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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Now this was how a superhero should be done. And not only that, how an origin story should be told. Easily the best Spidey since the first two Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films. It was fresh, it was exciting; it had heart and pathos and the courage to go into some dark corners with faith in its audience. Miles Morales was a hero in the making and like all heroes the journey is never smooth, and we connect with his story - his excitement, his anxieties, his fear, his courage and his convictions. The energy throughout was infectious and the plotting was efficient and tight, with an excellent cast (and voice-cast) and music that actually propelled the narrative. And of course, the animation was brilliant, effectively emulating the visual sensation of reading a comic but paired with a stunning palette and kinetic design.

At just under 2 hours, the film achieved all it set out to do. It entertained whilst it told a predictable story, incorporating life lessons along its way whilst not forgett…

Aquaman [IMAX/3D]

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This film was so painful to sit through. It was bloated and over-stuffed with unoriginal directing, unimaginative sequences, bad CGIs, poor acting and casting, and an atrocious soundtrack. Not even Jason Momoa's charm could save this film. Sitting through all 143 minutes, one could not help but think how much more superior Black Pantherwas in terms of world-building and rules-setting for Wakanda, and now I really cannot wait for James Cameron's underwater Avatar to show them all how an underwater adventure should be done(I could be wrong, but in Cameron we trust).

One of the biggest problem in this film, other than the fact that Amber Heard needs more acting lessons and has zero chemistry with Momoa, and that Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson were all horribly miscast (guess even stars need to cash a paycheck), was the absolute lack of originality and imagination in James Wan's directing. Other than a very few moments that showcased his excellent grasp of hor…

Bohemian Rhapsody

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Some films engage the heart and trigger an emotion reaction, whereas some film engage the brain and connect with the audience on an intellectual level. Great films win over both the heart and brain, but unfortunately Bohemian Rhapsody was not one of those film. What it did instead was that it totally won over the heart with its blatant emotional manipulation and re-writing of history for maximum impact, and all through the electrifying power (and nostalgia) of Queen's songs. If it were not for the songs, the film may not even be half as successful as it was.

Intellectually, the film was riddled with faults, other than the aforementioned historical untruths, it was undecided if it wanted to be a retelling of the story of Queen or a biopic of Freddie Mercury. This resulted in a film that had no depth or emotional complexity for its lead character who is surrounded by a cast of stereotypical supporting characters (other than Mary....ah Mary, the saving emotional grace of the film), …

Sorry to Bother You [SGIFF 2018]

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Boots Riley's directorial debut was an wholly original story that bit off way more that it could chew. It was ambitious and original and creative, but the execution lacked style, focus and discipline. At times the film got mildly excruciating to watch as we waited - albeit with some bated breath - for the conclusion which, despite its originality, still ironically felt predictable and unearned. Riley had too many ideas and they were all over the place, and a stricter, more disciplined director could have focused these themes into a biting satire. But instead now, we were left with an original comedy that had potential but just missed the mark.

The screenplay is a gem. It was unexpected and zagged when you would expect a zig. It juggled magical realism with social satire and black comedy, but it never fully explored any of these realms. This ain't Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Haruki Murakami, and neither was it The Death of Stalin or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Ril…

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald [IMAX/3D]

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At over 130 minutes, this film was unnecessarily long. Someone should keep JK Rowling away from writing screenplays. Sure she has great ideas and stories to tell, but like her later books, she tend to sprawl and needlessly confound and confuse just to add padding. Other than some really good set pieces, a few exciting action sequences (and also a few messy ones), imaginative use of CGI/3D-technology (breaking out of the screen format was cool) and a great score by James Newton Howard, the film lacked the originality, spark and cast chemistry that led the first instalment to be such a delight. The cast expanded and we spent more time on Johnny Depp and Ezra Miller's characters - which were interesting unto themselves but they lacked depth and worthy companions to interact with - than the original foursome whose excellent chemistry fueled the narrative of the first. This film felt like a placeholder film, setting the pieces in motion, to the franchise and finale (maybe 5 films is t…

Beautiful Boy

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This was a problematic film. Ironically, it was simultaneously under-cooked with thin characterisation and a superficial emotional narrative, and over-baked with its heavy handedness and pedantic handling of an over-long and repetitive story. Someone ought to tell director Felix Von Groeningen that "show-not-tell" also extends to the music in the film, and not every song choice has to pointedly telegraph the expected emotional reaction he wants to illicit. Luckily the film was saved by a good - not great - performance by Timothée Chalamet (for great: see Benedict Cumberbatch in Patrick Melrose) and also the under-rated Maura Tierney who stole her scenes with Steve Carrell with her quiet, restrained performance.

This film would have benefited from being adapted into a prestige, limited series. Over four to six episodes, it would have given time and space for the characters to be developed into rounded (and complicated) individuals rather than just paper-cut cliches (again, s…

The Wife

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Glenn Close was superb in this film. A first class display of nuanced virtuosity as her restrained portrayal of the eponymous wife had her emotions simmering just under the surface and threatening to implode her throughout the film. But it was all only until in the final act where it finally erupted out. Not in a volcanic, Vesuivian sort of way, but in a controlled, yet still fiercely fiery, explosion of emotions that ran the gamut. The film's narrative itself was interesting, albeit predictable, and quite probably problematic in this day of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Nonetheless, it really was Close's remarkable performance that held this film up. Jonathan Pryce too deserved some praise for being the actor that allowed Close to spar and shine, and he was good in his own right, just that he gets eclipsed here (the irony!).

Directed by Swedish director Bjorn Rung and adapted for film by Jane Anderson (off Meg Wolitzer's book), the film ran for a tight 100 minutes and it effectiv…