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Showing posts from October, 2015

Supergirl

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Pilot: CBS has jumped into the superheroes pool and has wisely decided to make a splash by centering on a female superhero, but - damn it! - you don't have to keep drumming that point in throughout the whole pilot do you? And you can't even give a good reason why she is called "supergirl". From the co-creators of The CW's DC-shows - the fun The Flash and the dark Arrow - the pilot of Supergirl has gotten most things right straight out of the bat. Melissa Benoist was surprisingly well cast and she brings with her a lovable and refreshing charm. Our titular heroine actually loves her power, the people around her all knows she has power - even the potential love interests which is refreshing - and so far the rest of the cast are appealing with an outstanding Calista Flockhart especially.  But it will be interesting to see how the supporting cast will be integrated into the action/drama - which was one thing that both Arrow and The Flash did very well - and how CBS w…

Burnt

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In theory, this film should have been great, but in the hands of director John Wells and writer Steven Knight, what we were left with was the equivalent of a stale, insert-your-favourite-mass-market-store-brand bread. What a waste of the bevy of talented stars attached to it (and I am not including Bradley Cooper in this mix).

Essentially, this should have been marketed more like a romantic-comedy, and then perhaps it would have made more sense. If you are looking for food-porn or have a better understanding of how chefs work/think, then may I humbly suggest Netflix's superior Chef's Table. Or even Bryan Fuller's Hannibal!

Why did Emma Thompson even agreed to be in this film? Uma Thurman was barely up for less than 10 minutes. Talented European actors like Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy and Matthew Rhys end up playing second fiddle to (American) Cooper who brings nothing to this role other than his usual persona. And poor Alicia Vikandar - this year's more ubiquitous actor - d…

The Walk [IMAX/3D]

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An entertaining biographic film that was visually exciting and buoyed by Robert Zemeckis' remarkable use of 3D and achored by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's boyish, faux-french charms.

A technically superb film but its effects occassionally usurped and distracted from the story. The First Act started off promising with Gordon-Levitt, and his initially-distracting Parisian-accented english, and his co-stars Charlotte Le Bon and Ben Kingsley, exploring Phillippe Petit's initial desire and need to be a wire walker.

However, despite all their rom-com-esque charm (think: JGL and Zooey Deschanel's 500 Days of Summer) and Kingsley stealing his scenes, there was a distinct lack of heart. We do not really know who is Phillippe and why he wants to do what he wants to do. Zemeckis used lots of voice-overs to try to bring that acrosss, but Gordon-Levitt's faux-french voice work - and what was shown on screen - did not hel pto convey that across. And it is this lack of empathy that l…

Blindspot

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Pilot: NBC's latest crime/drama tries to be something different, but the whole concept/execution of it is reminiscence of its own Blacklist, except for the change in gender. Its like Blacklist meets Prison Break. The cast is attractive, especially the two leads Jaimie Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton, and the central mystery intriguing itself. The supporting cast seemed to be included for racial diversity which honestly is absurd considering that the pilot's plot is racist. Or that could just be put down to lazy writing without research which really is not forgivable considering that the pilot should be solid (i.e. Mandarin is not Cantonese and most Chinese dialect are spoken not typed out). Similarly, the showrunners are positioning this more like a crime procedural than a black-box mystery, also heavier on plot and narrative rather than character. After the pilot they all seemed flat and only Marianne Jean-Baptiste was interesting, in part also because she had presence. They…

Crimson Peak

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Disclaimer:I cannot believe that in this day and age, Singapore is still censoring films such as this. It gets slapped with a NC-16 rating (not for 16 years and under) and the sex scenes are cut?!

Guillermo del Toro's latest is not a horror house picture. It is a very stylish and gorgeously sumptuous gothic, tragic love story that appealed more to the eyes rather than the brain or heart.

With such a wonderful cast, it was a pity that del Toro (and co-writer Matthew Robbins) did not focus more on the story and tried to get more out of his stars. The chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston can be best described as frosty; that between Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain remained obtusely enigmatic; and although Charlie Hunnam and Wasikowska had some sparks, it was a pity they were not explored.

There were elements in the story that had some potential but they were merely skimmed through, which then begged the question, what was the purpose of bringing it out in the first pla…

Code Black

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Pilot: A great cold opening that led into a relentless adrenaline high for the next 40-odd minutes, but therein laid Code Black's biggest problem. How can it maintain such high standards for a whole (network) season? Marcia Gay Harden is the star of the show and her entrance was brilliant. She was believable (in a TV sense of the word) and had enough vulnerability to not make her a sap. The central conflict was addressed early on and laid the groundwork for the rest of the pilot to focus on. Harden's chief sparring partner is Raza Jaffrey who has really seen his star rise since getting noticed on Smash. The other standout was Luis Guzman and it's a pity Kevin Dunn is not a regular. As for the residents, they are externally different but written oh-so boringly. The writing on the show is also bordering on cheesy and clunky, and unabashedly emotionally baiting. After the pilot, this feels like HOUSE M.D. on speed but lacking the cast chemistry and magnetic enigmatic charisma…

Stonewall

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By itself this was not a good film, bordering bad; but as a film about a significant slice of history, it was truly offensive!

Roland Emmerich's personal film was poorly directed, badly written (by Jon Robin Baitz) withb poor characterisation, unfocused and, ultimately, messy. But most importantly, it did no favour to the people who were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots, and those who followed after, like Harvey Milk, which led to the Supreme Court of USA to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional and legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US in June 2015.

Leaving politics aside, for now, Emmerich and Baitz had no clear idea or vision about this film. Is it going to be a coming-out/of-age story or a film about gay rights? If it was the former, the exploration of which was juvenile and superficial at best. It really felt like they threw in every single gay/coming-out cliche that they could think of and laid it out there. Sometimes barely even coherently.

If Stonewall w…

Bridge of Spies

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Let the Oscar Games begin.

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and the Coen brothers start the 2015/16 Oscar season with a bang with the first truly good movie of the year. Let's hope that they can keep the momentum going.

Bridge of Spies tells a (inspired by true events) story that may not be as well known but definitely inspiring and aspirational. Penned by Matt Charman with the Coen brothers, the story in itself was relatively straightforward but tucked beneath this Cold War drama was a simple exploration of the themes of morality, justice, faith and humanity. All of which fall directly into Spielberg's wheelhouse.

Spielberg, on his part, has directed a great movie with wide-spread popular appeal - especially with Hanks in the lead. The story had shades of his under-rated Munich and the modern classic Schindler's List, but albeit one with a more pro-American shade reminiscence of  Lincoln. All his trademarks were present, lens flare (waaaaay less then JJ Abrams), back lighting,…

The Martian

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A very likable and enjoyable nerd/sci-fi thriller that had humour, suspense, and pathos, but despite all that something was still lacking in it to make it really superb.

Ridley Scott finally scored a real hit after the so-so Exodus: Gods and Kings, the well-acted but incoherent The Counselor and the disappointing Prometheus, and writer Drew Goddard definitely played a role in the success because the script was the strongest of the lot. It was direct, straightforward and made sense (within the scope of cinematic/artistic licence).

However, therein also laid one of the main problems. Goddard's script was essentially script-writing 101. There were no surprises and nothing unpredictable about how the story unfold. Scott himself also presented it such that you knew what was exactly going to happen next and that made any sought of tension in the film appeared overly drawn out and tedious. Character development and emotional investments were sacrificed on the altar of narrative cohesive…

It Follows [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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A fairly original horror/supernatural film, and that in itself is a rarity these days, that was suspenseful and entertaining throughout relying less on jump scares but mood, atmosphere and directing to inject fear and trepidation. It felt a lot like last year's great horror flick The Babadook, especially in terms of the ending.

A standout performance by the central damsel-in-distress - Maika Monroe - and here's hoping that she can break out of her stereotype. However, the rest of the cast were fairly non-memorable.

I liked that story-wise writer/director David Robert Mitchell did not lay out any background or mythology to the supernatural entity. Just accept that it is what it is. However, one of the most important things in horror films is that the villain/ghost/spirit/demon/etc has got to be consistently portrayed and its capabilities/powers need to be consistent regardless of how exagerrated it might be, and in this case the inconsistency got to the point where it was rat…

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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An indie version of The Fault in Our Stars, but with more originality and sincerity such that its emotional climax was much more deserved.

Directed by one of Glee's usual and more visually exciting director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the exuberance and angst of youth was deftly captured. The story itself was nothing new and the way it was told was also not very original, but putting them together gave us something interesting. Think Perks of Being a Wallflowermeet John Green.
Thomas Mann made for a good narrator and his self-effacing mannerisms made him endearing to the audience. Similarly, Olivia Cooke is a rising star worth keeping an eye out for. Especially since she landed the lead in Spielberg's Ready Player One.
The character of Earl, on the other hand, was interesting. And a smart choice. He served as both the audience surrogate and as Mann's character voice of reason.
In the end, like an episode of Glee, there was even a lesson to be learnt. But here, it did not sound Ry…