Jackie

Name: Jackie
Year: 2016
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 100
Description: Jackie is a portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a portrait of the First Lady as she fights to establish her husband’s legacy and the world of “Camelot” that she created and loved so well.
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Genres: Biography, Drama, History

Yeah, so… This weekend, the TV guide only offered stupid films again, so I thought I’d seek refuge in the movies subscription-based channels were offering and ended up choosing Jackie, thinking an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes meant that it would be worth watching, but I was disappointed nevertheless.

Natalie Portman really is a versatile actress and her performance was great. But assuming her portrayal of the First Lady was accurate, I can’t help wondering why people liked such a self-centred and annoying woman who sometimes made a really stupid impression and even though she went to church, she clearly worshipped her husband more than her own God (and if you ask me, she was kind of unhealthily obsessed here). After 50 minutes, I had grown so tired of her that I found myself reading up on conspiracy theories about JFK’s death while impatiently waiting for the film to do something interesting. Then, there was a priest who said some extremely sensible things at the end, except that they don’t make any sense when they come from a priest, in my opinion.

The score is utterly inappropriate too. Given the fact that Jackie wants to honour her husband and seeing as this film is all about her venerating the presidency, you’d think someone would have have remembered to use some stately brass somewhere, but no. The first cue sounded like something that cinemas play after advertisements to test their surround sound systems. The rest was repetitive, emotionally detached and overall just bad.

Finally, I wish American audiodescribers would stop reading everything as if they couldn’t care less. You just can’t describe Jackie breaking down in a voice that clearly suggests you don’t give a shit.

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Batman V Superman, Dawn Of Justice

Name: Batman V Superman, Dawn Of Justice
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 151
Description: The general public is concerned over having Superman on their planet and letting the “Dark Knight” – Batman – pursue the streets of Gotham. While this is happening, a power-phobic Batman tries to attack Superman. Meanwhile Superman tries to settle on a decision, and Lex Luthor, the criminal mastermind and millionaire, tries to use his own advantages to fight the “Man of Steel”.
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Man of Steel… Dawn of Justice… Tired of superhero movies… The titles alone makes me sick.

The whole thing seemed rather disjointed and I quickly lost track of the countless cut-to-blacks. Batman is incredibly stupid in this one and I just find the idea of Superman and him fighting one another ludicrous, especially when the storyline is so absurd that the final battles made me laugh. Oh hang on, now they’re friends, four words by Lois Lane did the trick. The other characters were equally boring, I just didn’t connect with anyone on any level. Even Diane Lane was bleak most of the time. The only interesting character was Amy Adams. Wait, did Superman just fly off again after having been beaten senseless by Batman and did Lois just become unconscious and conscious in, like, three seconds? The ending isn’t bad, it’s just unfortunate that it took two hours, twenty minutes and an idiotic monster before something interesting happened.

Now, the music. It could hardly be worse than Man of Steel. The addition of choir was a nice surprise and I liked some of the other-worldly sound design, a rather playful (but inappropriate) celesta/pizzicato strings piece for Lois and some nice violin solos during one of the bad guy’s monologues. But… Why the hell is it in A minor, again?? Wy is Hans Zimmer still writing (this) music? Granted, his Superman motif was slightly more effective here, but there’s still no room for romance here. Oh, sorry, of course, romance isn’t cool and requires a different key and maybe some woodwinds. Batman’s identity is a bit of a riddle to me as well. At first I wondered why Zimmer’s old material wasn’t used, but then I remembered that Zimmer wanted to give someone else the chance to write his music (enter 2,000 ghostwriters) and of course we can’t have two superheroes have two two-note themes in one film. In other words, Zimmer’s superhero themes got him into trouble because they weren’t well-considered. The new Batman music sounds a bit like Elfman’s version of the theme, which isn’t bad, but here it lacks any kind of heroism, which IS bad. Some Superman theme statements were placed in scenes that didn’t need it and the familiar violin/cello chords were annoying too. And urgh, Wonder Woman’s music is insufferable. Am I supposed to feel awestruck by this woman? This music just makes me hate her, but at least we’re in E minor now. Hello, she lived during World War One, how about some nod to the past, some mysteriousness, some… something else than electric guitars, for crying out loud?

Special kudos to the audio-describer who did his utmost to use many colourful adjectives, which made the ending extremely moving.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Name: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 123
Description: Holding a mysterious leather suitcase in his hand, Newt Scamander, a young activist wizard from England visits New York while he is on his way to Arizona. Inside his expanding suitcase hides a wide array of diverse, magical creatures that exist among us, ranging from tiny, twig-like ones, to majestic and humongous ones. It is the middle of the 20s and times are troubled since the already fragile equilibrium of secrecy between the unseen world of wizards and the ordinary or “No-Maj” people that the MACUSA Congress struggles to maintain is at risk of being unsettled. In the meantime, the voices against wizardry keep growing with daily protests led by Mary Lou Barebone and fuelled by the increasing disasters ascribed to a dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald. At the same time, by a twist of fate, Newt’s precious suitcase will be switched with the identical one of an aspiring No-Maj baker, Jacob Kowalski, while demoted Auror Tina Goldstein arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard.
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

I finally got around to watching this with audio description. When I watched it in the cinema with my family and without AD in November, I liked it. Now I love it. The story is excellent. My only tiny remark would be that I have some questions about the whole Obliviation plot at the end, but I won’t say more, only that this film is so good that I’m almost prepared to forgive David Yates’s less enchanting entries in the Harry Potter series.

James Newton Howard’s music is absolutely brilliant. If you want a fantastic film score and are wondering where to find it, seek no further. What I truly liked about this one is that, for the first time since Goblet of Fire, we’re finally getting some magical music again. The MACUSA theme is glorious, the creatures receive stunning musical identities and then I haven’t even mentioned Newt’s heroic theme. I only don’t understand why Hedwig’s Theme randomly appears when they enter a zoo, or why the magic theme completely disappears after the suitcase scene.

One final note about the audio description: Although it was very nice to finally listen to it, it affected the volume of the music too much. Example: Tina and Newt arrive at the American Ministry for Magic while the enchanting music builds and builds, but the dazzling orchestral spectacle that follows gets completely lost in the mix. Oh well, I’ll just have to watch it without AD one day.

To Walk Invisible

Name: To Walk Invisible
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 120
Description: In 1845 at Haworth on the Yorkshire moors, sisters Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronye and their father, a retired parson with failing eyesight, are continually troubled by their drunken, irresponsible brother Branwell, who wastes every opportunity given him to become an artist. Charlotte fears for her own sight whilst Emily seeks refuge in writing about the imaginary land of Gondor, but all three are fearful for their future should their menfolk die. Charlotte is impressed by Emily’s work and encourages her to write a novel, inspired by a story told her by a former employer, which will become “Wuthering Heights”. All three sisters write novels, loosely based on their own experiences using androgynous masculine pen-names, which are ultimately accepted for publication. Their success allows them to identify their true gender and to save the roof over their heads, but Branwell’s self-indulgence leads to his early death and both Emily and Anne succumb to sickness, dying young.
Stars: James Norton, Charlie Murphy, Jonathan Pryce
Genres: Drama

Not bad. It was nice to watch this after just having started reading Wuthering Heights. I liked the Northern accents of the three sisters too.

The score is functional, but nothing more. It was clearly written aimlessly and it’s utterly unmemorable, but it works.

Inferno

Name: Inferno
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 121
Description: Academy Award winner Ron Howard returns to direct the latest bestseller in Dan Brown’s billion-dollar Robert Langdon series, Inferno, which finds the famous symbologist on a trail of clues tied to the great Dante himself. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks, a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world’s population.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan
Genres: Action, Adventure, Crime

Pfffffffff… I feel out of breath and exhausted. What an insanely fast-paced film. The first half wasn’t bad, especially the first half hour, though I quickly became tired of the fact that the whole thing is basically a nightmare from which we don’t seem to wake up. Felicity Jones and Tom Hanks are good, but they don’t seem to get a chance to think for, like, two seconds. As the story unfolded, I slowly lost interest. How did Sienna die, or did she die at all? Who is Buchard and who does he work for? I have no idea anymore because I didn’t get ten seconds to just relax and understand anything. Flashback, cut to another scene, flashback, chase, vision, flashback, action… Everything was a blur. The provoste is good, but the love story between Langdon and Zimsky feels unnecessary. If they had cut that out and allowed the remainder of the plot ten minutes more airtime, or twenty, things would have been so much better. As a movie, it’s tolerable at best, as a book adaptation, the ending sucks.

And the score… I had already heard bad things about its over-reliance on electronics. I was surprised to find I actually liked some of them, though the low frequencies are way too over-emphasised, as always. Zimmer apparently also doesn’t realise that you could score a religious sub plot using choir and orchestra: not everything needs to be synthesized.

Also, it’s ridiculous how every single action receives huge sound effects. Opening a canister does not sound like a canon, putting down a cup of coffee does not make you jump.

Christ, I’m still feeling hyperactive.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Name: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 123
Description: All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

I really enjoyed it. I only think that too many good people died rather quickly and really didn’t like K2: the voice was just… off. Use C3-PO, but don’t try to replace him, it doesn’t work. Felecity Jones’s character and performance was terrific, I really need to watch her in Inferno as soon as I can. And even though I’m not a fan of the current political correctness obsession that requires everyone to force minorities into every single film, I liked Chirrut and demand to know where I can sign up for Jedi training… and why J.K. Rowling hasn’t provided an answer to the question: (How) can blind people use a wand?

And now a word about the score. I haven’t been following the debate at all on this one, but my answer to ‘is Giacchino the next John Williams’ is definitely YES. While I found that the thematic references to JW’s scores didn’t suffice (why use only the first half of the Force – AND WHERE IS THE MAIN TITLE FANFARE?!?), most of the score sounded like something JW could have written. Jin’s theme is great. To write such music in such a short amount of time is impressive and even though I generally don’t like frantic JW action music, I’m embracing it these days just because I’ve totally had it with Hans Zimmer’s style popping up literally everywhere (including in a Belgian travel documentary). But someone needs to tell Giacchino about reverb.