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Showing posts from July, 2015

Southpaw

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Antoine Fuqua's newest film was unabashedly cliche but it was more than just another boxing movie, or another hero-to-underdog-back-to-hero again movie, because of the emotionally resonant work of its main cast particularly Jake Gyllenhaal, Oona Laurence, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker.

The narrative by writer Kurt Sutter was typical of many hero-reborn stories over the years, and some parts may be too heavy handed. However, Fuqua wisely kept the focus on Gyllenhaal and did not stray too much into the emotional quagmire that Sutter's script potentially had.

However, the rise and fall of this film rest solely on its cast. And Gyllenhaal was outstanding.

Following his Oscar-snubbed role on Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal returns with another fully-committed role that, depending on how the year shapes up, may or may not see him in contention again. He really found the character and slipped into him totally. There was no vanity nor ego in his portrayal of the boxer, and as he experi…

Irrational Man

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Woody Allen's latest sees him using film to explore his own dark philosophies of life, and he does not even try to hide the blatant-ness of it. At least this time round, Emma Stone has better chemistry with Joaquin Phoenix than she had with Colin Firth in the lighter, more romantic Magic in the Moonlight(the irony!).

Using the classic Three Acts structure, Allen used it to explore his own believes in morality and amorality and his own existentialism crisis. However, it lacked grace and subtlety and courage, with Allen just dipping his toes - and occasionally the whole foot - into the subject matter.

The story itself was predictable and borderline indulgent and it really did take its time. There were no unexpected curveballs, so the process of getting to the end had to be interesting and riveting to sustain the (intelligent) audience's attention. Sadly it was not.

Not even the snazzy Jazzy soundtrack could help to distract much.

Phoenix was a great choice to play the lead. He …

Ant Man [IMAX/3D]

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An enjoyable film and a decent addition to the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a charming turn by Paul Rudd and great use of 3D-effects, but marred by the ghost of Edgar Wright (and Joe Cornish) and a general uneven-ness in terms of tone and characters.

As an origin story, the basic structure was there. Director Peyton Reed brought us from Point A to B to C and D smoothly and there were enough humour within to make this a sort of Marvel's Ocean Eleven. Reed's action sequences were also entertaining enough although nothing too mind-blowing.

But the biggest problem was that Wright's fingerprints could still be seen through Reed's gloves and the glimpses of Wright's DNA leave Ant-Man wanting.

Wright and Cornish have a very particular style and it peeks out at times in certain sequences, but these moments never really got to shine and hence it ended up giving the film a certain sense of uneven-ness.

Furthermore, Marvel's insistence to tie up every m…

Inside Out

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This was possibly the best animation Pixar - or any other studios for that matter - has done in a long time (since WALL-E, in my opinion). It was insanely smart with so many layers that an adult can appreciate, yet so expertly geared towards the young. There was joy, sadness, drama, pathos, tears, lots of laughter and even fear and disgust. It really ran through the gamut of feelings, In short, Brilliant!

But before we talk more about Inside Out, some time should be spared for the animation short tagged in front of it. Lava is another triumph for Pixar. Like most of their shorts, the concept is simple, but what was different here was the simplicity in its expression of love. A simple Hawaiian song that in its 7 minutes run time managed to make us smile, sing along, felt sad, then hopeful and lastly happiness. It was a great foreshadowing to the main movie itself.



Now, the film itself. Inside Out is so simple in its premise: What's goes on inside someone's head? The execution i…

Amy

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An intimate and harrowing look into the brief life of Amy Winehouse.

What this documentary did very well was that Asif Kapadia and company gave us a very personal look into Winehouse - from her rise to fame to her addiction and ultimately - and sadly - her untimely demise.

Kapadia wisely used a mix of video recordings (so many camcorders at that time! - the modern equivalent will be Instagrams, Vines, Tweets and Facebook statuses) with Winehouse's lyrics and voice-overs by the people close to her, and often times too, Amy's own words to give a very intimate look into that period of her life.

However, one thing that this otherwise riveting documentary could have done better was if it could have gave us a better understanding of Amy Winehouse the person, rather than Amy Winehouse the celebrity/drug addict.

One leaves the theater with a feeling that although I know about the life and times and tribulations of Amy Winehouse, I still do not really know who is Amy Winehouse. An int…

Magic Mike XXL

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A pale comparison to the original and this was already giving it the Ultron treatment: a lower expectation for a sequel of an unexpectedly wildly successful film.

This road trip really went nowhere. Poor characterisations throughout with the flimsiest of plot (even less material than the strippers' - sorry, male entertainers - g-string or throngs, and a sorry excuse to try to get away with it all with a minimal showing of skin. If all else fails at least own the nudity. 
Why Channing Tatum would want to do this after his turn on Foxcatcher? At least Matthew McConnaughey had the right idea to bail. And Alex Pettyfer too. 
They tried to make this sequel a bromance-heavy road trip but it really fell short on the comedy. Maybe except for Joe Manganiello, the rest of the cast had no comedic timings. Manganiello was the breakout star of this sequel - good for him!

Reality and realism was really thrown out of the back seat in this poorly acted, scripted and directed money-grabbing seque…

Leviathan (Левиафан)

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What a great film this was! A depressing but emotionally resonant movie that bravely showed the corruption within (the Russian) Government and the complicity of Religion, and how they, hand in hand, but also with the actions of Man, led to the destruction of lives and shattering of dreams. Is there Hope? Are we just but doomed to be nothing but a skeleton in the sands of time, left there beyond our control? Or are we instruments of our own Fate? Which will give the better outcome? The Heart, the Mind or the Faith? A real masterpiece that was more complex than it seemed.

Terminator: Genisys

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A total reboot of the franchise that was entertaining and obviously built to hopefully start off a new franchise, but it lacked the grit and adrenaline of the first two or the charisma and action of Christian Bale's Terminator Salvaation. Although Arnold gamely hammed it up and was one of the few bright spots.

Alan Taylor is a competent director but based on what he did for Thor: The Dark World and this, he still need to brush up on his pacing and action choreography. And also to get the most out of his actors. There were not really any images or set pieces that stood out which was disappointing for a summer action blockbuster, and when the story slowed down for some exposition or pre-requisite romance building the whole film felt draggy. 
Furthermore, with the child-friendly ratings, Taylor had to do weird things with the camera angles and lighting to block off any hint of nudity or blood. It kind of became too jarring and then just plain silly. 
Story wise, an interesting way t…

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence (En Duva Satt På EnGren Och Funderade På Tillvaron)

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A bizarre and delightful film that explored humanity and the way we live our lives through a series of magical realism-tinged odd and eccentric vignettes that yet seemed grounded in some sense of realism. The direction was spectacular with notes of Wes Anderson and Gus Van Sant wafting about! With a unique way of placing the camera still in each scene and having each little story played out in totality in that space. A art house film no doubt but one that really intrigued and tickled the mind/intellect as it teases and subverts our expectations.

Minions

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A funny, mindless animation with those loveable, hapless idiots that is clearly aimed at the young ones, although some jokes were obviously inserted in for the parental units/adults.

Stretched out to just over 90 minutes, the film started out strong - with a very spoiled prologue (that is why I hate watching trailers!) - but faltered a bit in the middle act but managed to regain its (still rather) uneven footing in the end.

The voice acting was unspectacular, with both Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm, going a bit over the top; Michael Keaton, Allison Janney and Jennifer Saunders were better but pity did not have much to do; Geoffrey Rush was outstanding as the narrator - must be the Aussie accent - and was as good a choice as any if Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones were not available.

The minions themselves had a very entertaining language. And now that it is in full-length, you can really appreciate it more - and that's where a lot of the humour is from for the adults. Recognising…

Far From The Madding Crowd

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What a great movie this was! Romance and Drama in a riveting package that only the Victorian literary classics can do so well. It succeeded because of the brilliant directing by Thomas Vinterberg (of the underwatched but equally fantastic The Hunt) and the very excellent cast of Cary Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen.

This joins the short list of excellent Victorian-aged dramas that succeeded in bringing the book to life, joining the ranks of Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice, Lee Ang's Sense and Sensibility and Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre.

Like all book-to-screen adaptations, expectations have to be appropriate. There is no way that a movie can keep everything - all the themes, side plots, characters - to its 90 - 120 (or even 180) minutes running time. If it was a mini-series, now that, the expectations are different! And Far From The Madding Crowd is no exception.

The film was beautifully shot (The Hunt'sCharlotte Bruus Christensen at work again) and th…