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The Godfather | Review

Book Info

  • Date: 1969
  • Author: Mario Puzo
  • Genre: Crime, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Drama, Classic
  • Rating: 5/5

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Film Info

  • Date: 1972
  • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Screenplay: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
  • Rating: 3.5/5

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The novel is the best crime book I’ve ever read. A combination of historical fiction, drama and thriller, I would consider this as a timeless classic. The level of character depth and wit is just top-notch. The film, however, ruined The Godfather for me. I didn’t expect the film to match the book in terms of intensity, but unfortunately, I did not even enjoy it. The film left out a lot of details and implications that I couldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t read the book.

Keep reading to see my full review and analysis!

Book Review

The novel is divided into 9 books (sections), each told from a perspective of a different character. It is through these perspectives that the reader can understand the history of the main characters, where they come from and why they do what they do. The story revolves around the Corleone Family, run by Don Vito Corleone (aka the Godfather) until his eventual downfall. This Family is one of the few organized Mafias in America – and one of the most powerful ones. The Mafias consider themselves a separate entity as equally, if not more, powerful as the government.

The plot picks up the Family when it’s in conflict, and we’re shown all the negotiations, bloodsheath, deaths, and more negotation, that goes on before everything can be settled once again. It all gets more complicated when important people conspire agains the Corleones and end up murdered, because then the desire for vengeance is real.

I went into this book with barely any knowledge of what a Mafia is, and some snippets of historical references – such as alluding to Al Capone – put this novel into perspective. This novel is set around the 1940’s and 1950’s, and though as a 21st century person I felt frustrated by the fact that communication between parties was so hard to arrange back then; but I was also surprised by how swiftly they organized their meetings and organizations nevertheless.

Corleone was one of the biggest Mafia men in the country with more political connections than Capone ever had.

The language really captivated me. Mario Puzo is an American author, but of Italian descent. I could see his Italian accent permeate through the paper, especially because the Corleone Family is Italian as well. (And this was just perfect for me, as I’m currently learning Italian myself as well) Though this particular use of language made the novel less linguistically flawless, it did help establish a suitable Italian-American ambient for this novel.

There are so many central themes in this book that entranced me. Weirdly, understanding how and why the Mafia Families exist enabled me to see the corruption of politics. These Families exist because they don’t believe in society, they don’t believe that they will get the lives they think they deserve. And so they take the matter into their own hands. I learned about the traditions and customs of the Mafias. Just like a government has its own set of laws and rules, so do the Mafias. These rules include not relying on the public legal system to solve your problems and the role of ‘friendship and loyalty’ (I put them in apostrophe because these connections are basically bound by chains of favors, not voluntary friendship).

The Corleones, by making their way up in society because they know that the government is not fair, are actually representing the corruption in society themselves. They exploit their power and connections to get what they want. They disregard hard work, education and everything that an individual can do to get the best life possible, and replace that with negotiations, money and influence. It’s an exaggeration of how organizations run today in our society, really.

“Never get angry,” the Don had instructed. “Never make a threat. Reason with people.” The word “reason sounded so much better in Italian, ragione, to rejoin. The art of this was to ignore all insults, all threats; to turn the other cheek.

Oh, the characters. I could easily go into depth for each one, but I think it’ll be more efficient if I analyse them based on rank:

  • The Family men. This includes Don Vito Corleone and his sons, mainly. They run the Family business – that is, they run the oil business and make the schemes to get ‘unreasable’ people killed. Don Corleone is the most respected character in his circle, as he built up his empire on his own. Though none of his sons match Don Corleone’s strength and intelligence, Michael is the closest one to his father.
  • The loyal men. Like the name suggests, this includes those loyal to the Family – by ‘loyal’, it means that Don Corleone has helped them with a favor in the past, a favor that they must return. Don Corleone has a lot of loyal people surrounding him, as he believes in helping not only his family, but also his family’s friends and those who come to the Don for friendship.

Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family.

  • The enemies. Those who have a certain amount of power, and/or those who are not willing to accept the Corleone’s negotiations. They usually end up dead, or mourning over the dead of a close one. There are a lot of them in this novel, and it will surprise you who they are in the end.

…a friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your results.

There’s also the women of the novel. This includes all the wives and/or girlfriends of the main characters. In the novel, they are established as understanding, strong and supportive women with unconditional love towards their partners. They have no say in the family business whatsoever – it’s roughly 70 years ago, after all. This puts them in a tight situation, and those who choose to stay with their husbands, knowing the danger of their jobs, have to be incredibly emotionally strong. There are good husbands like Don Corleone, and cheating bastards like Sonny and Carlo (Connie’s [Don’s daughter] husband). Though the men have to deal with the ugly business and bloodshed, their primal savage sex instincts are still there. It was horrible reading and watching these parts.

I apologize if this book review was slightly confusing. There are so many things to talk about, and I tried to find the balance between revealing the important details, but not so much as to spoil them completely (if you haven’t read the book yet).


Film Review

The movie disappointed me. I believe it tried to replicate and respect the novel as much as possible, but it was merely impossible for it to captivate the multiple perspectives and give all characters the attention that they deserved.

(*Spoiler alert*) I was particularly disappointed by the ending, when Mike becomes the new Don Corleone. He became from a respectable Dartmouth man, to this stubbornly empowered man by the end. It doesn’t even end like the book, where there’s at least some sense of closure for the characters. Nope. Nothing. The tender love Mike had for Kay Adams in the book was nowhere to be seen in the film, which leads me to my next point:

The lack of female presence in the films. Oh, the women might as well not been present. It seemed like they tried to implement them at the beginning of the film, but then pushed aside their development as the film went on. They became solely concubines, wives and mothers – without any of the love that a man should give. Without the novel, I could not have understand what the women were thinking throughout the film.

Maybe it’s because I’m ignorant about the 20th century film industry, or maybe it’s because I watched the film after I had started reading the novel. Either way, I did not enjoy the film’s screenplay nor character development. By cutting out scenes from the book and making the film more obscure, I was not able to fully appreciate Mario Puzo’s art. I’ve always liked books more than the film adaptations, but this is one example where I find the contrast incredibly obvious.

Misty Prose

Wolf Children | Film Review

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Film Info

  • Title: Wolf Children (Japanese: Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, “Wolf Children Ame and Yuki”) 2012
  • Genre: Animation, Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Director: Mamoru Hosoda
  • Screenplay: Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

I saw the dubbed version of this film, and I loved it. I thought the (English version) narrators had a soothing and pleasant voice that matched each of the characters. Though the trailer made the film seem more childish than it is, my eyes actually watered several times during the film.

The plot is a very simple one, but the touch of fantasy gives the film a dramatic twist. In a small town of, presumably, Japan, a young female narrator retells the story of her mother, Hana. As a young college student, Hana falls in love with a man who later reveals himself to be a wolf man. Their relationship develops, and during the course of the next 10+ years, we are flashed forward to when Hana gives birth to her two children, Yuki (“Snow”) and later Ame (“Rain”). Despite the changes that the family has to make to get around, e.g. giving birth at home instead of at the hospital to avoid her children been denoted as “wolf children”, and hence be subjected to further investigation that would prevent them having a normal lifestyle, Hana and the wolf man’s compassion enable them to make do with what they are most comfortable with.

However, when tragedy strikes this family and the wolf man suddenly dies, Hana has a hard time taking care of her wolf children. Between working, tending to their needs, and hiding them from the public eye, their lives in the city eventually leads Hana and her children to move to the countryside. There, the children are able to grow more comfortably and freely. It is here where we see Yuki and Ame’s personalities blossom as two opposing individuals. The identities they had as children evolve dramatically as they get older.

On the one hand, Yuki has always been the boisterous and energetic big sister. She’s dauntless and witty. When she starts attending school, however, she realizes that she does not fit in with the crowd. Her idiosyncratic tastes in comparison to the girls at her school leads her to believe that she should do more to fit in.

On the other hand, Ame grew up as the shy and clumsy one. He was by his mom’s side most of the times, and was fearful both as human and wolf. When it is time for him to attend school, like Yuki, he goes through a dramatic change. Unlike Yuki, however, the social pressure makes him recoil towards his wolf self, rather than blend in with the human crowd.

What I loved most about this film was definitely seeing the characters’ develop through the struggles of a clearly atypical lifestyle. Hana’s strength as a wife and mother is admirable, and her difficulties understanding and raising her wolf children never take away her cheerful and optimistic personality. As for the children, the people they grew up to be (as teenagers) was definitely different to what I had initially thought. I had believed that they would both embrace their wolf-human personality; however, it is clear by the end of the film that they cannot live as ‘both’, and both have chosen to embrace one identity over the other. The fact that they chose to left the other identity behind does not mean it stops being part of them, which makes their transition into teenage-hood even harder. Nonetheless, I believe the film showed beautifully how social pressures, parental guidance and external influences can create two people with completely opposed identities (Yuki and Ame), despite having the same upbringing.

On the surface, the film seems quite childish. But if you have watched, or choose to watch, the film, you’ll see that it definitely deals with issues that go beyond that of a simple film. Though there’s a conclusive and somewhat-happy ending, it’s clearly not the “happily ever after” of a children’s film. This film really resonated with other Studio Ghibli films that I have watched (despite it not being one), precisely because of the depth that it goes to portray the characters.

Recurring theme that you may have noticed from these anime films is identity and social isolation. All the characters struggle with their identity not necessarily because they are different from those surrounding them, but because they deal with bountiful amounts of inner conflicts that leads them to feel isolated from their surroundings. It’s definitely a theme that many individuals can relate to, and the fact that these films portray their complexity to its finest is just beautiful.

I hope this review encourages you to watch the film, as well as other anime films!

Misty Prose

Review: Me Before You Film

Title: Me Before You (2016)

Director: Thea Sharrock (screenplay by Jojo Moyes)

Genres: Romance, Fiction, Disability, Drama, Contemporary

Rating: 3.5 stars


Note: I have already made 2 posts, one regarding the novel, and the other regarding euthanasia.

I had been wanting to watch the film ever since I read the book, and then saw the trailer. The scenes, music and scenery shown in the trailer resembled a lot of what I was expecting and looking forward to in the film, so I definitely had very high hopes for this film. When I saw the film, it was as lovely as I wanted it to be, but I was still disappointed on several aspect (bear in mind that I will be comparing the film to the novel):

Plot

In the novel, the story is quite lengthy, detail and complex (in terms of characters). Clearly, as someone who has read the book, I was disappointed at the lack of details that could have enriched the primordial intentions of the author. For instance, Louisa’s low-income background and struggle to financially sustain her family was completely sugar-coated. In the film, Louisa’s eccentric fashion style and lovely home do not suggest any struggles whatsoever, other than the references made by the characters every now and then.

This film had to be a shortened version of the book, due to time constraints, but I oftentimes ended up feeling as if the film were a ‘collection’ of scenes taken from the book, rather than a beautiful chronological sequence of events. Maybe if I hadn’t read the book before, I wouldn’t have been so critical about the film now.

Characters

loved that Emilia Clarke played Louisa. I love Emilia’s portrayal of Khaleesi in Game of Thrones, a character that is completely different to the one she takes on in Me Before You. Her bubbly and chatty personality was the light of the film, just like it was in the books.

However, I was disappointed by Sam Clafin’s portrayal of Will Traynor. I mean, I have never acted as a quadriplegic and I will never be qualified to act like one (or any other disability) unless I were one, but I guess this is one of the issues that will always remain controversial. I’m sure quadriplegics have as much to complain as pro-lifers have regarding euthanasia.

To be honest, after watching the film, I can now see why so many people rose in rage against the film. Unlike the book, the film does kind of romanticize Will’s decision to take his own life because he simply doesn’t want to take on the challenge and ‘shame’ of living as a quadriplegic. It is very much seen as a degrading way towards quadriplegics, and other disabilities. In the book, the tone was quite different. The controversy of Will’s decision was discussed more thoroughly and intensely, highlighting how the people that loved Will were completely against his decision to do so, until the day came.

Scenery & Props

The film was shot in the lovely town of Pembroke, Wales, which is an absolutely stunning and beautiful town – the kind that you would see in films. But then again, it seemed that everywhere the characters went to, the scenery was as high-maintenance as everywhere else. Louisa is from a lower-class (in comparison to Will), and though efforts were made to depict Louisa’s home and other places as such, it was all still too ‘perfect’. Louisa’s home was lovely, the cafe where she worked at felt warm and welcoming, her neighborhood was pristine, etc. While I was watching the film, however, I loved all this. I guess, subconsciously, I had imagined everything to be as perfect as the film showed. After all, it is kind of like a star-crossed love story.

Conclusion

The novel was lovely. The film highlighted these lovely parts, but it also made all the controversial topics more susceptible to the scrutiny of the public, unfortunately. Even though Moyes herself adapted the screenplay of the film, the tone and depth that readers could feel in the novel were lost 🙁

 

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Discuss: Me Before You Should Be Boycotted (?)

Today is finally the premiere of the long awaited ‘Me Before You’. But because of that, cinemas are only featuring it at one time, and sadly I won’t be able to watch it today *mini rant*.

Nevertheless, in this post I want to create a discussion about a main theme in the book and film: Euthanasia. News sites keep pouring with controversial articles about how the film (specifically) discriminates against disabled people and portray their lives in such way that their ‘only’ option is to kill themselves.

Personally, until I read these news articles, I hadn’t really thought about the implications of letting a quadriplegic individual choose euthanasia to end his life, because that is not how the book portrays Will Traynor.

On the side of the anti-euthanasia group, I feel that they are joining the uproar without even understanding the intentions behind the book and film. The book did not glorify euthanasia in any way. This was not a boy-meets-girl, fall in love, but boy still wants to kill himself, story. People who haven’t read the freaking book claim that they know the ‘basic plot’, without even opening a page of the book themselves. That’s what makes me so mad.

‘Me Before You’ (book) is a story about a man who is already depressed about his life when the novel starts. His financial success prior to his accident has made him depressed after he got into the accident and became a quadriplegic. But seeing how stubborn he was, hell – he would have done the same thing if he had gone into any other form of disability. Will’s mindset is very particular: either he serves for a purpose in life or he doesn’t. In the news, we often see about disabled people (either by birth or accident) breaking boundaries after going through a dark period. But in this case, Will never really finds that purpose. He does fall in love with Louisa and becomes a more warm-hearted person, but he knows that love is not a purpose in life. And I kind of liked that part of the story line, because it shows that romantic love is not the solution to everything if the individual doesn’t first love himself.

The thing is, Will decided to end his life in his case. This does not mean that every quadriplegic will want to kill himself because they were born as such, or had an accident that left them disabled. The book never implies that, and if I’m correct, neither does the film. After all, Moyes herself wrote the screenplay of the film.

Going back to the whole ‘Me Before You should be boycotted because it encourages euthanasia’ debate, I highly believe that this is so hypocritical of the public to fervently make such claim. There are countless of books dealing with mental health, disabilities and suicide (or all three) and not all of them have the happily ever after that we are all so used to seeing. And yet, when one of these books happen to be adapted, the public is outraged without even having read the book. Moyes in no way promotes suicide, and it never glorifies euthanasia in the book. Every character in the book was against Will’s decision to go forth with his decision (you would know that if you read the book).

Additionally, I am currently reading ‘After You’, the sequel. Louisa’s life is pretty lousy at the moment, to be honest – relative to her life in the first book. If you read this book, you would see that Will’s death did not make anyone’s life easier or better in any way. If Louisa and the others’ lives become better, it’s because of the strong will that resides in them, because they were able to pull through such torment. Not because of Will.


What is your take on this controversial debate? Please share your views in the comments below!

 

5 Most Anticipated Upcoming Films 2016

There are a number of films that have already been released that have already hit the box office, such as “Deadpool” (which I just saw), most of which I have yet to see.

But that doesn’t stop me from getting excited about the films that really, truly want to see this year. Below I have compiled a list of 5 films that are in my list of most anticipated films for this year, which are mainly in the genres of drama, adventure, action, and – occasionally – fantasy.

 

1. Me Before You

Release date: June 3

This is the film that I want to see this year. After reading the book and watching the trailer, I believe that this will be one of the few films that will actually meet the expectations of the novel.

If you’re a female – you probably get me. If you’re not – you probably think this will be another sappy chick flick. It probably will be.

 

 

2. Finding Dory

Release date: June 17

If you grew up watching “Finding Nemo”, there is no way you can not be anticipating this film. Unlike other animated films *ahem* “Monsters Inc” *ahem*, Disney is (thank god) fulfilling the wish of every inner child that still exists in us, and releasing the sequel to the first film.

 

 

 

3. Suicide Squad

Release date: August 5

A combination of action, adventure, fantasy and comedy. Seems like the most popular combination for hero films nowadays. But in this one… it is the super villains who become the super heroes. It goes off the hero’s journey pattern, which is why I’m incredibly curious as to how this film will turn out.

Also, the cast seems killer, and that’s pretty much enough to get me to watch the movie.

 

4. Now You See Me 2

Release date: June 10

It’s a great mystery and thriller film about the power of magic – that is, as long as you don’t over-analyse it. Many criticisms talked about the lack of character development, which is so subjective and hard to pull off with a theme like this one.

I’m eager to see this sequel, particularly about the addition in the cast, I’m also dubious as to how it will pull it off.

 

5. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Release date: November 18

I’m not exactly a fan of fantasy (in both films and books), but this is an exception. I started and finished the Harry Potter series this year, and anything that is related to the series and and/or J.K. Rowling is a must read/see for me.

 

 


What 2016 films are you most excited about and/or have yet to watch?

 

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Dramatic Biographical Films (Review)

One of the most chilling types of films that I enjoy watching are those based on a true story; in other words, biographical films. These films are never factually biographical, as they are dramatized to create the beautiful plot line needed to lure the audience. I would most likely resolve to biographical books (written by the protagonist) if I were seeking some form of validation or in-depth knowledge of the individual.

Below I have listed 5 biographical films that I have watched recently. I did not enjoy all of them, but each has its own hook and/or message that makes it worthwhile to watch.

 

True Story (2015) – Mystery, thriller

Sometimes the truth isn’t believable. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not true. – Christian Longo (film)

Plot: Based on the memoir of the same name by Michael Finkel (the film’s protagonist), the film explores the relationship between Christian Longo, this mysterious man convicted for murdering his wife and three children, and Michael Finkel, a recognized journalist and former report of the NY Times.

Comments: The film got me hooked all the way till the end due to the anticipation of where the acquaintance between the two men was going to end up. Watching the film, I stood from Finkel’s point of view, and had to deal with a dilemma: Is Longo’s possible ‘true story’ worth it? Would Longo be freed if his supposed story got out? The ending was more twisted and enigmatic than I had expected, showing that the relationship between the two characters was more emotional and internal than anyone could see.

 

Suffragette (2015) – Historical drama

Don’t bother arresting them. Let their husbands deal with them. – Inspector Arthur Steed (film)

Plot: Set in Britain 1912, it revolves around the rise of the feminist movement, centered on the women’s suffrage. The films shows crudely the poor and abusive working conditions women, the obvious patriarchy in families, the social stigma against women who step out of their conventions, etc. Maud Watts, the 24-year-old protagonist, suffers through all of these ordeals in the film.

Comments: Though the film in itself was not dramatically appealing which made it tedious to watch (for me), but it portrays crudely the women’s struggle to fight for their rights during a time that seems so alienated to the society that we know today.

 

Steve Jobs (2015) – Drama

Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra. – Steve Jobs (film)

Plot: Structured into 3 acts that cover 14 years (1984–1998) of Steve Jobs’ life, the film reveals 3 key moments in his life: the releases of the Apple Macintosh, the NeXT Computer and the iMac. Parallel to these events, we are also shown how Jobs’ personal life with his daughter and ex-girlfriend progresses. Both occurrences reveal Jobs’ strict and highly unappealing personality, which lead to both his success in the business world, and his failure with his personal life.

Comments: Having watched the prior 2013 film starring Ashton Kutcher, I did not enjoy this interpretation as much, which is mainly due to the fact that I enjoy films that take you through the individual’s journey. This film’s structure basically skips from one stage of Jobs’ life to the next, which doesn’t enable me, as the audience, to connect or sympathize with much of the characters whatsoever.

 

The Social Network (2010) – Drama

I don’t hate anybody. The “Winklevii” aren’t suing me for intellectual property theft. They’re suing me because for the first time in their lives, things didn’t go exactly the way they were supposed to for them. – Mark Zuckerberg (film)

Plot: It all starts one night when Mark Zuckerberg sits down in front of his computer, after being dumped by his girlfriend, and works on an idea that is immediately materialized. This story is told in flashbacks from the current time in the film, where Mark is facing two lawsuits: The Winklevoss twins claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea, and Saverin, Zuckerberg’s former best friend and business partner, accused Zuckerberg for having unfairly diluted his shares in the company. Both lawsuits are settled by the end of the film and… you know how the rest goes.

Comments: Zuckerberg’s ‘biographical’ portrayal was highly off putting, mainly because it was so focused on Zuckerberg’s sh**** attitude towards his friends, partners, and practically everybody, and ‘glamorized’ the fact that coding = success and money in the business world. I have no clear idea as to what extent this is true, but I feel that the film has wrongly distorted the true value and meaning of today’s main networking service.

 

Spotlight (2015) – Drama, mystery and The Danish Girl (2015) – Romantic drama are 2 biographical films that I highly recommend as well. I have already written my mini-reviews for these here


Have you watched any of these films and/or are you planning to watch any?

 

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Review: Pitch Perfect Films

Title: Pitch Perfect (2012) and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Genres: Musical comedy, Romance, Coming-of-age

Director: Jason Moore (#1), Elizabeth Banks (#2)

Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld (#2)

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Plot

The film centers on fictional Barden University’s all-girl a capella group, The Barden Bellas. In the first film, the group starts the year with the attempt to thrive at Nationals 2011, after previous year’s disastrous event. The protagonist and one of the new recruits is Beca, an aspiring DJ who, at first reluctant to join the singing group, discovers her passion for a capella and becomes a valuable asset in this competition. In the sequel, The Bellas aim for a higher challenge: winning an International competition that no American team has ever won, motivated by numerous humiliating incidents (the first being in front of the President).

Like all college students, The Bellas also undergo challenges that ‘make them who they are’. The bond, discipline and creativity of maintaining an a capella group demonstrate the importance of acceptance, diversity, priorities and relationships.

Themes

Acceptance: Beca arrives at Barden University as this mysterious, antisocial girl who is at first rebellious of her father’s wishes for her to attend college instead of letting her pursue DJing full-time. As the rebellious girl that she is, Beca turns down all opportunities that her father would want her to open up to as a college student, but when she gets accepted in The Bellas, her role and personality switches. The sense of unity and bond that The Bellas must have to become better at what they do changes Beca (and the others’) mindset, shifting their focus away from their individual whines and towards a common goal for the benefit of the ‘greater good’. Eventually, Beca starts opening herself up to other people and opportunities as well.

Diversity: The a capella group was previously basically a group for skinny hot girls who could sing; but this time, girls of all body sizes, backgrounds and interests get recruited to this group. This evolutionizes the meaning and image of The Bellas, which proves to be beneficial at the end.

Characters & Acting

Normal, hysterical, weird and comical characters are the main focus of the films. Some of the main cast include:

  • Beca is, of course, the girl that we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Being a strong asset in the group, she becomes the leader in the second film.
  • Aubrey (the leader of The Bellas in the first film) is that uptight perfectionist that learns the hard way that things don’t always have to go as planned.
  • Chloe, co-leader of The Bellas, is one of the few sane individuals that is able to prevent other characters from ripping each other’s heads off. She’s the one that begged Beca to join The Bellas, and she’s that loyal, supportive friend that ‘we all need’ in our lives.
  • Patricia “Fat Amy”, the absolutely insane character whose purpose in the film is to be ‘comical’ and enable the audience to realize that the un-normal can be ‘normal’ if we want it to be. Her outgoing, instinctive and unembarrassed personality enable her to make rash decisions that turn out to be… fine, surprisingly.
  • Jesse, the main male character, joins the Barden Treblemakers at the same times Beca joins her a capella group, and is another sane character whom Beca comes to accept into her life.
  • Emily, newest Bella member (in the second film) whose confident aspirations to become a Bella and a songwriter enable her to succeed by the end of the film. As daughter of a previous Bella, her presence enables the rest of the group to realize the importance of the Belle legacy, and the eternal bond that they will always share.

Besides the diversity of the characters, we are also shown different a capella groups, including

  • The Treblemakers: Another Barden a capella group, but all-boys.
  • Das Sound Machine: A German exotic a capella group that becomes The Bellas’ main rival in the second film.
  • There were other groups (whose names I don’t remember) that were made up of adults, country boys, etc.

I feel it’s worth mentioning the distinct a capella groups that appeared in the series, as they show how being bonded to a group with the same goal can make you into a a more ‘defined’ and more confident individual, and vice versa.

Comments

I felt the film tried a bit too hard to make the characters as diverse (ethnically, socially, intellectually) as possible, which makes the film a lot more cheesier than it already was. This was probably more due to the slightly banal plot, and not as much about the cast’s acting. I also felt that the film moved too fast; the film did show the struggles and progress that the characters made – both individually and collectively – but as the problems were more about the emotional struggles of the characters, their progress as an a capella group was not exactly that clear.

As for the musical part of the film, the covers were great and appropriate, of course. Some were mainstream, but most of the complete presentations that the groups gave were mashups of a combination of songs, which made them even more interesting.

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While researching for this review, I discovered that the first film is loosely based on a non-fiction novel of the same name. (Has anyone read it?) A third film is supposed to come out next year, which I don’t really know what to expect as it would move from a college setting to a real-life adult one, unless they want to get rid of the old protagonists and replace them with new ones (in which case the third film would be almost completely unrelated to the first 2).

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Juno: What?

Title: Juno (2007 film)

Genres: Comedy, Romance, Drama, Coming-to-age

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Batemanm, Allison Janney, J. K. Simmons

Rating: 3 stars

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Plot (Read a fuller version at Plugged In)

Juno is an independent-minded 16-year-old confronting an unplanned pregnancy and the subsequent events that put pressures of adult life onto her. It’s a funny, quirky and down-to-earth portrayal of the life of this girl, and the families and friends that surround her.

Comments on plot and acting

All the actors are incredibly well-known, and I couldn’t think of anyone else that could have portrayed Juno’s role better. The acting compensated for some flaws (I believe) in the screenplay, such as the lack of connection/relationship between the characters, e.g. Juno and Paulie (who was pretty much absent during Juno’s 9 months of pregnancy). I also feel there could have been a better development into Juno’s relationship with her parents during the pregnancy. The possible adoptive parents, Vanessa and Mark, portrayed wonderfully the role of a seemingly perfect and ambitious couple, desperate to adopt a child.

I loved how, despite the film is centered around Juno’s womanhood, all the characters’s preconceived conceptions change as the plot progresses. Page’s acting gave Juno’s character an aura of lightheartedness; she showed that regardless of how much she had going on in her life, nothing was bound to change who she was. Despite these comments, I couldn’t take my mind off one question:

What was the meaning of all this?

To be completely honest, I found the whole film quite depressing. That probably wasn’t the intention (as it’s a comedy film, after all) but the fact that Juno seemed so oblivious of all the pain, issues and troubles that she would have to go through when she decided to go forth with the pregnancy was mind-boggling. Why didn’t her parents offer to support the child? Why did they agree to give the child up for adoption? Where was Paulie (the father of the child) when Juno was pregnant? Though Juno did state that she wanted to do all this ‘on her own’, the fact that she constantly went around to her possible adoptive parents’ home showed that wanted company.

The fact that Juno could just give up her child, the child she knowingly conceived, up for adoption without even giving him/her a name or so much as looking at him/her when she was born, just didn’t feel right for me. Though Juno decided to keep the baby because she couldn’t go through with the abortion, it feels just as wrong to me for her to just give the child up as soon as she found the seemingly perfect parents. It’s as if she wanted to erase this part of her life after it was ‘done’, and the ending of the film pretty much showed that that’s what she did: gave the child to Vanessa, got back together with Paulie (why?!) and went on with their lives as if the pregnancy had not happened.

I feel like I missed out on something in the film that explains all of this skepticism, but most of the reviews that I’ve skimmed simply praise Ellen Page’s acting. I would re-watch the film just to solve out these questions, but watching it for the first time depressed me so much that I’m not even gonna watch any clips on it.

Have any of you watched it? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t watched it, even though my review is pretty negative, I recommend it just for the purpose of reflecting upon the issues (teenage pregnancy, pro-life/pro-abortion, family) presented in this film.

5 Oscar Films to Watch

#OscarsSoWhite hit the Academy Awards this year for the second time in a row, which makes it pretty obvious what the nature of the voting system is.

I can still remember vividly when Viola Davis stood up tearfully on the stage of the Emmy Awards 2015 and said:

Just something for you to think about.

Anyway, though I haven’t seen many of the films nominated this year, I did enjoy the few that I watch. I will recommend some of them here, and give a mini critical review about them. In no particular order:

1. Historical, Drama & Romance: Brooklyn 

Though the film is set in 1952, the immigration of an Irish woman to Brooklyn resembles the personal, social and cultural struggles of an individual seeking to make a better place for herself. With the ongoing European refugee crisis, one’s strive to find a new home goes beyond crossing the borders. I know this is a ridiculous comparison, but Brooklyn really narrows the scope to this one young woman, and enables us to see the more sensitive side of the immigration issue. It also makes a really sweet and touching love story with Saoirse Ronan (whom you have probably seen star in other films already) and Emory Cohen.

2. Drama, Crime & Mystery: Room

Oh, I loved this film thoroughly (here’s my review). If you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out. It’s such a touching and loving story about Ma and her child Jack, who survive years of kidnapping in a tiny shed and manage to get out with Ma’s thoughtful plan and Jack’s bravery. However, though it seems that the story ends there, the real issues arise when the two are living in the ‘normal’ world, and find it incredibly hard to adapt with constant media attention and loved ones pressing on them. This is a lovely must-watch film. Jacob Tremblay (Jack), is too cute both in the film and in real life too.

3. Biographical, Drama & Crime: Spotlight

I watched the film a few days ago, and the film definitely does its job and completely uncovers an
investigation that had previously been hidden away for far too long. Whenever I see familiar actors with roles that I wouldn’t normally picture them in… it feels strange. I’m used to seeing Rachel McAdams in the Spotlight (film) poster.jpgcheesy Nicholas Sparks films or as the mother figure, not as a investigative journalist. And Mark Ruffalo, aka Dr. Bruce Banner or FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, was incredibly adept at embracing his character, Robby (which felt so weird too). I feel like I’ve seen Liev Schreiber somewhere too, but I can’t recall which film. Oh, and let’s not forget about Stanley Tucci, better known as Caesar Flickerman. These are just some of the actors that I keep recalling from so many other popular films (it was a bit distracting, to be honest).

Anyway, that is far from the focus of this film, which concentrates on the investigation of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests that turns out to be more twisted than anyone could have predicted. All I’m gonna say is, this story deserved its spotlight.

4. Animated, Adventure, Comedy & Drama: Inside Out

Regardless of how you are, this is the perfect film to reconnect with your inner child and become a more understanding person. Whether you’re a child, a mother, a father, or even a grandparent, this film is for you. I love how the film brings out five of our most common emotions to create a thoroughly captivating, on-the-edge film. It sends out the message that every situation has a solution, and even the ‘worst’ feelings or emotions (Sadness) can be the key to becoming a better person.

5. Biographical, Romance & Drama: The Danish Girl

I can’t even begin to think how hard it was to write the screenplay and act out this film. The plot revolves around a very sensitive subject that was still unknown and criminalized back in the 1920’s, and the ending really threw my off. As a female, I can’t picture the flood of emotions that must have gone through Gerda Wegener’s (Alicia Vikander) mind when she uncovered the truth of her husband. In a world where people have to yet accept these people, the measures she took to accomplish the wishes of her husband are to be acclaimed. And Alicia’s performance enabled me, as the audience, to feel that. As for Eddie Redmayne’s double-personality role as Einer Wegener (Gerda’s husband) and Lili Elbe, I could almost understand how he felt. I identify with my sexuality, so I expected little. Redmayne’s performance surprised me.

However, I couldn’t help but think about how it would have been if an actual transgender woman had acted out the role. I feel it would have been a more… genuine story. I think there’s a name for this kind of acting, just like there’s ‘whitewashing‘ for white actors cast in non-white actors, e.g. Asian or Black people. The offensive implication is that these people – LGBT or people of other race – can’t act in these roles. It’s something that I feel is still being ignored in the film industry.

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What Oscars 2016 films have you seen and which are you planning to see? I’m definitely planning to watch The Revenant, Steve Jobs and Amy soon.

Also, I’m interested in what you think about this #OscarsSoWhite issue and the ‘whitewashing’ practice. Do you find it as obvious as it is now, or do you think it’s over-exaggerated?

 

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Review: Grease Live

Title: Grease: Live (2016)

Director: Thomas Kail, Alex Rudzinski

Genres: Rock ‘n’ Roll, Romance, Pop Musical, Theatre, Drama

Rating: 5 stars

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Plot

It’s a live TV adaptation of the 1971 musical of the same name. The musical is well-known for its 1978 adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Here’s the (original) synopsis:

It’s California 1959 and greaser Danny Zuko and Australian Sandy Olsson are in love. They spend time at the beach, and when they go back to school, what neither of them knows is that they both now attend Rydell High. Danny’s the leader of the T-Birds, a group of black leather jacket-wearing greasers while Sandy hangs with the Pink Ladies, a group of pink-wearing girls led by Rizzo. When they clash at Rydell’s first pep rally, Danny isn’t the same Danny from the beach. They then try to be like each other so they can be together.

Comments

It was amazing from beginning to end. Many of the songs were performed with great similarity to the 1978 film (Hopelessly Devoted to You, Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, etc.) while others had really magical adaptations (Freddy My Love). I have no complains about the actors – I knew several of them, and they all performed brilliantly. I couldn’t help but laugh at how the actors adapted their characters’ personalities so uniquely similar. It seemed almost like a tribute to this musical overall, which was the case for Vanessa Hudgens – whose dad passed away the day before the broadcast. The film was full of action, drama, comedy, romance and musicality. The script was a bit different to the 1978 film, as school scenes (with Principal McGee) were added – which I personally found a bit too long for the overall theme of the musical.

However, when looking at behind-the-scenes, I couldn’t help but picture all the organization that was going on throughout the progression of the musical. Actors running to different settings to prepare for the next scene, switching costumes (did you see Keke Palmer’s 2-second change of costume when singing Freddy My Love? That was my favorite performance of all.) and all the perfect cinematography, with a small but solid audience for each performance. It was very nice to see some backstage scenes and how the settings changed from one to another. For instance, after the first scene (where Danny and Sandy bid their goodbyes) the cameramen then zooms out to show us the behind-the-scenes and follow Jessie J through all backstage, all while she sings the intro. It was also particularly touching to see Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the 1978 film, get a role in this musical too.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell by now, there are so many things to point out about this film. I feel that I just rambled about a list of things that aren’t even coherent when put together, so my best advice for you is to just… watch it. I know I have said that for every film I have reviewed until now, but that’s my honest opinion. I don’t think you can compare this musical to the original film, as they are so far apart in time and setting, and both are just so extremely good.

Who do I recommend it to?

I remember watching the 1978 film as a teen, and not understanding a few scenes (revolving around Rizzo’s pregnancy scare?) because I was a completely ignorant person back then. I would probably give an age range for that film of 13+. However, I think this 2016 musical is very suitable for a family-weekend-watching-film, so the age appropriateness would probably be much friendlier. I believe this is one of those musical that will be timeless – it has lasted for more than 45 years so far! So you might as well watch it 😉

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