Miss Bala

January being known as a dumping ground for films, so does that include February 1st? I mean, that is barely out of the month, most of the previous week is there!

Miss Bala is actually not an original film, but a remake of a 2011 film of the same name from Mexico. It looks like from casting and rough plot that they aren’t trying to change much, given the lead. This is what I would say is potentially a good example of a time to remake a foreign film. Why? Because I had not heard of the original.

Not that I, Gorgon Reviews, is the final say of what can be made in movies, but remaking something that was met with a lot of critical acclaim and famous is silly. If it is already great and well known, why bother? The things we should be remaking are the films that didn’t do well, or didn’t have a strong word of mouth. Because that means something may have actually gone wrong, and it could be improved on with a new version.

It is a smart way to not worry about comparisons. But for some reason, companies rarely do this, as they’d rather just rely on name recognition to make that money, good or bad. Oh well.

Also, the original Miss Bala did actually reach critical acclaim, but it just wasn’t seen by most of the world.

Pose
This doesn’t look like its in the middle of action, it looks incredibly posed.

This is not a movie about a girl named Bala, but instead a girl named Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), just like that other movie, Gloria. She works in LA as a make up artist, for models and sometimes celebrities, so she is pretty good. And she uses her talents for her friends, like her friend Suzu ( Cristina Rodlo). Suzu lives in Tijuana, which Gloria used to live in for a bit, but always feels a bit weird there. Judged for being an American and not perfect at Spanish.

Suzu is going into a pageant show for Miss Baja California (I have to assume Mexico pronounces it as Bala… and that is where the title comes from. Or its a Spanish pun that doesn’t translate to this film, who the hell knows), and Gloria is going to make her look good.

Unfortunately, the night before auditions really begin, they go to a nightclub to try to get an in with the owner and some dudes with guns bust in looking to kill. Gloria loses sight of her friend when running to safety, and has to spend the night worrying about her safety, since she cant seem to find her any hospitals. And when Gloria goes for help, she ends up getting kidnapped by the gun men who did the shooting, putting her life, her body, and her friend potentially at risk. But…are they really the bad guys?

Also starring Damián Alcázar, Ricardo Abarca, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Anthony Mackie.

Money
They are trying to sell this movie on sex and dollars, yo.

Miss Bala is a film with a lot of twists and decisions for the main character. Sometimes too many twists can make a film feel annoying, because at a certain point, you don’t believe the twists any more and you just want it to get to the end to be done. One way to combat the twist fatigue is to have only two outcomes overall, so each twist just makes the viewer change sides. That way you cannot get overwhelmed, which seems to be the strategy with this movie. However, the twists feel extra pointless, because with only two sides, the stakes are low and it is still relatively easy to guess how the whole thing ends up.

If I had to say something nice, I liked that it featured a setting not traditionally given to women led films. It was definitely HER movie and her making a lot of decisions. Now, from these decisions, the audience can get quite annoyed with them and maybe even think they are poor, but they do seem to match the character and make sense for her. For the most part. It also didn’t solve all of its problems with violence. There was some smart moves in there, and a lot of panicked thinking. But this is not a gun toting heroine who is going to rid Tijuana of the cartel influence.

Despite all of that, this film doesn’t go too many new places. All of the side characters are still cardboard cutouts for the eventual resolution of the plot to unfold.

The ending itself is pretty silly and seemingly tries to set up something that no one would want, in a situation that would not happen. Overall, Miss Bala will probably easily find an American audience that loves it, but it still feels rather January.

2 out of 4.

Mary Queen of Scots

As a history major, I tend to love a good historical biopic film, that goes for realism, truth, and has amazing set pieces.

At the same time, my focus was on Ancient History, and I tried to avoid any of that medieval nonsense, mostly because I do not care about British history. I got enough of that growing up. I want old stuff or other cultures. I just don’t want to get bogged down in the King and Queen dramas. It is why I still haven’t seen The Crown.

But Mary Queen of Scots is a famous story, one that I know next to nothing about. It has to be famous, it rings true, but honestly, never looked into who or what it was. Did she behead a lot of people? Did she inspire Braveheart? I don’t know!

I do know that with the leads being several ladies, we still might get some dope gossip though.

Mary
On first glance, this does not answer the Braveheart question.

First of all, this film takes place like 250-300 years after William Wallace, so they are unrelated.

We are going to talk about Mary (Saoirse Ronan) who became Queen of France at 16! Nice. Two years later her husband died, and instead of remarrying and living back in France, she went back home and decided to rule there again. Now, due to some legal loopholes, she has more of a right to the throne of England than her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).

But Mary cannot just go and waltz in, demand the crown, and everyone is cool with that. So instead, she goes to Scotland, to work with the people there to set up a rule, to be peaceful with their neighbors, and basically bide her time. If Elizabeth cannot get an heir, or dies, it will be Mary’s turn (or her own children), so let’s be civil and wait it out.

It is not civil. There is some warring, some backstabbing, some dead loved ones and imprisoned things. There is a lot of betrayal and a whole lot of politicking that will get you lost.

Hey. As long as you still look noble by the end, right?

Also starring David Tennant, Gemma Chan, Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Adrian Lester, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Simon Russell Beale.

Queen
Royalty is the epitome of being a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, unless you need an heir to keep it strong forever, in which case you are vastly dependent and sad.

When I say get lost in the politicking, I really mean it. This is a dense cast with a lot of characters who have lines and I guess are real people in history. And it is not like the movie pops up with subtitle cards to fully explain everyone’s role and their motives. You have to pay attention, try to gather what matters and what doesn’t and by the end, I still didn’t fully grasp who/why everyone was, why things happened, and the real ramifications.

This might just be a historical movie for those already down with the history. And there is nothing wrong with that, technically, but it does mean it will have issues finding a larger audience. Movies should be made for all sorts of people and a certain level of intelligence can be a requirement. It just means I am left talking about how pretty the movie was and well acted, without being able to comment a lot on the plot.

Needless to say, the movie was very pretty and well acted from our leads. I was especially surprised by the makeup department and their ability to make Robbie look a whole lot less attractive.

For my money though, I could never imagine wanting to watch this movie again. It is 2 hours that feel like 3, no matter how pretty it looks.

2 out of 4.