great cast in my humble opinion.
Gone Girl (2014)
Dark and twisted - Fincher at his best
David Fincher is David Fincher and in my eyes he can do no wrong (because cinematically speaking he simply never does). Gillian Flynn's book got intense reactions out of its readers. It's a type of story that people either loved or hated and I have a feeling the same will happen with the film. I loved the book but I loved the movie just as much. This ended up being one of those rare situations in which I really did not mind changes made to the story - I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it was the writer herself who was adapting the book and that's probably why the changes did not take away from the impact of the story.
This is not a movie for the faint of heart. If you are squeamish give it a pass. If you are a fan of David Fincher's work, you simply cannot pass up the chance to enjoy the fruits of his artistic labor. Fincher's understated style puts even more focus on the dark elements of the story about a love story gone wrong. Rosamund Pike finally got an opportunity to shine as an actress in a main role and it was about time. (and I think Ben Affleck was really great in a role of the husband) If you loved the book do not hesitate to see the film - David Fincher really manage to do justice to this beautifully twisted story.
John Wick (2014)
Intense, fast-paced action movie that does not take itself too seriously
The key to truly appreciating John Wick lies in knowing what you're getting yourself into when you go to see this movie. I was quite impressed by the group that attended the same screening as I did - everywhere I turned I could hear the same variation of "oh it's a movie about a guy whose dog gets killed and then he goes to take revenge by killing a lot of people." Sounds ludicrous I know. That's kind of the whole point though.
John Wick is not a story-driven movie. It is, however, a fun and funny, action-driven cinematic ride. I knew exactly what kind of film I was going to see and I got that and so much more. John Wick is a badass (who also happens to have an impeccable sense of style), does not really say much (part of what makes him such a badass) but knows quite a few ways to get rid of the people he decides to get rid of.
Guns, snipers, knives, things that go boom, fancy cars, a storm of violence interspersed with a few (intentional) laughter inducing moments. It's a movie that does not take itself seriously and does not expect its audience to either. It just gives you pure, unadulterated entertainment. Impressive supportive cast - it took me a while to recognize Michael Nyqvist (a Swedish actor) in a role of a Russian mobster. The parts of the dialogue that are in Russian are translated in an almost cartoonishly stylized manner that makes those scenes resemble a comic book more than a movie (I was half expecting to see text bubbles appearing).
It's a phenomenal B-movie that introduces an interesting view of the criminal underworld - juxtaposing classy and crude, unwritten rules in a manner of "honor among criminals" I'd say. It is a "testosterone in overdrive" type of movie but one that I believe will appeal to women as well. (if for no other reason than because John Wick is so incredibly cool) I know I'm grateful that I got to see it on a big screen - I think it's the only way to truly immerse yourself in and appreciate all the long, uninterrupted film takes that will make you hold your breath.
Need I even mention that I'd be thrilled beyond belief if there ends up being a sequel :)
A beautiful historical romance/drama
Initially I was excited to see this movie because of Matthew Goode, even though I realized that he only plays a minor role in this film. After seeing the trailer however, the film flew towards the top of my "to watch" list. It still managed to exceed my expectations - interesting, well paced storyline, incredible cast (Tom Wilkinson was absolutely brilliant), intricate and beautiful costumes - definitely a movie that will be enjoyed even by those who are not big fans of period pieces.
The fact that the movie was based on a true story just made it even more impactful. Dido Elizabeth Belle is left in England by her loving Admiral father, to be raised by her aristocratic aunt and uncle - at a time in history when wealth and social standing could not overshadow the fact that she was a mixed race, illegitimate child. Belle's story of trying to figure out her place in the world and in her family unravels beautifully alongside a closer and deeper look at the racism and sexism plaguing the British society at the time. Add a dash of romance and the result is a beautiful film definitely worth watching.