The Mule (2018) Review

Synopsis

Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. When Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on his conscience, he must decide whether to right those wrongs before law enforcement and cartel thugs catch up to him.

Release date: December 14, 2018

(USA)Director: Clint Eastwood

Featured song: Don’t Let the Old Man In

Box office: 174.8 million USD

My Review

The story-line of this film kept me entirely interested throughout the entire movie. The three things that stood out to me the most about this film were its well-developed characters, dynamic acting, and subtle use of symbolism. It was also extremely heart wrenching and touching to watch Clint Eastwood act in his last film as a modern “cowboy.”

The characters in this film are well- developed by both incredible acting and a well-written script. I almost forgot I was watching a film at certain points, because the characters completely came to life and made the story their own. Especially Clint Eastwood, it’s easy to see that he put everything he had into his role in this film and it fully paid off.

There is a perfect balance between action, and lifelike events in this film. Keeping it from feeling unrealistic with too much action, or slow moving with not enough excitement. Because of this, the film feels very realistic, and as an audience member I fully understood how the film’s protagonist accidentally stumbles into the drug business and stays in it.

I really enjoyed how this film took place in a modern world, while still holding onto some elements and characteristics of an old western film. I also really enjoyed how the protagonist of this film (Earl Stone) is a twisted kind of hero, and how as an audience member I both sympathized with him and grew frustrated with. My only complaint about this film is knowing it was Clint Eastwood’s farewell to Hollywood.

My Rating

9 out of 10


Advertisements

FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis: Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs. First episode date: February 3, 2021 Network: Netflix Program creator: Maggie Friedman Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon My Review: After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into …

Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds …

Alien (1979) Review

Synopsis In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and …

12 Years A Slave (2013) Review

Synopsis

In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner (Michael Fassbender), he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles continually to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon’s life forever.

Release date: October 18, 2013

(USA)Director: Steve McQueen

Producers: Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Bill Pohlad, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon MilchanScreenplay: Solomon Northup, John Ridley

My Review

This film is incredibly hard to watch, and there were several moments I felt extremely angry and sad as to what was occurring in the film. However, I believe this is a film everyone should watch at least once in their life. Not only is this an astonishing well-made film, but the message behind it is especially powerful. This film teaches the genuine and beautiful message that people don’t just deserve the capacity to survive, but to live.

12 Years A Slave gives a unique and amazing look into the life of a free black man who is trafficked into 12 years of slavery. Not only does the audience gain a deeper look into the horrific reality of slavery, but the film also gives a look into the massive problem of human trafficking. I found myself immediately sucked into the story-line of this film, and it kept my attention well throughout.

My favorite element of this film is by far the acting. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance in this film is one of the best I have seen in a long time. Watching this film is such an emotional journey, and as an audience member I felt the characters emotions alongside him. Which goes to show what an amazing performance he put into this movie.

The other actors’ performances were extraordinary as well, and I enjoyed how the film told more stories than just the principal character. There was much more depth in developing the other characters and story lines and this definitely added a lot to the film.

The ending of this film is extremely powerful, and I found it to be the perfect ending to such an incredibly developed film. Something I love about this film is that it is based on a true story, and there is nothing over dramatized in the plot. The whole film keeps a constant realistic feel, which makes its message that much more lifelike and powerful.

My Rating

9/10


Advertisements

Sixteen Candles (1984) Review

Synopsis

With the occasion all but overshadowed by her sister’s upcoming wedding, angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) faces her 16th birthday with typical adolescent dread. Samantha pines for studly older boy Jake (Michael Schoeffling), but worries that her chastity will be a turnoff for the popular senior. Meanwhile, Samantha must constantly rebuff the affections of nerdy Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), the only boy in the school, unfortunately, who seems to take an interest in her.

Release date: May 4, 1984

(USA)Director: John Hughes

Featured song: If You Were Here

Screenplay: John Hughes

Producer: Hilton A. Green

My Review

Like Most John Hughes movies, this film will immediately transport you back into the 80s. Molly Ringwald once again did an incredible job in this “girl next door” role. However, Anthony Michael Hall carried a lot of the film with his acting and well versed comedic timing. Overall, the comedy of the film is well balanced and creative, but some of the films jokes have not aged well with time. It’s definitely important when watching this film to consider what the world looked like in the time it was made.

This film contains the character stereotypes of most Romantic Comedies- with the popular boy and girl duo, girl next door, and geek. However, for the most part, the characters are well developed and remain interesting throughout. My biggest complaint is that the love interest, Jake, is so underdeveloped as a character. His performance is very monotone and boring, which makes it hard to root for him and Molly Ringwald’s character to end up together in the end.

The other characters of this film are well established and add a lot of comedic moments to the film. While most of the characters are developed as very flat, the characters’ distinct natures and characteristics clash with one another for added comedy.

My favorite thing about this film, as is in most John Hughes films, is the soundtrack, and overall atmosphere established within the movie. The costumes, sets, language, and soundtrack compliment each other to create a unified universe within the film. While this film is not my favorite John Hughes movie, it is one I have seen several times now and still enjoy just as much as the first time I saw it.

My Rating

6.5 out of 10


Advertisements

Lucas Hagar: The Influence of NArrative Storytelling on Documentaries

In a podcast with Film Riot, Lucas Harger talked in-depth about his filmmaking process as well as the creative cross between narrative film and documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, Lucas has been successful in crossing between editing both documentary and narrative stories to produce unique and creative content. According to Lucas, being able to create …

The Florida Project (2017) Review

Synopsis

Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their own adventures, while Moonee’s struggling mom and a kindhearted motel manager protect the kids from the harsh reality that surrounds them.

Release date: October 5, 2017

(USA)Director: Sean Baker

Budget: 2 million USD

My Review

A24 has produced some amazing films recently, which made me very excited to give this film a watch. I had heard such amazing things about it, and I was not left disappointed. The film was perfectly unified in its visual presentation. The color grading, camera work, set, costumes, etc. all blended in flawlessly with one another. The balance of comedy, drama, and realism was wonderfully suited. Although some people criticize the ending of the film, I found it to be the perfect wrap up to a story centered on the power of childhood innocence and imagination.

This film is heavy to watch. While the children in the film are often unaware of the dangers and reality around them, as an audience we are fully aware and that makes the film heartbreaking to watch at times. However, the audience watches the three protagonist children of this film battle their surroundings through imagination, which is touching and serves as a constant reminder that it’s possible to make the most of a situation.

The acting in this film stood out to me. I know this was both Bria Vinate and Brooklyn’s first film role, and they both did an incredible job. The close knit off screen relationship between the two was very apparent when watching the film. They appeared like a genuine mother and daughter duo, with a deep love and understanding between the two of them. William Dafoe did a phenomenal job as always, and his performance was chilling and heart-warming.

The ending of this film stuck with me as well. While some people are critical of its unrealistic and random ending, I thought it was perfectly accomplished. The entire film centers on the power of childhood innocence and the power of imagination. At the end of the film Moonee faces her harshest reality, and we as an audience member are experiencing it alongside her. The audience receives the chance to see things through Moonee’s eyes and experience childhood imagination through the sudden and imaginative ending. Real like doesn’t always have happy endings, and the only way the audience will receive their happy ending at the end of this film is if they escape to a place of unrealistic imagination.

My Rating

8.7 out of 10


Advertisements

julie taymor: the cross universe of film and theatre

In a recent podcast episode with The Treatment, Julie Taymor discussed her new movie “The Glories” and how she uses storytelling to externalize what characters are feeling on screen. Julie Taymor is a Tony Award-winning director of both theatre and film. Her goal as a creative is to master the fantastical elements of the film …

r-e-s-p-e-c-t on a film set: advice from mimi leder

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Mimi Leder, an American director and producer, gave her best advice for keeping a healthy and productive film set. Mimi’s key piece of advice was to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, and to always show them your appreciation. She pointed out that the cast …

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) Review

Synopsis

After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.

Release date: August 9, 2019

(USA)DirectorsTyler NilsonMichael Schwartz

Budget: 6.2 million USD

Box office: 22.8 million

USDNominationsDirectors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film

My Review

This was a highly anticipated film for me, and I loved every second. This is a heartfelt story of a friendship that parallels the classic novels of Mark Twain. I was sucked into the world of the film seconds in, and I was sad when it was over. This film follows the bond between brothers and how far that love can carry you through life.

My favorite thing about the film was its lighthearted and inspirational feel. The movie is clearly not meant to be the most realistic, but its imaginative feel made the movie incredible to watch. The character development was also astounding, and I rooted for the two protagonists to live a life free of repercussions.

Peanut Butter Falcon has the perfect balance of suspense, comedy, and lifelike elements. This film was hilarious to watch at times, and often had me laughing at the screen. There were also times I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, holding my breath in suspense. But overall this film reached down and grabbed a hold of my heart, truly touching me in every way emotionally possible.

The actors all did a phenomenal job in this film, and I loved every preference. Zach Gottsagen truly stole the show and held the film together. I know the writers of this film are close friends with Zach in genuine life, and they wrote this film for him to star in. Zach did definitely not disappoint, and he truly shined in his performance. Shia LaBeouf’s performances was phenomenal, and the bond between the two actors was hard to miss.

While the ending of the film was not the most realistic, it fit in perfectly with the imaginative feel defined in the rest of the movie. The ending scene truly was the last piece to the puzzle and had me smiling from ear to ear.

My Rating

9 out of 10

This is a film I could definitely watch repeatedly without getting sick of it.

Advertisements

The Pianist (2002) Review

Synopsis

In this adaptation of the autobiography “The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945,” Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish Jewish radio station pianist, sees Warsaw change gradually as World War II begins. Szpilman is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, but is later separated from his family during Operation Reinhard. From this time until the concentration camp prisoners are released, Szpilman hides in various locations among the ruins of Warsaw.

Release date: December 4, 2002

(USA)Director: Roman Polanski

Featured song: Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posth.

Screenplay: Ronald Harwood

My Review

I’m ashamed to say that it took me so long to a watch this film. The Pianist gives its audience an entirely fresh perspective of what Jews faced during the Holocaust. This film touched my soul uniquely. If you have not seen this film, do yourself a favor and go watch it!

Most movies with a Jewish protagonist during WWII showcase what life was like inside of the concentration camps. However, in this film the audience gains knowledge of what life in the Ghetto was like and what life looked like for the Jews that worked outside of Concentration Camps. I loved getting a new outlook on historically accurate events, especially since this film is based on a true story.

Szpilman in his hiding place

The film centers on Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist living in Poland. As his family is being loaded up on trains headed for Concentration Camps, a Jewish friend of Szpilman’s who became a German Solder pulls him out of the crowd saving his life. The rest of the film follows Szpilman trying to survive in an empty ghetto, getting a construction job working for the Germans, and finally hiding out until the end of the war.

This is not a movie for those faint of heart. There is a reason they rate this film R. It’s emotionally jarring and hard to watch at times. However, for that reason I think it’s crucial for us to watch. The acting in this movie is beyond incredible. Adrien Brody, portrays the protagonist film, and his acting is one of the most believable performances I have seen in a very long time. Whatever emotion his character was feeling, I physically felt in my gut. In fact, there were several times I teared up alongside him. The acting along with the lifelike sets made me feel like I was watching a documentary on the actual family versus actors re-creating the historical events.

Szpilman wanders around an empty Jewish Ghetto after being separated from his entire family

I’ve heard people criticizing this film for having too slow of a pace. However, for me this just added to its realist feel. It felt like the film was occurring in real time, which added to its life like feel. I have nothing bad to say about this film. Have you seen this film? Leave your thoughts in the comments down below.

My Rating

5 out of 5

I would definitely watch this film again, and I highly recommend everyone watch it at least once in their lifetime. This film is available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime as of the time I am posting this.

Wladyslaw Szpilman In Real Life

If you enjoy Holocaust centered films, check out my review on Life Is Beautiful. Another film centered on a Jewish family with a unique storyline and perspective.

https://cinematicgeekster.com/2020/04/26/life-is-beautiful-1997-film-review/


Advertisements

working with what you got: Advice from the creators of Faith Based

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, the creators of the film Faith Based (Vincent Masciale, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason), gave constructive advice to filmmakers who think they need to wait till they make it into Hollywood to make their film. The filmmakers discussed how their original plan for the film was to shoot …

Aaron Schneider’s Directing advice from film Greyhound

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Aaron Schneider discussed the things we were forced to learn while shooting Greyhound. Most of the films set was composed of green screens, which had its challenges. Schneider’s main advice is to come up with a detailed and set plan when working with extensive green screens and technology …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He went on to state that as a director it’s okay …

Advertisements

Life is Beautiful (1997) Film Review

Synopsis

A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with his charm and humor. Eventually they marry and have a son, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). Their happiness is abruptly halted, however, when Guido and Giosue are separated from Dora and taken to a concentration camp. Determined to shelter his son from the horrors of his surroundings, Guido convinces Giosue that their time in the camp is merely a game.

Release date: October 23, 1998

(USA)Director: Roberto Benigni

Featured song: La vita è bella

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor

My Review

I have seen this film over five times now, and yet it remains in the list of my top ten favorite films. This film follows Guido, a Jewish Italian with a very whimsical and carefree attitude towards life. I like to consider this film being split into two acts- the first act follows Guido winning the girl and growing a family together and the second act follows Guido’s family in a Nazi concentration camp.

My favorite thing about this film is that the audience watches it through the eyes of Guido’s son in a way. Throughout their stay at the concentration camp, Guido makes it his goal to shield his son from the surrounding horrors. Therefore, Guido tells his son Joshua that it is all a game to win points, and that the first person to reach 1,000 points receives an actual tank. This allows Joshua to hold on to his childhood innocence, which is the strongest gift his father could give him.

Because of this, the audience is spared from seeing an excessive amount of the horrors going on in the camp. However, a lot of the horrors are suggested and as an audience member who knows the history of WWII and concentration camps, it’s easy to be aware of what is really going on. Even though the son remains clueless to the reality of his situation.

This is such a wholesome and incredible film that will truly tug at your heartstrings. Watching the love Guido shows to his wife and son is inspirational and moving to watch. The only negative thing I have to say about this film is that it starts off a little slow. However, once you get past the first twenty minutes it’s worth it. I love that this film takes on a different spin on telling a story about the Holocaust, and unlike most movies centered on concentration camps, it isn’t extremely gut wrenching to watch.

My Rating

5 out of 5

If you have not seen this film, I highly suggest finding it and giving it a watch. This is the film that will leave a positive impact on you forever.


Advertisements

Judd Apatow: The Role of improvisation in FILMMAKING

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Judd Apatow shared his advice for film directors. Judd had lots of brilliant advice to give, but the principal thing he kept reiterating was the important of improvisation in film-making. He expressed that throughout the entire film-making process he slowly allows the film to come to life. …

Control Your Property- Jim Cummin’s Advice On Distributing Your Own Film

Jim Cummings is an extremely unique director in the sense that he often heads up the distribution of his films and their production. In a recent Podcast with Film Riot, he explains to the listeners just how he goes about accomplishing this. To many filmmakers, the idea of overseeing the distribution of your own films …

Advertisements

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Film Review

Synopsis

Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Surrounded by the brutal realties of war, while searching for Ryan, each man embarks upon a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage.
Image result for saving private ryan
Release dateJuly 24, 1998 (USA)
Budget70 million USD

My Review 

Image result for saving private ryan battle scene

By far this is one of the best war movies of all time. It’s hard and tear jerking to watch because of how accurate and life like the war scenes are. Something that really adds to the uncomfortable realistic feel of the film is the lack of music. It’s hard to notice when first watching the movie because as an audience member you are so sucked into the action. But if you pay attention during any battle scene, there is absolutely no music playing in the background. In fact, music is used sparingly and only when it adds to the overall emotional impact on the audience. During the bloody war scenes all the audience hears are bullets shooting, men screaming, blood gushing, and orders being given. This makes the audience feel as if they themselves are on the front lines with all the actor’s.

Image result for saving private ryan

Another powerful element of this film is the camera work. The cinematography is innovative and creative. However, it’s kept subtle to where you don’t remember your watching a movie on a screen. It feels as if your watching war history in person. A lot of the camera angles are kept eye level, or close to the ground, which adds to this effect. There are very little bird eye shots or hero shots in this film. Which would have only lost the audience’s personal connection into the film. This was a really impactful decision made by the cinematographer of this film.

Image result for saving private ryan

This film showcases the darker side of humanity. It allows audience members who have never been on a battle front a chance to experience the realistic horror and intense action. It allows us a look into a world not all of us are familiar with. That makes watching this film such a memorable experience.

My Rating

4.8 out of 5

I recommend everybody watch this film at least once in their life.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Film Review

Synopsis

Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the knot on Halloween. When the newlyweds return to their respective family homes to deliver the news, Brewster finds a corpse hidden in a window seat. With his eccentric aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), disturbed uncle (John Alexander), and homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), he realizes that his family is even crazier than he thought.
Image result for arsenic and old lace
Release dateSeptember 1, 1944 (USA)

My Review 

If you have not seen this film… Go Watch It Now! This movie has been on my top 10 list of films for years now.

My favorite thing about this film is the plot structure. They based this film off on a play and that shows. This play follows the old style of comedy with dramatic irony. The audience is fully aware of what is going on in the movie, however a lot of the actors are left in the dark. Which leads to a lot of confusion among the characters within the film and adds to the comedic element for the audience.

Something I love about this film that I think more plays and films need to be inspired by is all the comedic timing and use of facial expressions. Image result for arsenic and old laceCary Grant’s facial expressions throughout this film makes for some of the best comedic moments. This is also something that is known to be one of Cary Grant’s signature strengths.

The plot of this film is quick paced, and there are several stories lines going on all at the same time. Newly wed Mortimer Brewster is trying to leave on his honeymoon, his aunts are murdering elderly gentleman, his uncle thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and his crazy brother Jonathon shows up  on the run from the police. While the overall feel of the movie is left very light and comedic, the action within the play is insane and the audience gets to watch along on the journey.

I absolutely adore the acting in this film. Besides Cary Grant’s amazing performance, everyone else does a fantastic job. There is not a bad acting performance in this entire film. Image result for arsenic and old laceJosephine Hull and Jean Adair as the two aunts is my favorite. These two women do not disappoint in this film, and their characterization is amazing. They are nothing short of being sweet elderly women in this film, which makes it even more of a comedic shock to find they have single-handedly poisoned and buried several men in their cellar. 

Lastly, the camera work and lighting of this film are unique and appealing. Much like the play, this film takes place solely inside the Brewster’s living room. While we see action take place in a few other locations, most of the film is set in one area of the house. However, the film does not get boring and as an audience member it’s hard to notice that the camera has not left the one room. The camera work is very innovative and creative.

My Rating 

4.5 out of 5

Image result for arsenic and old lace

Rear Window Film Review

Synopsis: 

The story of a recuperating news photographer who believes he has witnessed a murder. Confined to a wheelchair after an accident, he spends his time watching the occupants of neighbouring apartments through a telephoto lens and binoculars and becomes convinced that a murder has taken place.

Image result for rear window

Release dateAugust 4, 1954 (New York)

My Review

Image result for rear window

Rear Window is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film and has been on my top 10 list of films for years. My favorite thing about this film is the set. The whole movie takes place from Jeff Jeffereies (James Stewart’s) apartment. Throughout the movie the viewer looks into the lives of his neighbors through Jefferies window and into the neighbors’ windows. All the shots spying on the neighbors are done from a point of view aspect. This is creative and different for movies made during the 50s. The camera shots get very creative. My favorite point of view shots is when Jefferies looks through his telephoto lense on his camera to get a closer look at the lives around him. As the camera cuts from Jeffereies looking out, to what he is seeing the audience sees the images on the screen as if they themselves were looking through a telephoto lense. In this way, the director has taken complete control of the audience and has manipulated how they will watch and perceive the film.

Image result for 180 degree rule

Another creative camera movement this film does an innovative and creative job of accomplishing is breaking the 180 degree rule. In film, we use the 180 degree rule when setting up camera shots. The 180 degree rule says that two characters in a scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other. Traditionally, if the 180 degree rule is broken it disrupts the scene and causes disorientation to the audience. However, there is a scene in this movie upon which the 180 rule is broken, causing no kind of distortion. In a scene between James Stewart and Grace Kelly, she crosses over the line and into the other side of the action. However, the way they pull it off there is no disorientation to the audience which is hard to do. 

The acting in this film is totally on par. James Stewart never disappoints, and his acting in this film is extremely compelling. The acting of the neighbors though small roles, are done exceptionally well. Something that’s important in this film is the disconnect between all the neighbors. Throughout the entire film, the viewer sees a world in which all of its characters are stuck inside their own worlds and never fully connect with each other. Image result for rear windowThe only time the neighbors interact is when the death of a neighbor’s dog brings them together. I really appreciated this element of the film because it felt a lot like real life. Typically, we are so stuck inside of our own lives we don’t always notice the small details around us until a tragedy brings us all together.

The last thing I really enjoy about this film is the plot structure. This film flows so effortlessly, and it follows a well put together plot structure. It’s the type of movie in which you forgot your watching a film. Every element of this film flows so effortlessly and ties together. perfectly it’s easy to see that the creators of this film put a lot of time and effort into the films pre-production which paid off.

My Rating:

4.5 out of 5