Everything, Everything

Book adaptations can be a hit or miss in film, especially for young adult novels. Often times it is difficult to do a story justice when adapting it for the big screen, a transition that tends to lose the essence of a novel. Some young adult adaptations have been successful, few that come to mind include The Fault in Our Stars, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Others not so much. I read Nicola Yoon’s novel Everything, Everything recently in anticipation of the film. While not particularly groundbreaking, the book itself was pretty enjoyable. I am afraid I cannot say the same for the film.

Based on Nicola Yoon’s 2016 novel of the same name, Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeleine Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), an 18-year-old girl who has spent her whole life confined to her home as a result of her severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). When the effervercent Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door, Madeleine’s life changes as she discovers the life outside that is calling to her to live it.

This adaptation could have been better. Much, much better. I was extremely disappointed with the screenplay, which gave a talented cast very little to work with. Amandla Stenberg is perfectly cast as Madeleine, but any pauses she gives or perceived lack of chemistry between her and Nick Robinson can be attributed to a poor script. It felt like bits and pieces of the novel were patched together quickly to make a rough outline of a story slightly resembling Nicola Yoon’s. Thus, large gaps were left that easily could have been filled. The film only runs at an hour and 36 minutes, and while I’m not saying it needs to go overboard, time should not have been an issue when crafting the story and dialogue.

The lack of development between the characters was disappointing. The relationships between Madeleine and her mother as well as Olly and his father were not built up enough. Olly’s introduction and interactions with Madeleine felt extremely rushed, along with most of the film. Characters scarcely mentioned in the novel were given unnecessary screen time, while others barely anything. Small details that should have been easy to include were left out for no apparent reason. The pacing of the film was so quick that I failed to become invested in what was going on.

While I do appreciate some additions to the structure, such as Madeleine and Olly acting out their phone conversations in the architecture models, the majority of the film simply felt weak. Again the cast was talented and Stenberg held up her scenes well, but the script could have provided some much more developed and touching interactions between the characters. Filling up the gaps with missing dialogue and scenes could have better rounded out the film. While its target teenage girl audience will most likely fall for the film and it’s attempted charm, others not so into young melodramatics might not be as pleased.

ALL IN ALL: Everything, Everything fails to offer anything new to the genre, with a rushed and patchy screenplay that provides little development for well cast characters.

Everything, Everything 2 out of 5 ticket stubs 

Director: Stella Meghie

Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera

Run time: 1 hr 36 min, PG-13

Year: 2017

 

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Sing Street

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This Ticket Stub Love review was originally posted on the site Chasing Dreams as part of their Film Friday segment.

The Oscar nominations came out a few weeks ago and as always, there were snubs and surprises. The big news is about the hugely popular musical La La Land which was nominated for 14 Oscars (tied for the most nominations since All About Eve and Titanic). However, there is another musical this past year that did not receive the attention it so badly deserved. That film is Sing Street!

Sing Street is a fictional film revolving around a young boy in 1980s Dublin who starts a band to impress a girl.

The premise seems pretty basic but this film is so much more. Its main protagonist Conor (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is also escaping a troubled home life along with the harassment that comes along with starting a new school run by a strict principal. Music helps distract Conor away from his problems and focus on what’s important to him: winning the heart of aspiring model Raphina (played by Lucy Boynton) and eventually becoming successful with the band.

One of my favorite characters was Conor’s older brother Brendan (played by Jack Reynor) who helps foster Conor’s interest in music and gives him band advice. Although Brendan was unable to achieve what he originally planned for himself, he still encourages his younger brother to escape their small town and pave a better future for himself. Here is the takeaway that I got from the film, the notion that anything is possible. If desired, you can break free from the doldrums, from the people and places holding you back. Do what you love and go after it. Why not win the girl and start a band?

The film is directed by John Carney who is known for his other musical films Once and Begin Again. I am a personal fan of Carney’s work because I admire his use of music with character development. The soundtrack for this film is fantastic! There is the classic 80’s sound that takes inspiration from the popular bands and music of the era. The music and looks that Conor and the band all take on parallel their journey as a band and with themselves. It is obvious,that as young kids, they are really just trying to find themselves and their sound. Some of my personal songs off the soundtrack are “Drive It Like You Stole It” (which to be honest should have been nominated for Best Song) and “The Riddle of the Model”.

I enjoyed the camera work in the film as well, especially in the scenes where the viewer gets to watch the music videos the band makes themselves. The songs and videos they create were actually pretty impressive to me. Even more than the romance, I appreciated the friendship between the band members such as Conor and Eamon. The only complaint I have for the film is that I wish they gave more time to some of the other band members and developed their characters more.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sing Street and I feel that it is severely underrated. The soundtrack is only one of the great aspects of the film that should be more lauded. The message of following your dreams is prominent and infused into the film with signature humor and drama. If you’re interested in a musical with a vintage feel that is not La La Land, I highly suggest Sing Street.

ALL IN ALL: Sing Street comes out on top as one of the best musicals of the year, with an excellent soundtrack and an even better story of following your dreams.

Sing Street 4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Director: John Carney

Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Run time: 1 hr 46 min, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://singstreetmovie.com/

Hidden Figures

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This Ticket Stub Love review was originally posted on the site Chasing Dreams as part of their Film Friday segment.

I feel that the tagline for Hidden Figures perfectly encapsulates the film. “Meet the women you don’t know, behind the mission you do.” Many of us know or are somewhat aware of the events surrounding Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the United States. What many people don’t realize is that the project would not have been successful without the help of countless engineers and mathematicians, in particular Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures centers on a team of African-American women, including Johnson (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson), Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who aided NASA by calculating the flight trajectories and mathematical data needed to launch the nation’s first successful space missions.

Hidden Figures is an excellent movie. Truly awe-inspiring, its story of these three powerful and intelligent women who overcame so much racism, sexism, and prejudice in the much divided 1960’s will strike a chord with audience members. Personally, and I know I am not alone in this, I was not aware of the tremendous strides and work these women did for NASA and for our nation. It was not only eye-opening but also inspirational to learn about this true story.

The cast performances were excellent. Taraji P. Henson blew me away as Katherine G. Johnson, her performance possessing such emotion and depth that needs to be more recognized and lauded. Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe were excellent as well. Both women brought a palpable strength and a firm grasp on the roles they respectively played.

Pharell Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Benjamin Wallfisch co-composed a great score for the film. The music added a needed boost at times that co-aligned well with the action on screen. In addition, Hidden Figures‘ story is well written and effectively immerses the viewer.

Hidden Figures has a lot of heart. I would fully recommend watching Hidden Figures, though it is not a film that requires a theater experience. People of any age will benefit from watching Hidden Figures and learning about an often overlooked but vital piece of our nation’s history. Even young children, especially girls, can most definitely look to Hidden Figures for a source of new role models as well. Hidden Figures has the heart and will touch yours.

ALL IN ALL: With its inspiring story and talented cast performances, Hidden Figures is sure to stay in the hearts of movie-goers alike for generations to come.

Hidden Figures 4.5 out of 5 ticket stubs.

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Director: Theodore Melfi

Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parson, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali

Run Time: 2 hrs 7 min, PG

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures

 

 

La La Land

Every year, there’s a select number of films that are predicted to sweep the awards and earn critical acclaim. One of those predicted very early on was La La Land. This film has been at the top of my watch list for a while so I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to finally view the 7 Golden Globe winning (record-breaking) musical La La Land for myself.  I went in with pretty high expectations and I am so pleased to report that they were fully met!

La La Land tells the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles.

I loved La La Land, I really did. It is a truly magical experience and a wonderful film to see. Everything about it was perfect; from the cinematography, to the production design, costumes, choreography, performances, music, La La Land scored high. The music is great and will make you walk out of the theater humming and playing the soundtrack on repeat all the way home. The film really does make you wish your life is a musical!

The performances in particular were strong. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone brought depth to their multi-faceted characters, infusing both drama and comedy into their performances. Needless to say, their chemistry was great. Gosling’s performance in particular stood out as he easily delivered some of the best lines in the film, providing a surprising number of laughs and proving again his versatility as an actor. He also learned how to play many of his piano pieces which is impressive enough. The film really showcases some of the surprising musical talents of both actors. Though the character development for Mia and Sebastian could have been stronger, in particular with Mia, the two characters still manage to effectively captivate the audience with their love and personal story.

Visually La La Land is simply gorgeous. A classic musical, there were many homages to the old Hollywood style musicals mixed in with the contemporary LA setting. From the dance numbers (Who can forget that beginning freeway scene?) to the elaborate stage sets, the film was able to achieve an impressive mixture of classical and modern film elements. While I am not aiming to name La La Land as the first ever modern musical of its time, I do think the film is worthy of praise for rejuvenating a genre that has become somewhat rare nowadays.

I cannot praise La La Land enough. While its aspirations may seem lofty at times despite some flaws, the film still has so much emotion and heart that cannot be overlooked. After every musical number, I simply wanted to re-watch the whole scene again. The film is deeply satisfying and the love story,while sweet, is more focused on the journey of two people trying to achieve their dreams in the romantically painted town of Los Angeles, which I really found beautiful. I wholly recommend La La Land, and even try to see it in theaters if you can. La La Land provides a magical movie-going experience.

ALL IN ALL: La La Land is a beautifully done and visually gorgeous film, with excellent performances and music that captivates and warms the heart of audiences alike.

LA LA LAND 4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Run time: 128 minutes, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.lalaland.movie/gallery/12

Passengers

Two strangers alone on a spaceship. Make that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence alone on a space ship. Sounds intriguing right? I mean I would want to see that movie. Passengers has all the ingredients for a solid movie. An interesting premise, cool sets and effects, two of the hottest actors in Hollywood. All it really needed was a well crafted story. What a story it lacks though.

On a spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant colony planet, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from induced hibernation 90 years too early.

Okay just read that premise. Again does it not sound interesting? That is the movie the trailers were advertising. That is the movie that I went in thinking I would see. Sadly it is not. Here is my main issue with Passengers and what I gather has been many people’s: Passengers is misleading. It really is. However I am going to refrain from giving anything away. The film was marketed in a way that was not fair to its actual material and to the people paying money to see it, and I personally found that frustrating. It also makes it very hard to overlook the true premise, which is a little more difficult to accept.

Not only was the film misleading, but the story itself was pretty lackluster once you get past the revelations not given away in the promos. The film felt sort of like Titanic, Gravity, and a bit of The Martian all rolled up into one. The action was severely anticlimactic and the character development poor. Good chunks of the movie were solely devoted to showing off how hot the main actors are. It only goes to show my theory that if one of the two characters was not as attractive, then none of the events in the film would have happened. It all felt vain at times and I found myself with many questions at the end.

All this is not to say there are no positive aspects of Passengers because there are! Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s performances were great, as was their chemistry. They were not given the best material to work with though. Michael Sheen was actually a bright standout in the film as the robot bartender Arthur. His character was charming and his performance was simply refreshing. The costumes and sets had a nice aesthetic to them and while more could have been done with the visual effects, I found them overall satisfying.

To put it simply, Passengers made me frustrated. Not only was I upset with how the story developed but I also felt that there was so much missed opportunity with the film. Again all the key ingredients were there. It just needed a better story. That being said, I enjoyed Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in the film. While I might not recommend seeing Passengers in theaters, I feel like some may still enjoy watching the film.

ALL IN ALL: Even with great chemistry from its two leads, Passengers still comes up short with a misleading and lackluster story.

Also, introducing our new ticket stub rating system (thanks Aimee J)!

PASSENGERS 2.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Arrival

After a long slump (truly sorry my last review was in June), I have finally seen a film that has motivated me to write again: Arrival. I really enjoyed this film. In fact, I loved it. It exceeded my expectations and left me speechless. I can easily name it as my favorite movie this year (so far). However it may not be for everyone.

After 12 mysterious spacecrafts touch down in different locations across the globe, the military enlists the aid of linguist professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to translate the alien communications before a global war breaks out.

Arrival was not the movie I expected. From first glance it may seem like a typical alien invasion type film but do not be fooled. I prefer to describe Arrival as a film that simply has aliens in it. Truth be told, while the alien aspect of the film does play a very large and central role to the plot, the film is revealed to be much larger and introspective. This reason alone is why I do not feel the movie may meet everyone’s expectations. Certainly some sci-fi fans who go in solely expecting an alien invasion movie will be somewhat disappointed. Arrival is not a simple popcorn flick. It is an intelligent film that makes one think, so much that even I cannot stop going over the film in my head.

Arrival is full of emotion. Right from the beginning, it grabs your heart and your mind and does not let go until the very end, where truth be told I found myself in tears. It is simply a beautiful film. With strong performances from Amy Adams and a gorgeous score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (whose previous work includes films such as The Theory of Everything), the film takes the viewer away into a parallel world. The story line of the film is also so smart and intricately constructed. Both beautiful and heartbreaking, the plot of Arrival forgoes conventional storytelling and constantly reels in one’s concentration. Seriously the film made me gasp.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film and I also suggest going in as blind as possible. Arrival may not be what it is pictured as, but nevertheless, it is a powerful and moving film that grows into so much more. The overarching themes and decisions the plot presents resonate with the viewer even after the credits roll. Arrival definitely is a sci-fi film, but it is more so a film about life-about endings and beginnings. Arrival is a well done film and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ALL IN ALL: While not the typical alien movie, Arrival unveils itself as a beautiful and poignant film with themes of life that resonate deep.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Year: 2016

 

 

Room

Probably one of the films of 2015 I was most curious about was Room. Based on a novel of the same name by Emma Donaghue (who also wrote the screenplay for the movie), Room has a unique concept that is difficult to imagine on screen. The result though is triumphant, a haunting but surprisingly beautiful portrait of survival, adjustment, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and son.

Room tells the story of Joy “Ma” (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who after being held captive for seven years in an enclosed space, finally escape and are forced to experience and adjust to the real world they have been hidden from.

The performances in Room are really what kept the film up. Brie Larson was fantastic as she navigated such a fragile yet strong character with great ability. Her acting prowess is powerful in the film and I do believe she deserves the Oscar. What I liked about her character in particular is that while Joy is resilient, she is also not perfect. She has her bad days, deservedly so with the horrid situation she is in, but she also tries to be optimistic for her son. Joy strives to be a good mother and provide Jack with a complete childhood, but one must still remember her young age. Larson is able to personify all of these elements into her performance.

Now let’s talk about Jacob Tremblay though. Why was he not nominated for an Oscar? His performance was so amazing in this film that it easily rivals any of those from the other nominated actors. His is young but in many ways he even outshines Brie Larson due to his incredibly natural and heart-tugging actions. Pretty much all of my favorite scenes simply had Jack being the wonderfully adorable and curious little boy he is. The chemistry between Larson and Tremblay is undeniable and their strong bond as mother and son in the film is ever present.

Probably what I liked about Room the most was not its tale of perseverance and survival, but rather the struggles to adjust to a normal life shown. The pair’s escape does not lead right away to a happy ending. In fact what they must face next, the real world, is what might be the most daunting of all. The screenplay of the film was strong overall, though I feel like the relationship between Joy and her father could have been developed more. Nevertheless, I thought the movie flowed nicely. Led by such strong performances, Room is the kind of film that you can not stop thinking about afterwards, at least it was for me. Room is simply beautiful.

ALL IN ALL: With unforgettable performances from its two leads, Room tells a harrowing but radiant tale of survival and love.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridges, William H. Macy

Year: 2015

poster from: http://cdn.traileraddict.com/content/a24/room-2015.jpg

 

 

The Martian

I recently got the opportunity to watch The Martian for free so of course I jumped on that chance not only because it was free (holla!) but also because it is an acclaimed movie up for many awards (7 Oscar noms!). I am happy to report that I ended up really enjoying The Martian! It is an all around fun movie to watch!

In the year 2035, astronaut Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) is presumed to be dead and left behind on Mars after an extreme dust storm forces his crew to leave him behind. Alone on a hostile planet with little supplies, Whatney must use his ingenuity and wit to survive and signal to those on Earth that he is still alive.

Like I said before, I believe The Martian to be a very enjoyable movie to watch. There’s action, adventure, drama, comedy, and space! What’s not to love? Going back to the comedy part, The Martian was actually a really funny movie, in huge part to Matt Damon. He did a great job in the film and his character was so likable and hilarious. The comedic moments helped lighten the film at times and added to the entertainment. However while the film can be funny at times, I would not categorize it as a comedy (*cough cough* Golden Globes *cough cough*).

The ensemble cast was awesome too with stars like Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor; I mean the list goes on! The film really has you thinking about space and if a lot of the elements in the movie would really be possible (anyone know?). There were parts in The Martian that had me laughing out loud and others that had me gripping the edge of my seat. It is a great film for fans of many different genres and I am certain people will have as fun a time watching it as I did!

ALL IN ALL: The Martian boats an ensemble cast lead by an excellent performance by Matt Damon and is an all around enjoyable film to watch.

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña,Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Year: 2015

poster from: http://cdn.traileraddict.com/content/20th-century-fox/martian2015.jpg

 

The Revenant

Oh man, how I have been looking forward to this film or what! So glad I finally got to see The Revenant recently because right now it is my top awards season contender. It was fantastic and deserves every single Oscar nomination it received (12 by the way!).

After being mauled by a bear and left for dead by his own hunting team, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s, is forced to fight for survival and find redemption.

A few words to describe The Revenant: raw, intense, amazing, epic, beautiful…the list goes on! Coming off his work on the Oscar winner Birdman, director Alejandro González Iñárritu deserves praise for his excellent direction in the film. The grueling shoot and the work put into this film shows in every single scene. Probably my favorite aspect of the film was the gorgeous cinematography by the ingenious Emmanuel Lubezki (who also won awards for his work on films such as Gravity and Birdman). Chivo outdoes himself in The Revenant, with stunning camera work and the use of only natural lighting throughout the whole film. The result is breathtaking with shots that are as raw as they are delicate.

Let’s be real though. The Revenant is Leonardo DiCaprio. Leonardo DiCaprio is The Revenant. Never before have I seen a performance like that, one that just requires so much commitment from the actor. Needless to say he was absolutely incredible and deserves every single accolade out there. The things he had to do in this movie! It is insane! His character is mostly silent throughout but the power of his performance is loud. Tom Hardy also did a great job in the film so I am glad he finally got the recognition he deserved through his nomination.

A revenant is defined as one who has returned, as if from the dead. Glass’s return is one that truly expresses the power of the human spirit. The backbone of the film is a gripping fight for survival and revenge with the only guidance of sheer will and a love for family. The Revenant is bleak but it is beautiful. The amazing feats of cinema and acting achieved in the film should be appreciated along with the epic true tale of Hugh Glass.

Crimson Peak

It’s October, which means Halloween is coming around the corner, which also means that it is the time for scary movies! Now I like scary movies. I do not watch them all the time, but I do love a good horror film once in a while. Since it is currently the season of screams, I wanted to see a film with my friend, who also appreciates scary movies, that would give us some thrills. Crimson Peak caught our eye right when the trailer was released, so naturally we went in to see it. We came out with some surprised and mixed reactions.

Directed by master of horror and fantasy Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who after a family tragedy, marries the mysterious but charming Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Swept away to live with him and his sister (Jessica Chastain) in their remote and dilapidated mansion in England, Edith soon encounters ghosts haunting her new home. Her search for the truth leads her to the real monsters of the house.

I think it is important to point out that Crimson Peak is not a horror movie. Though there were thrills and some gore, the actual scary parts were minimal. In the film, aspiring writer Edith describes her newest manuscript not as a “ghost story” but rather a “story with ghosts in it”. This description can actually serve for the film itself as well. The role of the ghosts in the film was actually not as large as I initially thought it would be. I was not expecting the big reveal of the film to be what it was either, though I had hunch in the beginning, because the whole time I was assuming a more supernatural aspect to take part.

Besides this initial confusion, I feel like as a whole I did enjoy Crimson Peak. It was not a typical scary movie, but it contained some really gorgeous visuals. The Gothic costumes and set designs were fantastic! Seriously, some of the shots that del Toro creates are truly beautiful. All of these elements combined along with the strong use of color imagery created the signature creepy atmosphere of the film.

So Crimson Peak is definitely not for everyone. Those who do not like horror movies should stay away because though that aspect of the film is toned down, it is still present. Other than that, it really is just stunning visually. Sure, the plot got a bit messy and outlandish with more than few loose strings left in the end but I would suggest ignoring all that. Let Guillermo del Toro take you on a journey to Crimson Peak.

ALL IN ALL: Do not be fooled by the horror label on Crimson Peak, and while the plot turns a bit to the extreme, the visuals in the film are gorgeous and not to be overlooked.

image from: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BNTY2OTI5MjAyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkzMjQ0NDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg