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A Private War

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This was the film and character that Rosamund Pike deserved to get nominated for an Oscar for. She should have been there along side Olivia Colman, Yerlitza Arpacio and Glenn Close (the other two - not naming names - not so much).  A strong, ferocious portrayal of the equally strong and courageous Marie Colvin, Pike was magnetic. It was a vanity-free performance that was layered and nuanced and convincing.  The biggest drawback however, was that director Matthew Heineman and writer Arash Amel chose to focus primarily on Colvin’s career and less on who she was and why she was how she was. Luckily, Pike managed to elucidate some of that of mystery through her interpretation and her performance, and we do get some sort of idea of the kind of person Colvin might have been in private.  Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander and Stanley Tucci rounded out the main men supporting Pike, and they all sparred with Pike to give her the moments to shine.  Heineman’s film was tight, brisk and taut and Colvin…

Vox Lux

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An uneven film that was unsure of its purpose, does it want to be a satire about pop and celebrity culture or a family drama of two sisters or a social commentary about America and/or modern society? 

Director and co-writer Brady Corbet seemed to want to be experimental but the final product just ended up being unfocused. And was the Wilem Dafoe narration really necessary? Show, not tell...

However, Natalie Portman was magnificent! This was her film. 

Portman appeared in like a tornado in the second half and absolutely Black Swan-ed her way from start to end. With her, the film finally gained some momentum and even Corbet’s unnecessary and indulgent long takes were improved by having Portman owning the screen. 

Raffey Cassidy - as the young Portman and then her daughter - held her own in the first half, but she lacked the screen charisma of Portman. 

Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law and Stacey Martin rounded out the main cast. They supported Cassidy and the film in the beginning but were there real…

Dumbo

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A true family-film and crowd-pleaser. The first, proper four-quadrant winner of 2019. An absolute delightful mix of Disney nostalgia and Tim Burton aesthetics. Burton's storytelling was a perfect fit for Dumbo and this will surely appeal to children and also their Gen X/Y parents who still remembered the 1941 cartoon and Burton back in his heydays of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

Gorgeously shot with beautiful visuals and a great score, this was Burton and Danny Elfman at their best...finally, again! Kudos to cinematographer Ben Davis who is doing better work here than he did for MCU. Maybe he should work with Burton more.

Dumbo was funny, touching, scary, exciting, tense, exhilarating, and most of all, simple. True, it was a bit too simple (but hey, we do not need to complicate it for children) and the screenplay by Ehren Kruger was the weakest link. Some of the heart and sincerity of the original's story telling got lost by expanding the film to nearly 2 hours. Howeve…

Us

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The only reason to watch Us was Lupita Nyong'o's performance; it definitely was not for Jordan Peele's writing or direction, although granted there were some good directorial/cinematographic choices. However, overall, Peele's execution was left wanting. A great concept that had ambitious, lofty goals to examine themes of Consumerisms, self and identity, the American Dream and class conflicts (Us vs Them, the Have-nots vs the Have-lots), but ended up feeling scattered and unfocused. And way too much logic holes and gaps that interfered with the storytelling.

All good horror and sci-fi films either have some truth that ground the story or just be totally out-there, but Us could never commit to either. The result was a film that was flat and never really kicked into gear. As a horror film it was un-horrifying (even less so than Get Out) and un-terrifying; as a thriller it lacked tension and the pacing was awkward (most of the comedic moments felt out of place and really …

Captain Marvel [IMAX]

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Comparisons will be inevitable, so let’s just say that “Captain Marvel” ain’t no “Wonder Woman”, and Brie Larson did not have the screen charisma of Gal Gadot. But it definitely landed the ending unlike WW which petered and crashed out in the end. The film ran on first gear throughout and only untill the last act did it rock out. But that was awesome! And you know you are in trouble when the best character on screen is named “Goose”. Larson’s hero moment was worth it (and justified the IMAX) but getting there, the first two acts suffered a major dearth of emotionality or audience empathy. “Captain Marvel” can be best classified as a Buddy Cop Comedy meets Intergalactic Drama, but Larson was never really dramatic nor funny. She appeared wooden most of the time and constantly seemed blanked rather than confused/unsure (as good as “Room” was, Cate, Saoirse or Charlotte should have won that Oscar); and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson seemed forced. There were plenty of quips strewn a…

If Beale Street Could Talk [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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What a beautiful film this was. Beautifully shot, directed, written and scored. And oh so heartbreakingly emotional. Such a shame that it was not more well received at the Oscars. Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel was sublime. The main plot which was essentially a crime drama and a doorway to the racial-political theme was engaging enough but it really was the central romance that held the film together as it weaved in and out through the narrative like a framework threading tears along the way. It was tender and sincere and remarkably brought to life by Kiki Layne and Stephen James, especially Layne who will be a star to look out for in the future. Regina King absolutely deserved her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her fierce, strong and powerful performance. It had a raw honesty absent from Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”. The score by Nicholas Britell was beautiful, stirring and emotive without being intrusive; the cinematography by James Lexton…

Mary, Queen of Scots [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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On paper this film had so many things going right for it. A controversial historical character led by Oscar nominated lead actresses, but the execution was a mess. At times the film felt like a bad soap opera. The dramatisation lacked depth and substance and neither Queens had much characterisation beyond the superficial. Political intrigue gave way to sexual exploits for a simplistic historic retelling. Queen Mary really deserved a better biopic. Although I applaud director Josie Rourke’s choice of racial-blind casting, the decision for everybody to use their own accents was not a smart one as it added another layer of unnecessary distraction. And that heavy-handed focus on political correctness was absurd and too jarringly out of place. The costumes and make ups were gorgeous but pox-scarred does not make Margot Robbie anywhere close to Regina, Emma or Rachel’s calibre, though her showdown scene with Saoirse Ronan did show a sliver of Tonya-calibre acting. Ronan has a beautiful visa…