Movie Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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Summary: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Pros:
Cast and Characters.
  • Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash. He lives with his wife and children in the Washington wilderness. He is not into the whole “American lifestyle” and teaches their children survival skills, left wing politics among other things. He home schools them, he encourages them to read books and to talk about it, he allows his children to freely express themselves, even if that includes cursing. He tells them the truth, he doesn’t sugar coat anything and I actually liked that about him. I think if parents trusted their children a bit more, they might be surprised how their children (especially their older ones) react. This is a perfect role for Viggo Mortensen. His laid back persona makes this character work and to keep him likable. It would be really easy to make Ben an unlikable rude dude due to him not conforming to social norms, like not letting his children drink wine (great scene in the film), or explaining sex etc. But I think Mortensen manages to do so.
  • George McKay as Bo Cash. I thought he was a standout. I really like George McKay. Bo is the oldest of the kids, he is about 18 and he is crossing over into manhood (which the film starts out with him doing a “ritual” of sorts). He is obviously very intelligent but he is socially awkward as he has spent most of his life away from other people. There is a point in the beginning of the film where he runs into some girls at a store he and his father go to and he has no idea what to say to them. There is another scene later with another girl. He knows that he’s weird and it doesn’t seem to bother him much but as he is becoming his own man, he begins to want things outside of where they live and his family. I think McKay was fantastic here. He was very quiet, always in the background, prepared to do what he needs too. His American accent was also very good.
  • The other kids. So there are five other children: Keilyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai. They all do very well too. Rellian has a lot of anger and it’s easy to see in the beginning, it comes to everyone’s notice later on in the film. Keilyr and Vespyr are the teenage girls, not sure who was oldest (I think Vespyr) but they had a great relationship with each other. Zaja and Nai were the youngest girl and boy. Zaja was very smart compared to other kids her age and Nai being the youngest, a lot of stuff he says is hilarious.
The Cinematography. As soon as the film starts, we are greeted with shots of the forest and I immediately said “wow, this looks beautiful”. The look of this film, it’s so warm and crisp. As the characters live in the wilderness and pretty much wear whatever the want, the colors are so vibrant and bright, not to mention, Vespyr and Keilyr have red hair (like their mother) and their hair is definitely captured very beautifully on screen. There is a scene at the end, where they’re dancing around a bonfire, that’s probably my favorite scene and the look has a lot to do with it.
The Music. With a film like this, I can imagine the music being very important and Alex Somers manages to create a score that is not only whimsical, but sad and in a way uplifting. I really liked it. Coupled with the beautiful cinematography, the ambiance and feel of the film was elevated for me. The song chosen at the end, was chosen well. It fit.
The Dinner Scene. I don’t want to spoil anything in particular, but there are two scenes involving the family that were the most memorable to me. The Cash family has connected with Leslie’s (the mom) sister and this is the first time we really see just how different they are. Zaja asks for some wine and Ben is willing to give her some but Harper and her husband “children don’t drink wine” and he of course brings up other countries but “it’s not right”. One of Harper’s sons is playing a video game at the table, she tells him to put it away and he responds with an attitude and doesn’t do it right away, whereas Ben’s children actually does what he says and he doesn’t raise his voice to them. Harper also gets emotional when one of her sons asks what happened to a family member and Ben tells him exactly what happened instead of sugar coating it like their dad did. It was a great scene.
Bill of Rights Scene. This is after the dinner scene the next day. Harper brings up about Ben’s kids not being in a public school and he tells them they are smarter without it and to prove his point, he has one of his children explain something that Harper’s kids don’t know but should know.
The Store Scene. It’s cute and funny. That’s all I will say.
The Bonfire Scene. Again, without spoiling, there is a scene at the end, where the family pretty much as a bonfire, it’s during the day, so the look is beautiful, the way the sun and sky is captured. Just wow. Plus, with the song that Kielyr sings… it was beautiful. If you watched the Oscars, the scene they chose to show for Viggo Mortensen’s clip was from this scene.
Cons:
The Grandfather. Now, I totally understand where he was coming from but oh my goodness…  he was so annoying and disrespectful. Yes, Ben’s ways of raising his kids was extreme but to do what he did, I thought that was rude and it really didn’t let me like the character.
Weird/Not For Everyone. This is one of those films that isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s weird, the characters are strange, the ways of the main family is weird… it’s weird. That might turn a lot of people off.
The Ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it seems like the ending was a let down. The entire time the family has this way of doing things, then stuff starts to happen, the father fights against this, most of the kids fight against this but then the end happens and while it’s sweet, I thought it was a cop out.
Overall, I really liked Captain Fantastic, I thought it was a beautifully shot movie. The music added a lot to the film, the main family was kooky but I quite enjoyed spending the time with them we did, the oldest son especially being a standout. This is a character study like film that focuses heavily on the family, especially the dad and I think the questions this movie puts out there are important ones. However, I do think the movie is strange and tries maybe a bit too hard to be strange and weird, which may turn a lot of people off. I also think the ending was a bit of a let down.
Rating: 3.85 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Captain Fantastic, if so what did you think about it? Is it a film you’d think you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments below!
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Manchester by the Sea (2017) Review

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Summary: An uncle is obliged to return home to care for his nephew after his brother dies. Unknowing he is to be the guardian and struggles with the decision. Throughout the movie he recounts past memories that caused him to leave Manchester and distance himself from his past. -IMDb
Pros:
Cast and Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this film, I’m going to try to only talk about the main two, with a mention of some of the supporting characters.
  • Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler. He is a quiet and reserved man. He is the janitor of his apartment building and almost seems to be the kind of guy, who works silently in the background to the point where you don’t notice him… but don’t think he won’t respond callously just because he doesn’t talk much. When he finds out his older brother dies, the emotion takes a moment to hit him, he’s very emotionally distant about the whole thing. I think Casey Affleck is a good actor, he’s a bit weird to be honest and just like his brother he talks through his teeth (It’s kind of annoying sometimes) and it works for this character in how silent and withdrawn he is. He goes to Manchester to tell his nephew and is thrust into becoming his guardian due to his brother’s will. The way he handles that news, it’s quite amusing to see the disbelief and frustration on his face. Not to mention, the way he interacts with other people, especially Patrick. I think Affleck is able to maintain a likability about Lee because he can be very unlikable. Not to mention, he handles devastation pretty well… there is a great scene that I won’t spoil, but it almost made me cry.
  • Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler. I liked this kid, I wanted to throttle him a few times due to the way he talked to Lee, but I guess they had that sort of relationship from the beginning. He’s on the hockey team, in a band, has two girlfriends, seems like a smart kid and he learns that his father died from a heart attack. He almost seems to react in the same way Lee does, but I suppose he was prepared for it, as his father had been sick for a while. He deals with it on the night of, by sleeping with one of his girlfriends. Throughout the film, he butts heads with Lee on what to do thanks to the will and he firmly does not want to leave Manchester whereas Lee knows he just cannot come back. Patrick has a bit of a potty mouth on him (which adds to his humor). He has a great scene, where he freaks out in the kitchen. You’ll have to see why for yourself. I think Lucas Hedges did very well here, his accent didn’t seem to falter to me, I think he has a great future ahead of him. He held his own well with Casey Affleck and seemed very natural in his role, he wasn’t forcing anything.
    • I also just have to say, I liked his blonde girlfriend more than the brunette girl. I wanted to punch her in the face lol.
Supporting Characters. 
  • Michelle Williams as Randi. She is Lee’s ex-wife, she is really only shown in flashbacks in which it looked like she and Lee were in a marriage in which they very much loved each other. A few more flashbacks show her irritation at few things he does, but I didn’t think that was a bad thing, as that’s just marriage lol. Later on, she shows her support as she was close with Joe and continued to be even after their divorce. I think her most pivotal scene is when she actually has a moment to speak with Lee and it’s a great scene. It’s sad and desperate and I kind of pitied her. I think Michelle Williams is a great actress, another role in which she is just a natural in it, but I don’t think it’s a memorable performance or anything (especially not to be nominated).
The Story. The death of a family member bringing people together isn’t anything new, nor is the idea of a sibling having to take on responsibility of the child new… but what this movie does that’s a bit different, is make it a character study of both the child and adult. Usually, it’s all about the adult and how they handle their new role, how the children fit into their world and how the adult changes to fit into the children’s world and this movie doesn’t do that. Without spoiling it, it was refreshing. Plus, while it has humor, the tone remains the same, sad. I wouldn’t even say it has a happy ending.
The humor. This movie doesn’t look like it’s going to be funny but it has it’s moments. Patrick brings most of the humor because the stuff he says and does is just plain ridiculous. Lee has his funny moments too in how he doesn’t react to things, or how awkward things happen to him (like at the beginning, he’s working on a tenants toilet after it clogged, and he hears her talking on the phone about how she’s attracted to him… then they have an awkward moment before he leaves her apartment lol). But Patrick being 16 and being sexually active, or trying to be sexually active with one of his girlfriends, or how he tries to get Lee to help him score… it’s weird but funny.
The Relationships. I loved to see the relationships of the characters in the film, especially what we got to see through flashbacks.
  • Lee and Joe Chandler. They are brothers and they have a great relationship. It’s easy to see that Lee looks up to Joe and that he is really affected by his death, due to how big a role he played in his life even when things went horribly wrong for Lee. We also see how Lee feels about the responsibilities Joe puts on him, with what he trusts him with. There was great love there.
  • Lee and Patrick. We mostly see them together in present time, though we do get moments of them in the past. The very first scene is a flashback with them on Joe’s boat. In present time, Lee is tasked with being Patrick’s guardian until he’s 18, and to continue being a trustee until he’s 21 and Lee just balks at that idea, especially since he wants to stay in Boston but Patrick does not want to leave his current life (his two girlfriends lol). Their conversations can turn antagonistic really quickly, but it’s easy to tell that Lee cares for Patrick even if he’s unsure how to handle him now. It’s also easy to tell that Patrick loves Lee and wants to be with him even through his weird teenage ways.
  • Lee and Randi. She’s his ex-wife and outside of the flashbacks, we really only see her three times. One time (current time) is a really pivotal scene for them, her in particular, it was really sad and almost desperate in a way. Something terrible happens to them and it tore them apart. It wasn’t hard to see that she blamed him for it and they went their separate ways. Now that Joe’s death has brought them back together, she confesses a few things to him and it’s painful. Lee is in pain just listening to it. It was done really well.
The Flashbacks. While the transitions could have been better, I think their importance was great in this film. We get to see Lee interact with his older brother, see how much they cared and loved each other, see how great Joe was. We also get to see Lee interact with his family before the current time and leaves us wondering… just what happened to this man that made him into who we see him as today. There is one particular flashback that is devastating.
Cons:
The Flashbacks. I think there could have been better ways to incorporate them into the film. There are times where it just happens and it’s like ‘whoa wait… is this a flashback?’, it just happens so quickly that it’s jarring and takes a moment to realize what’s happening. It gets a little better as the movie continues, but after the first few ones, it got a little harder to realize it was a flashback.
Boring/Too Slow. This is one of those movies, that while I liked, it can easily be boring and the viewer can check out. Approach this movie with caution, know that it’s long and that there isn’t a lot going on, it’s really a character study more than anything. But it definitely lags in some areas, that make it feel longer than what it is.
Feels stilted. What I mean by this is that moments that should be emotional, or even devastating don’t really feel that way. It almost feels manipulative in a way. Because Lee doesn’t react to things in particular way, it almost comes off fake sometimes.
Abrupt Ending. It just ended, that when the screen faded to black and credits popped up, I was like ‘oh… seemed like there should be more’. I wonder if this was one of those things where the writers were unsure how the end it… because it felt like there was about 10 minutes missing or something.
Overall, I liked Manchester by the Sea. I see why it’s nominated along with Casey Affleck being nominated and I think it’s one of those movies that you’d probably watch once and not really revisit. It’s an experience and once the experience is had, it’s enough. It’s sad, and quiet which works in it’s favor. I think the tone remains the same, even through the flashbacks. Both Lee and Patrick are likable people, as well as being easily disliked, but I think both actors maintain a balance. Due to them being near water, the cinematography has this tint to it, where it just looks gloomy which I don’t think is a bad thing. During winter seasons near water, it looks like that. I thought that was a nice touch. I do think the ending is very abrupt, I also think it will be very boring to some people and that there is a bit of an extra something missing… the heart is missing. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this movie if it wasn’t nominated to be honest. I still liked it though.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Manchester by the Sea? Are you interested? What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Movie Review: The Red Turtle (2017)

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Summary: The dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.- From IMDB
Pros:
Characters. There isn’t really a cast so this is strictly on the characters and I almost don’t really want to go into it because it might ruin the experience. So I’ll try to be careful, there might be minor spoilers ahead.
  • The Man. He is stranded on a deserted island, when he wakes up, he meets some funny crabs, then goes to explore the island. A couple of things happen where I freak out for a moment because if I was in his shoes, I’d probably die lol, but he quickly adapts and starts trying to escape. He builds some rafts, ends up having to make one three times. As the film continues, we see him grow and change and the reasons why are probably how any man in his position would.
  • The Red Turtle. Quite the anomaly, the man’s first raft is destroyed and he nor the viewer knows why until I think the second or third time, we finally see the red turtle and it blatantly destroys his raft. I think there are a couple of theories as to why it does this… but again no spoilers.
  • Two other characters. So, it’s hard to talk about a film where parts may be major spoilers… but I will just say, I love the animation of the hair on one of them and I think they were both great additions to the film… also very intriguing. Makes the viewer wonder just how they got there in the first place, what is the whole story.
No Dialogue. This film has no dialogue outside of the small “HEEEYS!” otherwise, there’s no actual dialogue. At first, that might be a bit jarring, especially as the movie continues into the last bit, but I think it works because it makes the viewer pay attention to everything else. It’s easy to lose focus in a film when a character is talking but when there is nothing to go on but emotion and what’s around the character, it requires a different kind of focus. I think it really works here.  I didn’t need it. What I saw, I was able to create moments from my imagination.
The animation. I think Studio Ghibli always hits their mark with their animation. It is a bit weird here, but I liked it. I thought it was very different compared to their other most notable works. I think the water probably had the most character in the film. At the beginning, the way it moves, like a wild animal was stunning. Later in the film, it moves like that again and it’s so scary. Also, like I mentioned above, I really liked how the hair of a particular character was animated, especially in the water. Also, the way the Red Turtle looked in the water, the color and how clearly it stood out. The same way the man’s white clothes did in a sea of green trees at the beginning of the film. That slow changed over time as he began to adapt to the island.
The emotion. It made me cry lol. There is a lot going on here, but at it’s core it’s very straight forward, it’s the story of a man and by the end, I was in tears. Even if you don’t cry, I think it’s imperative that you pay close attention to the film, don’t get distracted, because even if you don’t cry, there is going to be something felt by the end of the film. It’s engrained in the characters, in the animation and the sounds of the island.
The Story. It talks about a deep connection with nature, in many ways. In how man adapts to it, how nature can be unyielding and unforgiving, but at the same time, it can be loving and helpful.
Cons:
What happened?? I don’t want to spoil a particular plot point… but I want to know what happened to him, he just left. I guess you can kind of guess but I needed answers.
A little odd. I think it can come off really weird and maybe better off as a short film instead of a full length movie. But I think that depends on the person, I put it her because it was something I noticed. As well as the animation being a bit jarring, same with the no dialogue bit, but it doesn’t count against the film for me.
Overall, I really loved this film. I was quite surprised as I watched it. I really wanted to see it after hearing Chris Stuckmann talk about it and I was in for a treat. I personally haven’t seen a Studio Ghibli film I haven’t liked. I mean, sure, some of them aren’t as great as others, but overall, I think they are all quite fabulous movies and this is no different, no matter how different it is compared to it’s predecessors. I love the animation, especially of the nature elements. I really loved the fact that there was no dialogue, it requires a bit more attention from the viewer, and allows the music and animation to take a front seat. It’s fantastic.
Rating: 4. 70 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen The Red Turtle? Have you even heard of it? If not, go watch it! Let me know what you think in the comments below! I can definitely see why it’s been nominated for an Oscar.
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