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Showing posts from January, 2015

Big Eyes

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Big Eyes is a fun, lighthearted, feel good comedy that ultimately was just that. A lightweight Tim Burton outing that did not dig deep enough into its characters' psyche to give it much heft - or Oscar prestige - despite a good performance by Amy Adams.

Big Eyes reminds me a lot of the other Burton film,Big Fish, in that they both although outwardly seem atypical of Burton, but essentially, and undeniably, his stamp can still be found. The film floats along in its bright, breezy, palette but writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski never really managed to highlight the artistic struggle that Adams' character supposed goes through.

Also, we never really know Christoph Waltz's character well. His motivations: are they purely greed or driven by a deeper desire for acceptance?

Nonetheless, even with such lack of characterisation, Adams still managed to convey the struggle within Margaret Keane, especially when it came to the relationship that she has with her on-screen dau…

Inherent Vice

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This is one of the weirdest and most fucked-up film that amazingly made sense in the end! Paul Thomas Anderson has given us an oddly intelligent, stoner-movie that is definitely not for everyone, but with patience, it really was rather engrossing. And Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant in it - he owned the role.

Anderson's latest film was a beautiful and authentic 1970s crime dramedy. There were some cleverly written lines and laughs, yet beneath it all, a certain noir emotional longing that kept it from descending to stoner-schtick.

The central mystery itself was also rather riveting and held the story together as Anderson's script meanders in and out of one weed-hazed scene to another. Each seemingly unconnected but yet, like all drug-induced epiphanies, slowly came together to make sense. Thence, an Oscar nomination for Anderson's adapted screenplay.

I cannot imagine anybody else other than Phoenix in this role. Throughout the 148 minutes, Phoenix embodied his character and…

American Sniper

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Clint Eastwood's latest continues his trend of subpar movies. His, along with actor - and fellow producer - Bradley Cooper's vanity project is a Left politico film - bordering on propaganda -disguised as an unintelligent, appeal-to-the-masses, mediocre to poor war film/biopic that is all bravura with no soul.  
Eastwood's directorial downward trend started from Grand Torino, and cemented with Hereafter, but even Hereafter - for all its preposterousness - had more redeeming factors than this heartless, cold and uneven film. It is hard to believe it is the same director who gave us the brilliant and balanced war films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. As a war film American Sniper pales in comparison to recent films like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan; and as a film exploring PTSD, it barely cleared the topsoil (catch Jim Sheridan's criminally under-watched Brothers starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natal…

Whiplash

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Disclaimer: Expectations are high going into this film since it had a whole year worth of raves and has been garnering awards/nominations the past few weeks; its five 87th Academy Awards nominations also helped to raise its profile.

A great crowd-pleaser, a cliche plot notwithstanding, that definitely lived up to the hype with a terrific - no, an electrifying - performance by J.K. Simmons. Whiplash deserved its Best Picture and Editing nominations, and Simmons is the one to beat for Best Supporting Actor (sorry, Norton and Hawke).

Damien Chazelle's film managed to engaged the audience almost throughout the 106 minutes, except for those scenes with ex-Gleek Melissa Benoist which really did not serve much purpose in developing Miles Teller's protagonist, despite its cliche over-arching plot. There were still moments where the audience were left in suspense for a bit, which was refreshing.

Chazelle's script had a few good laughs and is up for Best Adapted Screenplay which is …

12 Monkeys

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Pilot: Syfy's new series is based on Terry Gilliam's now-20 years old sci-fi classic, and if you can remember that movie, then unfortunately, this series does not live up to it excellence. Kudos to the creative team in jiggering some plot aspects to make this a 13 episodes series, but unfortunately, it lacked the smarts and the grittiness of Gilliam's hit. With the luxury of time, more should have been spent on establishing the characters - which is one of the first mistakes of this show. None of the characters were believable/relatable; but perhaps the actors had such big shoes to fill: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe. Furthermore, the plot holes were a bit too far-fetched, and this is not even considering the timey-whimey-ness of time travelling - which at least they explained/set the rules here.

Episode 2, "Mentally Divergent": It is surprising how large a shadow Brad Pitt had cast with this role. Poor Emily Hampshire. The Dr Railly and (ex-)boyfrie…

Cats

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Cats was the first musical I ever watched - or at least clearly remembering having watched it - back almost 20-odd years ago, and this is the first time I am re-watching it since.

Sadly, it was much better in my memory than what was presented on stage. Apparently there was a live band, but there was no orchestra pit and the sound system did not sound like the band was live. Both the band and singing volume would increased simultaneously when the singing got more intense, and that consistently led to overshadowing of the already - often - poorly enunciated singers.

Perhaps it was just the poor sound system in Marina Bay Sand (Grand Theatre)?

The overall energy level of the cast was not high as it could be, and it always felt like the party was winding down rather in the swing of it. Thankfully the second act was an improvement or maybe it was just because of the more familiar songs, including the now-musical standard Memory. Which did send some mild shivers down my spine, and raised a …

The Normal Heart

In a nutshell: A good play but a poor movie. Ryan Murphy lost the impact of Larry Kramer's work and words through poor direction and cheap visual dramatics. Notwithstanding that, the acting from the main cast - Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch (surprise!) and Jim Parsons - stood out against what can only be described as blatant (gay) male (celebrity) sexploitation. 
Murphy is a talented producer. Without a doubt his mind has frequently captured the zeitgeist of our times. But as a director, and even writer, he is mediocre at best. He has no vision nor style. A copycat with ideas that do not translate. Robert's Eat, Pray, Love suffered tremendously because of that. So was surprised she agreed to this production - a juicy role no doubt attracted the talented actress. 
Murphy has a tendency to indulge in his fantasies and excessiveness, not knowing when subtlety is stronger than brashness. Even the sex scene between Ruffalo and Bomer ended up be…

Birdman

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What a great film! Intelligent, smart and funny. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's black satirical comedy has got it all (almost; more on that later). Great acting from everybody, smart writing, brilliant cinematography, ambitious - and very well executed - directing (and editing), and a fantastic soundtrack. No wonder it had been sweeping up accolades, and if Boyhoodtook just one year less and more to tell its story, there would not be much competition against it from this year's crop.

Innaritu told a story that is beyond one man's struggle for self-worth. He satirised the entire world of showbiz - the actors, the critics, the assistants, the agents - and also the state of our humanity - the latter of which could be a bit too much on the nose, though.

However, Innaritu did something unexpected in the final act. It was an unexpected act in what could have been really expected but dramatic. And the open ending was refreshing.

Technically, this film was amazing! Almost the whol…

The Theory of Everything

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The subtitle says it all. This is a story of a marriage rather than a biopic, so do not expect to find out more about Stephen Hawking, or his triumphant breakthroughs in Physics. Instead, this story focused on the relationship between these two extraordinary individuals; both of which were brought to life by the award-worthy Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. 
Writer Anthony McCarten based his script on Jane Hawking's memoirs, so it is not surprising that we focused more on Jane and her relationship with Stephen, rather than Stephen himself per se. In addition, the Science was barely explained, nor how Stephen came about his theories; luckily, the observation of a marriage as unique as theirs was written much better, although it could have been explored a lot better especially since the timeline of the show spanned nearly 25 years. 
Thankfully, there were a few moments of genuine, heartfelt tenderness and silly, English humour. The Doctor Who jokes were great, and truly something…

Empire

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Pilot: A strong pedigree behind Fox's newest musical drama/soap ensured that eyeballs will definitely be turning in for the pilot, but whether they will stay through the series is going to be hard to say just from this exposition-heavy pilot. Like all pilots, lots of time was spent introducing the main players and outlining their relationship. However, the one that is most interesting and riveting is Taraji P Henson's Cookie. Man, she is fierce, determined and a mixed bag of emotional baggage. Terrence Howard is intense but his character feels unoriginal: a mash up of Frank Underwood and King Lear. As for the three sons: they all feel so cookie-cutter. We have the ambitious first-born in a suit, the gay and anti-corporation middle child, and the favourite typical rapper-brat youngest. Yawn. Even their partners are similarly boring: white, equally power-hungry wife, sensitive, pretty latin boyfriend, and lots of sweet young things. Yawn again. Danny Strong and Lee Daniels have …

Marvel's Agent Carter

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Episode 1 & 2, "Now is Not the End" & "Bridge and Tunnel": What an exciting opening for ABC and Marvel's newest television venture. This would be what SHIELD wished it could have been when it first started out after Joss Whedon's pilot.  It had everything going for it: drama, humour, style, fashion, great cast that played well against each other, strong plot, overarching mystery and heart. Great opening moment which used footages from Captain America: The First Avengerto re-introduce Hayley Atwell's Agent Peggy Carter to the audience. Atwell really nailed it. She is the original Melinda May - kicking asses and looking fierce whilst doing it! Kudos to creators Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and pilot director Louis D'Esposito for getting the 40s down right: from the production sets, to the costume, the look and feel of it felt authentic. But most importantly, they got the dry, British humour down pat between Atwell and James D'Ar…

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

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A romantic love story for the grown-up Gen X-ers. Brilliantly acted by all involved but narratively this felt a bit disjointed and I think the individual stories: TDOER: Him and TDOER: Her may be better in telling a more rounded story.

Writer/Director Ned Benson and editor Kristina Boden did a great job in weaving together this simple, yet character-ly complex, story, giving us an insight to the love story of the main characters from both points of view. However, in doing so, it may have lost a bit of the nuanced story-telling that would have had provided more insight to the characters and the choices they make.

Narratively, Benson did not really explore new grounds. The movie itself reminded me of Nicole Kidman's Rabbit Hole meets Ryan Gosling/Michelle William'sBlue Valentine, both thematically and plot-wise.

Kudos to Jessica Chastain. She was mesmorising as the titular character. A fine performance as she navigated the tumultuous sea of emotions that her character goes thro…

Into The Woods [Moonlight Cinema]

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Disclaimer: I have not watched the original stage production before but have heard enough about it over the years to know what it is about. 
An entertaining movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical with good laughs, great acting (and scenary chewing), great songs and above-average singing, but be warned that it has been Disney-fied and the dark edginess and humour of Sondheim's original has been watered down. Nonetheless, it still retained the original's core themes and wit - just more family-friendly.

Rob Marshall's directing was smooth and uncomplicated, and coupled with the beautiful cinematography of Dion Beebe, the end result was a visually sumptuous 125 minutes that did justice to Sondheim's classic masterful. 
The movie, like the musical, got into the plot quickly and efficiently. Introducing all the key players in a wonderful prologue. All the actors established themselves within moments of appearing and this really is a testament to Sondheim's am…

Frank [iTunes HD]

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A disturbing little film that started off funny, turned dark midway and ended off a little depressing, but always held together by the four main cast: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson and Scoot McNairy.

There are times within the 90-odd minutes run of Lenny Abrahamson's film where it dragged and you wonder what is actually (going to) happen, however, interspersed within these moments are heartfelt observations of Life, absurdist comedic slap-schticks and a satirical commentary about social media. 
Fassbender, despite that oddly charming paper mâché head, is compelling as our eponymous protagonist. His body language and tone of voice conveyed the complexities of this strange character, and you cannot help but feel drawn to him and his "condition". This was so much so that the success of the final act is directly because of Fassbender owning Frank, otherwise the ending could have been more ludicrous rather than depressing. 
Gleeson played the straig…

The Imitation Game

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A good movie that lacked an uncertain quality that would have pushed it into the pantheon of greatness. Benedict Cumberbatch deserved all the accolades that has been bestowed on him thus far, but composer Alexandre Desplat is as equally deserving.

Director Morten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore have created a "prestige biopic" that checked all the right boxes: historically important, social injustice, underdog triumphs, LGBT relevant, a talented British cast and tragedy, but what is sorely lacking is a true heart admist all the filibuster. 
Historical inaccuracies notwithstanding, and which was to be expected in any Hollywood biopic - a "prestige biopic" no less - these days, Moore and Tyldum did not really mine the rich, potential life of Alan Turing for any drama. Instead things just happen with a throwaway line or scene to justify. Irregardless of how ridiculously talented Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, Kiera Knightley, Mark Strong or Cumberbatch are, drama still…

Paddington

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An absolute feel-good family entertainment for everybody in the family! From the cynical gramps to the romantic teenage girl to the all-loving matriache and business pops. You will laugh and cry, wring your hands in fear and anticipation and ultimately feel your heart swell in size.

Ben Whishaw was pitch-perfect as the voice of Paddington, infusing in him a childlike sense of awe and discovery tinged with a sort of grown up weariness of life. And as we follow him in his journey, we cannot help but feel a connection with him and that's an amazing accomplishment by director/writer Paul King and co-writer Hamish McColl; and the animation team. 
The supporting cast were also perfectly cast. From Hugh Bonneville to Sally Hawkins as the Browns, Peter Capaldi playing against type and a deliciously evil Nicole Kidman who's much better here than as Mrs Coulter in "The Golden Compass". 
Excellent music by Nick Urata which aptly illustrated the inner world of Paddington.