The Big Sick

What a great movie. Sincere, honest, touching but yet never schmaltzy and oh so funny. The fact that it was based on the true story/romance between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon (played here by Zoe Kazan) just made it all the more emotional and effective. Even knowing how it played out in real life did hardly impact the emotional investment of the audience, and that is the power of great storytelling by director Michael Showalter, co-writers Nanjiani and Gordon, and uber-producers Judd Apatow and Barry Mandel.

The biggest drawback to the film was the run time. Clocking in at 124 minutes, the film could have been even tighter if they had perhaps tighten it by 10 to 15 minutes. However, having said that, it must be said that the film itself was already very well paced with very, very few scenes that did not work, but then again some side plots could have been kept on the editing floor.

From drawback to strength, the five biggest strengths of The Big Sick was (one) the great chemistr…

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian is The Fifth Element for the 21st Century: louder, brighter and just as audacious and over-the-top but sadly, without the melodrama or memorable sequences (Rihanna doing a burlesque/pole dance does not top the diva dance opera...not even close). Nonetheless, it was a fun, rollicking, space adventure that zipped from one adventure to the next with exciting visuals that were neither terribly groundbreaking or innovative, and populated with characters that we never really cared about.

Besson's vision for Valerian was clear. A space opera spectacle that was grand in scope and epic in storytelling. He was successful on the first count, with an impressive CGI-ed world and aliens that could only be made possible now. However, the time spent in these alien worlds were too short to be fully immersive or appreciative. Most of the plot wound up in generic space sets that neither excites or wows.

And with regards to the second point, generously one could say that Besson tried to tell…

Baby Driver

Part musical, part heist flick, part YA romance, part revenge thriller, but definitely all comedy and car chases, Baby Driver was an exhilarating and utterly original story that defied easy categorisation. But yet for all its genre-challenging bravados, Edgar Wright's baby failed to really slam the pedal to the metal and break out of its genre(s) confinements - succumbing to the cliches and expectations - to establish something new.

With a great soundtrack that was literally almost start to end, Edgar Wright definitely put a new spin on the meaning of a musical. And he wisely chose to ignore pop music and went for a more esoteric 60s/70s reggae/jazzy and 90s rap/hip hop kinda vibe, letting the rhythms and beats drive the action. Seriously, who has not driven in a car to the beat of a song?

As for the car chase scenes, the musicality of it kept it fresh, but, to be honest, they were not terribly exciting. We have seen better. Initial D any one? Or even the early Fast and the Furio…

Dunkirk [IMAX]

Christopher Nolan is last. Dunkirk is an unequivocally, amazingly, visceral piece of film. Superbly stunning directing, cinematography, score, sound design and mixing, action sequences, production design and well-acted by a stellar ensemble cast. This was a great war film: riveting, exciting, tightly paced and emotional without being overly expositive or manipulative; Nolan's best film to date.Must be watched in IMAX.

At a trim 106 minutes, Dunkirk is the rare summer blockbuster to clock in under 2 hours and Nolan had smartly maximised the time with nary any excess baggage nor extraneous scenes. Almost every scene and moment served a purpose, showing the heroic deliverance and rescue at Dunkirk. 

Together with Hans Zimmer's brilliant score and Nolan's terrific directing, the dialogue-scarce film was able to effectively identify our heroes, illustrate the perils and frantic desperation and ultimately earned an absolutely deserving climax and emotional catharsis. An…

Miss Sloane [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

This film laid on the strong, capable shoulders of Jessica Chastain. But otherwise, the film was an uncomplicated, wannabe political thriller that only superficially skimmed through the issues at hand. Similarly, other than the eponymous Miss Sloane, the other characters served to only advance the narrative and reinforce her badass-ry.
Director John Madden competently steered the story towards its inevitable conclusion, but with so much signposting and blatant foreshadowing, the audience was kept wanting the other shoe to drop rather than teetering on the edge not knowing how our anti-hero(ine) was going to win. 
Writer Jonathan Perera similarly painted the whole scenario is broad strokes and never really explored new grounds. This could have just been an episode of a Shondaland drama and we would not have even noticed the difference. Even his characterisation of Miss Sloane, for all its blustering and balls-breaking innuendo, actually bordered on misogyny. If it was not for Chastain…

The Lost City of Z [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

A very well executed adventure epic by writer-director James Gray that was equally riveting, inspiring and touching, with a superb performance by Charlie Hunman. Co-stars Sienna Mille exuded subliminal graces, Robert Pattinson remains underrated and Tom Holland cements both his undeniable talent and star calibre.
Gray has crafted a story that traced the mysterious true story of Percy Fawcett but he did not mine it for unnecessary sensationalism or Indiana Jones-esque adventure/thriller. Instead what we got was an intimate exploration of a man’s obsession and how it informed his life’s decision. Smartly, Gray also chose to put some focus on how such obsession affects his family instead of broadly brushing it aside. And it was these moments that Miller shone in a role that would have otherwise been nothing but accessorising. 
Hunman deserves a leading man role as deep/complex as Percy Fawcett. Sure, he could also convincingly play an action character a la King Arthur, but Guy Ritchie’s…

War for the Planet of the Apes

The strength of this film laid in its narrative. Director and co-writer Matt Reeves had, unexpectedly, gone smaller and more intimate in this three-quel and that has paid off. Together with yet another amazing performance by Andy Serkis, the film related the inevitable fall of Humanity without sacrificing character. If anything, the film could have been tighter and its tone less scattered. At times the film felt like a Western, and at other moments, a heist film, a buddy film, a spy thriller and even a biblical epic. But otherwise, this was an entertaining film with a satisfying conclusion to Caeser's story.

Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback wisely used this film to further explore their main character. Instead of expanding the universe and just going for bigger, louder and flashier - like most sequels are prone to do - they chose to look inwards and used the exploration of Caesar's character to illuminate the situation of the movie-world.

In the film, the apes exhibited more…