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The Judge (2017)
There is so much I could say about this documentary! Where to start?
First, briefly, what it's about: It follows a Palestinian woman who insisted that women should be allowed to serve as judge on the Shari'a Court, the family court which deals with marriages, divorces, domestic disputes, etc. She went on to become one of the two first women to serve as judges on this court. And she goes on to mentor other women who serve in other legal roles.
One of the most amazing things about this documentary was the peek it provides into life in Palestine. We honestly rarely ever get to see how life proceeds there and to see people living their normal lives, and women challenging the patriarchal status quo amidst all the craziness happening in that region was eye-opening.
Second, Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih was a tour-de-force of inspiration. Wow, that woman has guts and conviction and courage and strength to soldier on despite all the obstacles. Her job is to uphold the Shari'a, and although many of us in the audience may not agree with the Shari'a, we see her trying to apply the law in the way that would be most helpful to the people. (As a side note, this would be enlightening for those people who think of "The Sharia Law" as a scary barbaric concept - this documentary gives a good depiction of what it actually covers. It has its questionable parts; it has its severely outdated parts, but much of it makes sense at least for the time when it was written. Why it's not up for amendment, well, that is an issue our protagonist and her fellow women in law struggle with.)
The last observation I will include is about the men. They are all over the board. There are some who are incredibly supportive, like Judge Kholoud's husband. There are some who genuinely want to see progressive change, like the Justice who appointed the women in the first place, but subsequently lost his job. There are the many male defendants at court against whom their wives bring cases (but of course given the nature of Judge Kholoud's work, she would be exposed to men like that). But then there are those men who make you angry, like the Islamic scholar who is staunchly against women serving in any legal capacity. What's worse is how strong and genuine his convictions are. He's not a slimy politician trying to demonize a group to win political favor. His opinions about women are completely genuine and that's what's so disturbing. The supportive men aren't necessarily paragons either. The former Justice for example, talked about his 4 wives in his interview and how he's grateful for that rule...it sounded like because he couldn't have found it in himself to be monogamous. Despite their shortcomings, at least there are people trying to bring about positive change.
But as with many issues, change is a slow process, and things often go backwards. There has only been one new female judge since Judge Kholoud and her colleague first started. But they all hold out hope that it will get better. But the patriarchy isn't the only battle they will be fighting. The uncertain status of their nation, the obstacles to natural economic development, etc. will surely be challenges the Palestinian women will have to contend with.
Wildlife Filmography is Hardddd
This wasn't that interesting of a documentary, but I get why they made it. Filming the snow leopards for Born in China was so incredibly difficult and grueling! Perhaps filming the others were too, but give they made a documentary about this particular film crew makes me think their job was the toughest. If you like Disneynature and if you liked Born in China, give this one a watch just to appreciate what went into making that other feature documentary.
Walt Before Mickey (2015)
This felt exactly like one of those charming TV movies portraying an idealized version of the life of a great man. To be fair, the movie definitely didn't try to portray Walt as flawless. They did show his many flaws. But there was something about the simplicity of the writing and that it made it seem like an idealized version.
However, I'm guessing it must have been quite accurate. At least, all the characters in the movie must have been accurate to an extent. Every time one of the new animators were introduced into the story, I'd think, "That name rings a bell." But I couldn't place them right away. At the very end of the movie, they talk about what each of them went on to do and what they are known for. So in a sense, this was a movie not just about Walt, but about a group of guys who worked together who went on to become some of the greatest pioneers of animation. And that was very cool.
Pelé: Birth of a Legend (2016)
A Hidden Gem!
Yes, I know this movie follows every beat of every cliched sports movie about the underdogs. And I know it's a heavily fictionalized version of history.
1. They didn't make that stuff up about the actual World Cup games - that stuff is up on Wikipedia to look up. 2. Football really is that big a deal and part of the culture of Brazil. 3. Pele really was a football wunderkind. 4. My dad used to tell me stories about Pele and his ginga style of play. We're from Bangladesh. A country that is madly in love with Brazil (and also Argentina) every time the World Cup rolls around. Brazil is a huge deal to the people of Bangladesh because here are some folks who look like us, who grew up in the slums, who are beating these white European folks whose ancestors colonized us all.
I wasn't expecting it from this movie, but it touches on race relations, class relations, and the effects of the Portuguese colonization in Brazil. The fact that so many of them are mixed race is constantly brought up by the Europeans. (This is the 1950s, so of course it is.) But despite being mixed race, those who are black are aware of their African heritage (and we learn a brief history of the ginga style) and those who are white are aware of their European heritage. The scene were Altafini realizes that the rest of Europe looks down on him for being Brazilian despite his Italian heritage (which may be fictionalized, but probably happened to some other Brazilians at some point) directly spoke to the movie's theme about Brazilian identity. And the underlying theme of "be yourself; be Brazilian" was present throughout and somewhat heavy handed.
But none of the cliches felt cliched because it was all being applied to a new context. There aren't that many football movies or that many World Cup movies. And there are not that many movies about Brazil.
I actually don't even support Brazil that much during the WC because they've won just way too many times at this point! But back then they were underdogs, and this movie shows how they became legends.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
I wanted to get to know Mr. Rogers
I grew up outside the States and never got the show. I hadn't heard about him until college. But everyone absolutely loved him and I wondered what he was like. I've seen some short docu-videos about him here and there and it was obvious he left a deep impact on people. And so I was delighted to be able to watch a full length documentary about him.
He truly was one of the best people to walk in this world and the world is better off for having him in it. He didn't touch my life in the way he did for so many others, but he made me think of all those people who did shape me to be who I am. And I'm glad I got to know him through this documentary even if I didn't know him from my childhood.
Logan's Run (1976)
Holds Up Surprisingly Well
My interest in this movie stemmed from the fact that one of my friends was named after it. Other than that, I had no reason to be interested in a sci-fi movie from the '70s. I have doubts that sci-fi movies would age well. The special effects would probably look silly. The vision of the future will seem silly to us. So on and so forth. All that said, I was surprised how well this movie held up! It relied on ideas rather than visual effects (as good movies should) and the set up was so bizarre and post-apocalyptic-ish, that it didn't feel like an incompetent vision of the future. I would recommend this one despite the fact it's >40 years old.
The most feel good movie I've ever seen! (Mild indirect spoilers)
This is the most feel good movie I've ever seen - and I mean that in a good way. It really made me feel so good!
Put differently, this was one of the most optimistic movies they could make about a kid with a physical deformity. The adults (with the exception of one lady) are all trying to be kind and supportive. The kids are all dealing with their own problems but they are each trying to figure out what's the right way to behave. They're kids; they mess up; but they try to be better.
It was nice to see the focus on the older sister too, who is also dealing with her own issues and not struggling with feeling resentful towards her brother for capturing all of her parent's attention. But at the same time she wants to be there for him as much as she can. She sympathizes with him, but she also teaches him to recognize when others are genuinely dealing with problems and that not everything is about him. And the parents also make an effort to make sure they're not forgetting their daughter in their preoccupation with their son.
Basically, this is a movie, where people do the right things. In so many movies people will do the wrong thing and then are too afraid to correct the mistakes and then the mistake will come crashing down on them for dramatic effect. It was refreshing to see this movie veer away from that.
The performances were great. Julia Roberts is of course great. Owen Wilson doesn't have a heavy role at all, but he just plays the awesome dad role. And Jacob Tremblay is of course AMAZING. I don't know how a kid can be such a good actor. But honestly, all the other kids did a fantastic job too and they all acted exactly like how kids that age would act and had exactly the dynamic kids that age would have.
But this really is a feel good movie - one where things ultimately end up how you wish they would. Real life, I'm afraid, would be far crueler than the events of this movie. :'(
Arjun: The Warrior Prince (2012)
Very mild spoilers, but the Mahabharata shouldn't really have to be protected from spoilers!
Disney has animated films from all over the world, but they don't yet have one from India/South Asia. But Disney does have a co-production credit on this adaptation of the Mahabharata.
I have some basic familiarity with the epic and the movie hits the basic beats of the epic. Although there were some stuff that I didn't recognize either because I've forgotten, or because the movie deviated.
I think the movie tried to make the characters interesting... but at the end of the day Duryodhan was a mustache-twirling villain and the Pandavas were pretty one-dimensional. They tried to give Arjun an arc about learning to be warrior or something, an arc he shared with the, uh, framing device; but it didn't really work. But I did think they made Draupadi a little more interesting compared to the epic. She was just as minor here as in the epic, but I basically remembered her as a helpless woman who just did what other people told her to do. It's not as if she was any less powerless in this movie version, but after that dice game went down, she was pissed and I'm glad the filmmakers gave her at least this little bit of character. She dealt with it very maturely, but she demanded justice and wasn't going to let it go. (I'm not saying she was an empowered character; I'm saying the filmmakers gave her as much character as they possibly could without changing her story. The same cannot be said for the rest of the Pandavas. Oh and they glossed over the whole, uh, "sharing arrangement". Because Disney? But then again they showed a ton of blood.)
The animation was honestly not that great. But I say that because I'm used to watching animation from Disney and Pixar. The animation was actually really good given how young the animation industry is in India - and I'm sure Disney didn't invest too much in this department.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it just kind of ended abruptly with no conclusion. It left us with two lines about the big battle that was coming up, and not even the outcome of the battle. It's almost like they got sick of telling the story and ended with "And then they went to battle, the end."
Cui mian da shi (2014)
Really good psychological thriller
I watched this on a recommendation from a friend; would otherwise have never heard about it. But boy, did it really draw me in and keep the engaged the whole way through. It was a small movie with few characters and mostly taking place in one room, but there is a lot going on beneath the surface and each revelation is masterfully crafted. Would definitely recommend to others as well.
The Letters (2014)
Resonated with me emotionally
I would never have known about this movie had I not come across it on Netflix. I haven't watched any of the other films about Mother Teresa, so I can't compare, but none of these biography movies are big names, I think. Maybe because Mother Teresa herself isn't that big a name?
I'm not really sure how she's perceived in the rest of the world, but I grew up in Bangladesh, where she greatly revered. Indeed she's revered throughout South Asia, probably the most in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) where she was based. But I know Bangladeshis specifically revere her because she helped the refugees who fled from present-day Bangladesh to Kolkata during the Independence War, and after the war, she came over and built orphanages and shelters for women.
This biography shows how she got started with her work - how she left the life of a cloistered nun in a convent and went to work in the slums. The movie didn't directly reference the Bengal famine of '43, but that had to be a huge motivator, because people were dying en mass on the street due to starvation.
The biography then follows her through a few milestones of her work and how she came to form and lead the Missionaries of Charity convent, all the while highlighting her growing sense of loneliness and despair and feeling of abandonment as she expressed in her letters to her spiritual adviser. I thought the movie had a strong emotional core. And I also thought Juliet Stevenson gave a fantastic performance as Mother Teresa (although I wondered if she overdid the accent a tad?). And I really connected with her performance and the story of this woman who really was as selfless as they come.
She always insisted that she was doing God's work, that it was His will that she do this work, not hers. I take this to mean that the calling she felt to help the poor was a force much greater than herself.
There are a few minor gripes I have with the film though. First, I was looking forward to seeing Kolkata/Calcutta in film. Bengal and Bengalis don't get much attention in International films. While there were a very few spoken lines in Bengali, most of the characters (even the slum dwellers) spoke in English with each other. I understand this was done for the ease of the audience, but they spoke perfect posh English and they came off as somewhat genteel and polished, which was at odds with the fact that they lived in slums.
I was also disappointed that their names were pronounced the Hindi way rather than the Bengali way. And there were lots of scenes when people are shouting in the background and the subtitles say "speaking in Bengali", but the words were unintelligible and in some instances they sounded Hindi. Maybe they just didn't get enough Bengalis on board while making this movie, and that was disappointing. But I suppose this is how most people from third world countries feel when they see their countries not depicted quite right on the screen.
Finally, there was a glaring anachronism that I noted. Characters referred to Bangladesh during scenes taking place in 1949 - right after the partition. Bangladesh ought to have been referred to as East Pakistan. Unless I am deeply misinformed about the history of my country, the name Bangladesh didn't come into usage until many years later when East Pakistan started thinking about Independence. (And it was only after independence that it became officially known as Bangladesh.)
However, I suppose these gripes are rather minor in the larger context of the film. I'm glad to have watched at least one movie where I learned about how she got started and formed her congregation.
I walk across the mall past the Tower almost everyday
I'm a grad student at UT Austin. I went on the Tower Tour last week - on the very observation deck from where the sniper shot. The tour guides aren't supposed to make the tour about the shooting story, so they didn't go into it, but they told us about the documentary.
It's a mix of archival footage and animation. The animation recreates the shooting. And it was riveting. It's probably riveting for anyone to watch, but watching a horror story unfold in so familiar a location - one that's part of my daily life - is something else altogether.
Maybe I'll take a different route tomorrow, or maybe I'll figure out a way to put this story out of my mind. Also, it was August 1st just yesterday. 52 years to the date.
FYI there is heavy security at the tower these days. You have to pass through a metal detector and everything to go on the tour.
Little Men (2016)
Spoilers only in the last two paragraphs.
This is a story about mundane life and its problems. Largely it's the story of a beautiful friendship between two boys which is challenged when their parents have a business dispute. Jake's dad is evicting Tony's mom. But it's one of those cases where neither side is to blame, because both sides are having financial troubles.
But you keep watching because Jake and Tony have a truly wonderful friendship, and you want them to last it out. And the story ends up where you expect these events to naturally lead.
Spoilery review: Jake's dad and aunt inherit their late father's properties, and they are both in need of money. Tony's mom, who rents out a shop, pays very little rent. She had been good friends with their late father, who cut her a break and never increased her rents. And she expects the children will do the same in honor of their father's memory. You can understand that both sides are at an impasse. But both sets of adults don't behave in the nicest ways. Jake's dad really does try to go about it in a decent way, but his sister seems comes off as cold-hearted and callous. Tony's mom was initially the one we sympathized with (because she is getting evicted), but her expectation of the same treatment from the children as the father feel very entitled - especially when she starts to insult them personally and declare that their financial woes are none of her problem.
As unfortunate as this dispute is, much more delightful it is to watch Tony and Jake together. And it's that much heartbreaking to watch the ending where it seems that they will never be reunited. But part of you hopes that someday they will want to put all this behind them and seek each other out again.
Kirikou et la sorcière (1998)
What a strange film!
This was a very, very, very, strange film. But strange in the way some legends and folktales are - babies born with the mind of an adult and incredible speed and strength, etc. It was at times charming, and at times just SO strange - again, in the way legends can be. It seems it is based on African folktales. It has to be. given the nature of the story.
The story is about the newborn Kirikou who manages to accomplish all kinds of amazing feats and is amazing all around. He would have been a very annoying Mary-Sue kind of character because he was just awesome at everything and he knew everything, but because he was just a tiny baby, it stops just shy of annoying is just simply kind of intriguing.
But..watching this you think....boooooobs. Wow, so many boobs. The women went about bare-chested, which I believe is very common in certain regions of Africa. And because it was no big deal for them, the exposed breasts were treated as common place and they weren't necessarily sexualized, but it was quite a shock having entire scenes full of topless women.
I have this a 6/10, simply based on my viewing experience. I don't feel like I am necessarily the best judge of this material, since I lack much of the context.
About Darwin's life (mild spoilers)
A movie based on how Charles Darwin wrote "The Origin of Species" would definitely be interesting to me. I know quite a bit about Darwin. I took an evolutionary biology class in college and the professor spent a lot of time lecturing about Darwin.
But this movie isn't about his time on the Beagle, or the Galapagos Islands, or even about his pigeon breeding, although all of those come up (actually Darwin's finches never came up surprisingly). There are flashbacks to Darwin's travels and conversation about his observations about the variety of species, but those are all in the background.
This story is first and foremost a family drama. And it's also a period piece. I really enjoy period pieces, by the way, especially ones set in this period. But the vast majority of those period pieces involve young unmarried men and women trying to find a spouse. The focus of this period piece is refreshingly different. It is about the relationship of a man with his family.
Charles Darwin has a crumbling relationship with his wife and even his children. At the beginning we think this has everything to do with Darwin's struggle with his faith. The more he loses faith, the larger the gulf becomes between him and his family.
But we gradually come to realize, that it's not really about his loss of faith. In fact, his failing relationship with his family, his failing health, and even his loss of faith stem from the loss of his eldest daughter, his favorite child. (She appears in flashbacks and hallucinations and is a marvelous character in her own right, especially for a character who is supposed to be dead.)
The aspect of faith and religion were also handled well. There are people who are opposed to Darwin's work because it challenges their world view. There are those who hate religion and can't wait to be rid of it. And there are those who don't wish to upset the balance of the world, who view religion as the foundation of society, but at the same time, they are dedicated to learning the truth.
I absolutely loved this movie. And the cast was fantastic. Lots of familiar faces like Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jim Carter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam. (Just realized that the cast is full of MCU cast members, but of course this was before the MCU really took off.) It's not for everyone. I think this for those who happen to like a combination of period pieces and biographies of scientists.
The Breadwinner (2017)
Loved it, and then didn't know how to feel
This was a unique and very different kind of movie. It's not likely that an animated movie would be set in war-torn Afghanistan. But this one was. And it _felt_ very authentic. I'm no authority on whether it was authentic or not, but it's the attention to detail that lends to the feeling of authenticity. Details about life, the clothing, the accents, the marketplaces, the politics, the culture, etc., add to the richness of the movie.
It's an animated movie. So of course you expect it to all end well at the end. But as you near the ending, you start to wonder how could it possibly end up all well. And then you get to the ending. And then, I don't know. Of course, I won't spoil it. But the ending was not a conventional ending. It wasn't a sad ending; it wasn't a happy ending. I guess it was an ambiguous ending. And even though it leaves me without a fully satisfying ending, the journey it took me on was fantastic!
This was hilarious!
I liked the humor in this a lot. It was ridiculous without going SNL-level over-the-top. All the jokes paid off. The pacing was a tiny bit off, but it's short, so it doesn't make a big difference. The cast was really great. A lot of familiar faces playing familiar characters. Johnny Depp especially was great. You wouldn't even have known it was him if you didn't specifically know it.
Honestly, after what happened in 2016, this is what we needed. I wish I had watched it before, but oh well. You need the distance from the event to be able to see the comedy.
The Tiger Hunter (2016)
Watch with your immigrant parents!
Sorry, I know not everyone here has immigrant parents. I just meant that if you have parents or family members who immigrated in the late 70s/early 80s, or if you yourself immigrated during that time (and especially if you are South Asian), you might find a lot you can relate to.
I don't have immigrant parents either. In fact, I'm the one who immigrated. But things are SO different now compared to 10 years before I was born. I do have family members who immigrated during the time period in which this movie is set, and they are constantly reminding me how much easier I have it compared to them. And they would tell me stories like the ones you see play out on the screen. And watching it all happen, does make me appreciate my life so much. Because I had the support of those who immigrated from my part of the world in the 80s, I have a support system that they never had.
I'm making it sound like the movie is a downer, but it's really not. It's a pretty standard by-the-book comedy. As a comedy, I can't say much for it. But it does offer a perspective that is very rare in Western cinema. The movie follows an Indian guy called Sami Malik as he decides to chase the American Dream. But while Sami is the protagonist, you do get to meet a large cast of secondary and minor characters who are also immigrants from all over South Asia (and even North Africa). And it was nice to see that this movie at least briefly acknowledged the diversity within South Asia.
I will definitely be recommending this to all those immigrant relatives, and I'm sure they will enjoy this, but I also wonder if other immigrant communities might also find a lot here they can relate to. And as for those whose ancestors moved to America many generations ago, I think you can still get a nice sense of how the idea of America appealed so much to people from countries with limited opportunities.
The Prophet (2014)
A strange viewing experience
While this movie follows a main plot, the plot is really a framing device for Kahlil Gibran's work. I recognized some of the poetry from when my father shared them with me. I usually have trouble with poetry, but I like Gibran's poetry. And the poetry in the movie was beautiful to watch with beautiful animation. I imagine the animation that went with the poetry was based on Gibran's work as well, but I am not familiar with his art. There may have been some metaphorical meaning in the animation, but I didn't completely catch it. It would be good to have a director's voice over that can educate me on stuff like that. This movie makes me think I would love to learn more about Gibran's work.
Exceeded my Expectations
I will start by saying the CGI in this was pretty terrible, and this is coming from someone who couldn't really catch Henry Cavill's upper lip in Justice League or the bad CGI in Black Panther. What I'm saying is that the CGI is very noticeably bad, but this is a TV special back in 2011, so...
If that doesn't bother you, then let's talk about the story. It was pretty solid and I enjoyed it. This is certainly not a prequel to Disney's Peter Pan or even the original J. M. Barrie novel. The events of the actual "Peter Pan" story would play out somewhat differently following from the events of this prequel.
But the prequel itself had a solid plot, pretty good pacing, and kept me engaged. However, what surprised me the most were the characters. I really didn't expect that a low budget TV special would put so much care into fully realizing the characters. It seems like the creators put a lot of thought behind every one of the characters, even the minor ones. Even if most of them didn't have arcs, they all had distinct personalities and their motivations were well drawn. And all of their choices made sense and were put together with thought. (Even the reason behind why time stands still in Neverland made sense.)
I also liked the diversity in the cast. It was of course 90% white, but there was diversity with respect to what time the characters came from, and their class differences, all of which were evident in their accents. And in the pirate ship, they had pirates from other nationalities which was also reflected in the accents. And I liked the portrayal of the Natives. (I don't know if they were all played by Native actors (and also, idk what was up with Q'orianka Kilcher's acting; I've seen her do a better job elsewhere)). I liked that they didn't call her Tiger Lily, but rather the Native name (of which "Tiger Lily" is the English translation). I like that all of them couldn't magically speak English, only two of them could and they had to translate for the others.
These seem weird little things to give this TV special credit for - but I've come to expect TV shows of this sort to be very careless about details like this. And attention to detail is always a win in my book.
I would have LOVED this as a kid. I had heard about it in college and wanted to watch it back then, but hadn't got around to it. But even now, I think it was a good use of my time!
Black Panther (2018)
My take on the hype (mild spoilers)
Yes, the hype surrounding Black Panther has everything to do with the all-black cast, black director, black screenwriters, etc. But at the same time, this movie is going to be looked upon as a landmark in African American cinema. (I'm not the best person to explain why, but if you are interested, I recommend the video "Black Panther is blacker than you thought" by Screen Junkies News. I'm not afiliated with them. Just thought it was a good video.)
As a popcorn movie, Black Panther is okay. Thor: Ragnarok serves better as a popcorn movie. But, being familiar with Ryan Coogler's previous work, I wasn't expecting this to be a action-filled blockbuster. I went in expecting him to have some profound things to say. And I thought he did have a lot of interesting things to say.
1. I am very used to watching Euro-centric fantasy. So getting to see an Afro-centric fantasy that was markedly difference was a strange and refreshing experience. Black Panther falls under this niche genre of Afro-futurism, one of the aspects of which is to imagine what Africa could have been without the influence of colonialism. This, I thought, made for a great genre for speculation and world-building. And the world of Wakanda, with its 5 tribes with their distinct cultures and clothes and customs, was a vivid and immersive experience.
2. A lot of the weight of the movie comes from the fact that it is from an African perspective rather than an American one. Imagine what the story might have been like from an American perspective. Say, five years ago, if you heard we were going to get a fantasy story set in Africa told from an American perspective (but let's say it wasn't based on the Black Panther comics), you might expect something like this: An African American kid from the inner city learns that his father was a prince from a technologically advanced African nation that stays hidden from the world. He trains himself to become strong and then travels there. he makes a challenge from the throne. And when he becomes king, he vows to fight against the oppression that black people face all over the world. Sounds like an inspirational fantasy, no? Except that's not what it feels like to all those other countries who are not the USA. At the end of the day, Erik Killmonger is an American go goes into an African nation and overthrows the government. Like America does. Like America has done. America is not viewed as a hero across the globe.
3. After his experiences with Killmonger, King T'Challa is forced to consider his priviledge and he wonders whether he has a responsibility to use his knowledge and wealth to help the poor, the downtrodden, the refugees. What a powerful way for Ryan Coogler to speak directly to the most powerful nations of our world. (There is also a little but of commentary on how present-day Africans, especially the ones who are wealthy and priviledged, often look down upon and do not sympathize at all with the plight of those of African descent in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. It hardly ever gets talked about, but it happens.)
4. Lastly, this movie had the best representation of women I have ever seen in any fantasy. You have 4 prominent female roles and they are each allowed to be different. They each have their own ideas, own views, beliefs, and convictions, and their own sense of purpose. They are similar in some ways and different in others. Some of them represent the traditional side of Wakanda and some of them represent the progressive side and their interactions reflects the struggle Wakanda faces in balancing the two. Each of them - Shuri, Okoye, the queen mother, and Nakia are fully fleshed out characters. And because there are so many of them, the female representation does not come down to only one person who then gets picked apart. Becaue there's four them, they each get to be different and diverse.
I understand that to most audiences, these reasons above aren't why they go to the movies. And so it's completely understable why all of this commentary doesn't factor in to their enjoyment of the film. I happen to be part of that group of audiences who enjoy the heck out of commentary, especially when it is doen masterfully and about a topic that appeals to me. That's why the movie had such a big impact on me.
Probably a Hit or Miss
Given the low ratings, I had expected this movie to be a lot worse than it turned out to be. That's why I think maybe it's a hit or miss? The things is does right - some people will relate to and some people couldn't care less about?
In the list of what it did right, I would say: the portrayal of the relationship between kids and their technology. Their lives revolve around technology. You even see the characters doing their things from the perspective of their screens (laptop screens or tablet screens or phone screens).
The next would be the audience mentality. You have a bunch of "watchers" who send dares to the "players" and send them money when they complete the dares. The dares get more and more ruthless as the movie progresses. (Not unlike the Hunger Games audience, eh?) At points I did question whether people can really be that ruthless, but the movie implies that this audience has lost touch between the line between reality and entertainment. (Again, not unlike the Hunger Games audience.)
Finally there are the characters. Yes, you have a bunch of stereotypical tropey high school characters. But there is a decent amount of effort to subvert some of those tropes.
Ultimately, this is a mindless thriller. (If it tried to do any commentary on audience mentality, it didn't do a good job of it. Any commentary that I gleaned from it was by drawing comparisons to the Hunger Games.) But it's a pretty solid thriller, but probably only if the whole relationship-with-technology aspect connects with you (or if the stereotypical high school setting doesn't take you out of it).
An Obscure but Incredible Story
The story of Noor Inayat Khan is not a famous one. In fact, it is one of many incredible WWII stories of bravery. It wouldn't even be a special story, except for the fact who would have thought there was a real life WWII spy who was an Indian (well half-Indian) Muslim woman? THAT in and of itself is incredible. The documentary aspects were good. The parts that were acted out though (because of course they didn't have any footage) were kind of stiff and wooden. But the actress who played Noor Inayat Khan did a fantastic job.
I actually REALLY liked this
Of course I was aware of the "sexism" narrative built around this movie. And yes, I was motivated to watch it in order to support the movie because it received so much hate. I was aware that it's possible that the sexism narrative was blown out of proportions to hide the fact that perhaps this was a poor movie.
I rented out the original before going to watch the reboot because I wanted to support the original too. And because I didn't really remember it. The original was a lot of fun, but from a 2016 perspective, there was a TON of things that made me cringe. I could elaborate, but I'm not reviewing the original here.
And finally when I went to watch the reboot, well, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the heck out of it. I was completely engaged the entire way through. I loved the characters, I loved their backstories, I loved the interactions between them. I'm not a huge action person, and maybe that's why I liked the action and thought the characters looked really cool.
At first I had been in the camp of why would you need to shove the fact that it's an all female cast in your face all the time. But watching the movie, I realized that it did mean a great deal to me to watch women be so cool, whether in the action scenes or in their knowledge of science, engineering or history.
I get that many people think that this was mediocre, but, honestly, there are a lot of people out there who did really like it, and I suspect these would be women who like action or fantasy or sci-fi or similar genres who would really enjoy the heck out of this movie.
*Diverges* from the flawed source material; does not improve upon it
I have decided that I do not like what the director, Robert Schwentke, has done with the franchise. He directed the second film, Insurgent, and the third, Allegiant.
I can understand why anyone would want to deviate from the source material because there were many problems with Veronica Roth's writing. The books had a flimsy premise but excellent commentary. To reconcile the two, Schwentke got rid of pretty much all the commentary and turned the franchise into a B-grade sci-fi action flick, the kind with over-the-top "futuristic technology" and over- the-top post- apocalyptic landscapes. The major changes in the plot make it very campy, when the books weren't all that campy to begin with. If this franchise was trying to live up to the Hunger Games films, it did not go in the right direction.
There are some positives - the cast did a fantastic job. Shailene Woodley's Tris in this film is a major improvement from Insurgent, in which "she cut her hair and grew an attitude" (as my brother described it). Theo James as Four (and to some extent, Ansel Elgort as Caleb) was given a bugger role and did a pretty good job. Miles Teller had been the best thing in Insurgent and he continued to be hilarious. He's very different than his character in the book, but I'm not complaining, because he is incredibly entertaining. Zoe Kravitz as Christina was okay. I'm glad that she got enough screen time to have a major role in this film. I also think the movie deserves serious props for having a very diverse cast, both in terms of race and gender.
It is interesting that we are going to get a fourth film - Ascendant. The third film, while it didn't follow the book, does very roughly end where the third book ended. Minus the incredibly controversial ending. Which makes me think that Ascendant will likely be an original story and might diverge from that ending, but we shall see. I'm glad that we're getting a different director for the final installment.
Song of the Sea (2014)
A beautiful modern fairytale
It is clearly set in modern day, but the story has strong fairytale vibes, weaving in folklore and legends with the endearing 2D animation, and the folktales seem to have parallels with much of what the adult characters are experiencing.
This is the tale of a little boy who discovers that his sister is a selkie. We don't often get to see touching stories about a brother and a sister, and this was a welcome addition!
It was also refreshing to watch a 2D animated movie; the medium is seriously dwindling. This is a film from the same people who made Secret of Kells, and in my opinion, this was much better.