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Showing posts from 2016

Rogue One [3D]

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Rogue One was essentially an extended prologue for the original Star Wars - now with the subtitle A New Hope. And by golly! Disney and director Gareth Edwards sure ain't gonna let you forget that. And that was just one of the many problems plaguing this film.

Rogue One was also a space-set, heist film, but one without the thrills and the excitements. There never really was any risks of failure to make us care or worry about the heroes. However, most importantly, in a heist film, the core characters also absolutely lacked chemistry. There was close to zero emotional weight to the characters and it all felt highly impersonalised.

For a film that we already knew the ending, they sure took a long time (133 minutes) to get there. And that journey spanned many, many quick scenes that did not allow the story to breathe. It felt as though Edwards just wanted to rush through all the (character, emotional and narrative) build up to get to the big climatic battle. Which then was upstaged even…

La La Land

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This film is an absolute crowd-pleaser! A feel good musical rom-com that hits all the right notes and beats. The chemistry between the winsome and enchanting Emma Stone and the charismatic old-school suaveness of Ryan Gosling was as electrifying as Damien Chazelle's superb directing! A serious award contender especially for Best Film, Chazelle (writer/director) and Stone (actress).

Reminiscent of the charms of The Artistand the insider-look of BirdmanLa La Land has a serious shot to be the first original musical to win the Oscar for Best Picture in a long, long time (Chicago - a Broadway transplant - won in 2006).

This is not to say this film is without it flaws. If Stone and Gosling could belt it out as well as they act then this film would be even better. But at the same time, their - especially Gosling's - thin vocals had been used by Chazelle to the advantage of the film to make the story that he is telling seemed all that more sincere, honest and raw.

As much as I appl…

Sing

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A juvenile and definitely child-friendly animation with a thin plot stretched out to feature-length. The fun really start in the third act and the musical numbers were really the draw. Unfortunately, this was more Glee-like in its execution rather than a musical per se.

Coming out after the terrific Zootopia did not help it too, as comparisons between these two anthropomorphic-animals cartoons will be inevitable. Whereas Zootopiawas surprisingly layered and nuanced, Sing felt more like a Sunday-morning cartoon. The characters were one-dimensional, the plot telegraphed from a mile away and there was nothing really original about it. Even the song choices were expected.

But like I said, children will love it - as from judging from my audience.

Matthew McConaughey is as lousy a voice-actor as Cate Blanchett was in How To Train Your Dragon 2. An inconsistent voice with his texan drawl creeping in and out. And if your lead character is a Koala, how hard is it to get an Australian actor fo…

Lion

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The real life story might have been more interesting than what the film gave us. Other than an outstanding supporting performance by Nicole Kidman, the rest of the film paled in comparison to the true story behind the fiction.

Garth Davis attempts to emulate Slumdog Millionaire failed, as his version of India lacked the chaotic bustle and confusion to really sell the desperation and despair of a lost boy. There was way too much manufactured drama throughout the 129 minutes run time, such that the emotional climax fell flat. There was not enough exploration into the motivation and mindset of Dev Patel's character to really make us feel that the search was important and the eventual eureka-moment worth celebrating.

Then again, it was also Patel's general flatness and apathetic portrayal of the main character that failed to drive the film. There was an intellectual disconnect between what should be happening and what was happening. He lacked the depth and experience (and age) to…

Arrival

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Finally! A smart, intelligent, well-written and directed sci-fi film! Denis Villeneuve scored another hit with this tight, suspenseful and intelligent film, led by an achingly stellar Amy Adams, beautifully scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson and intimately lensed by Bradford Young. Possibly one of the best modern sci fi films in a long time! This is what "Prometheus" and "Interstellar" wished they could have been.

Nocturnal Animals

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A self-indulgent, vanity project by Tom Ford which is the quintessential definition of style over substance. Even Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon could not save the emotionally hollow, pseudo-noir narrative. But, by golly, it sure was pretty to watch and the main theme by Abel Korzeniowski was on point.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [IMAX/3D]

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A fantastic film! Fun, funny, exciting and wondrous. It's been a long time since a film had me in such childlike awe with its world building. Well done David Yates, J.K. Rowling, James Newton Howard and Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol! IMAX, 3D is definitely the way to go!

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

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I am pissed that we do not get to watch this as Ang Lee had intended it to be (120 fps, 3D 4K HD). You can see that this film was filmed in such a way that flat, 2D just do not do it justice. Nonetheless, this was a good film - just not a great film. It was more Lee's The Ice Storm meets Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima  than Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker or Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.

Very strong supporting performances by Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund and a definite breakthrough role for newcomer Joe Alwyn.

Lee weaved a tight story, based off the script by Jean-Christophe Castelli, who in turn based it off the novel by Ben Fountain. A character driven study, rather than an action piece, the story required the main cast to really sell the emotional and satirical conflict of war and peace, army and civilian, family and comrades. Although Alwyn, Stewart and Hedlund managed to do exactly that, the rest of the cast and the script failed to hold them up…

Death Note: Light Up The New World

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Absolutely over-acted, over-written, over-directed and over-long (scrap the unnecessary prologue and the extended epilogue), this film was unnecessary and utterly tarnished the franchise. It took itself too seriously and the actors tried too hard to emulate the effortless charisma and quirkiness of the original actors. It also lacked the smarts and intelligent to be an effective thriller/whodunit that characterised the originals. There is a germ of potential sowed in its final sequence and the film should have just gone with that idea in the beginning.

君の名は。your name.

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A typical Japanese seishun eiga anime that tugs efficiently at the heartstrings. With an atypical sci-fi premise, director Makoto Shinkai tried to be unconventional but ended up still being rather predictable and unsurprising, keeping in line with the genre

What worked was its portrayal of the main characters and the pacing of the story. The two leads were well-liked, albeit the scenarios that they were thrown into were cliched. In addition, the story established the premise quickly and set up the emotional baggage efficiently such that the audience gets involved fast.

Just accept that this is a YA anime and the logic that goes along with it, and it will be easy to escape into the story. The animation was gorgeous and really makes one want to go to the Japan.

Doctor Strange [IMAX/3D]

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First up, Marvel Studios has got some fancy new credits...

Doctor Strange was a thoroughly enjoyable film and a distinct departure from the usual MCU fare with a lot more (effective) humour and minimal bombastic action. And as per usual, Marvel scored in its casting, not only of Benedict Cumberbatch but also Tilda Swinton, regardless of her character's supposed skin colour.

The biggest problem, as with almost all MCU films, is the villain. Another wasted actor in Mads Mikkelsen, although by the end of the film, you do sense that Marvel is trying to correct that. Nonetheless, the MCU is still failing when it comes to character development as compared to the Marvel/Netflix franchise.

You know, I will pay good money to see Cumberbatch and Mikkelsen act on the small screen over 10 - heck! even 5 or 6 episodes - together! Sherlock Holmes vs Hannibal Lecter. One can only dream.

Director Scott Derrickson did a great job in visualising the multi-dimensions, but unfortunately it was not en…

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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A thoroughly predictable but yet sufficiently entertaining enough Tom Cruise-type film as long as one accepts the plot holes and film logic. Cruise is his usual charismatic self although Reacher is a decidedly more stoic character than Ethan Hunt, Lens Grossman or Jerry Maguire.

Director Edward Zwick does a decent job in going through the beats but the film would have benefited from at least a 10 to 15 minutes trimming off its 118 minutes run time. And credit to the writers for at least trying to pass the Bechdel Test, but their attempts could have been a tad more organic to the story.

At least Colbie Smulders wasn't just a pretty eye candy and she had one good kick-ass moment. Also, Heroes Reborn alum Danika Yarosh was appealing enough and managed to elevate her character from being just another annoying teen.

Ultimately, this was an entertaining entry into another Cruise franchise but whether it gets a sequel or not is really inconsequential. Tom Cruise's action movies are …

Westworld

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Pilot: One of the best praises I can give Westworld is that I WANT MORE! The whole concept of it isn't original...not least because it was based on Michael Crichton's 1973 film. This was Dollhouse (Joss Whedon's most under-rated, yet truly fantastic, show) meets Humans meets Black Mirror. It was beautifully shot, superbly acted (kudos to Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris...the others like Thandie Newton and James Marden haven't really had a chance to shine yet), and very smartly written! By the end of the pilot, you kind of know what is happening but yet you don't really know...and you so want to know more! That mysterious tease is so rare these days in scripted drama. The biggest problem though is HBO senseless obsession with gratuitous nudity and violence. Although the latter did, admittedly, played a narrative function and hopefully - if I am right - a thematic one too. Just like Whedon's Dollhouse, sexual …

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

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This film fits Tim Burton vast, creative imagination so well, with its scary creatures, paranormal happenings and Victorian-esque settings, Burton had created an imaginative gorgeous world that was filled with both wonder and fear. This was more akin to Burton's under-rated Big Fish than his seminal classics, e.g. Edward Scissorhands. Burton failed in delivering on the YA-aspect of the story and Asa Butterfield's and Ella Purnell's lack of chemistry did not help things. Although Eva Green was an excellent muse to play off of Burton's eccentricity and could very well be his next Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter. Vanessa Ives would have been proud!

Jane Goldman wrote the script and it was quite evident that she was more familiar with writing about, rather than of or for, the weird and paranormal.  Beyond that, her grip on charactersation and translation of the YA bits to the screen. was at best rudimentary. Most of her dialogue was clunky and the film succeeds more a…

Deepwater Horizon

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Paul Berg's disaster thriller was entertaining and surprisingly touching, with moments of  nail-biting tension. But as exciting as the main/climatic action sequence was - and the moments leading to the blowout was truly brilliant - the other sequences were less so, with the film unfolding passively and even confusingly sometimes.

Berg took his time to establish the scene and heavily, and clumsily, foreshadowed the events to come which was so unnecessary since we already know it is coming. That begs the question: what was the point?

In addition, Berg focused on Mark Wahlberg and neglected the rest of the cast, and that made relating to them as they navigate through the disaster very challenging. Especially since they were all dressed similar-ish on the rig,  It was good that Berg spent the first act laying the ground but most audience members would be unfamiliar with the layout of an oil rig. As such, without a clear idea of the design of the rig and how the space is arranged, the…

Cafe Society

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Cafe Society was a typical, run of the mill, predictable Woody Allen romantic dramedy. With a star studded cast, Allen again muses sardonically on love and relationships, albeit only superficially. The main cast, in particular Jesse Eisenberg, were individually good but lacked chemistry together.

The film, and its set design, were beautiful with an authentic 30s NYC/LA feel to it. Costuming did a commendable job too. While Allen kept a keen eye on the aesthetics of the film, his exploration - or musings - on love was a lot more superficial this time. With just a perfunctory circling on the dilemma of loving more than one person at a time and a cursory meditation on Tennyson's wise adage of  "'This better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all",

Eisenberg gave a strong performance here as he evolved his character through the film in both a distinctive physical way and a more subtle emotional growth. But yet, there were some nuances to his character tha…

Pitch

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Pilot: Dan Fogelman's second pilot this season, after This Is Us, is another winner and one of the best pilots in a long time. The concept was clearly established, exposition quickly and neatly dealt with, main characters filled in and supporting cast sketched out, and ultimately a hook for audience to tune in next week. Fogelman and co-writer/creator Rick Singer wrote a smart pilot that was logical and plausible but yet has the potential to be so much more than just your regular sport-drama. Kylie Bunbury has the elusive star quality that makes her magnetic to watch, but whether she has the depth to carry out more emotionally heavy moments is still to be determined. Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays against type and yet somehow still remained the same, and that is truly fascinating, however his chemistry with Bunbury fleets in and out and please don't have them sleep together. Ali Larter - another Heroes alumni in a Fogelman show! - was great and her lines were golden. Also, Pitch de…

The Magnificent Seven

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Antoine Fuqua's remake of a classic Western was a decent film, if albeit chauvinistic and racist. It lacked originality, authenticity, fun and an emotional core. Nic Pizzolato's story was more about plotting and moving the story forward rather than a character-driven narrative (more season two than one of True Detective). Denzel Washington was the only cast member to be able to exude a sort of old school/western charm with Chris Pratt being pushed too hard to be quippy and the rest being one dimensional stereotypes.

Fuqua reunited with Washington and Ethan Hawke, all three were last seen together in the excellent Training Day, and their chemistry was evident. Sadly, Hawke was let down by a weak character that had a seemingly interesting backstory but went nowhere.

On the other hand with Pratt, Fuqua and Pizzolato tried too much to bank on his comedic background, but as funny a guy as Pratt is, his one-liners and quips seemed out of sync with the whole film and the rest of the…

Kubo and the Two Strings

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A simple and predictable fantasy fable that was wildly entertaining. Smart, affecting writing that did not dumb down the material brought laughter and scares, and an emotional sucker punch at the end that was not only surprising, but also well deserved. But most importantly, the stop-motion / CGI animation was downright stunning, and it has been a long time coming that a film's score had been so effectively used throughout.

Laika has done it again. The stop-motion maestros continued to astounding work with Kubo and the Two Strings. From the opening moments, the animation will leave you spell bound. Mixed that in with amazing origami action and seamless CGI background, and this is a real contender for best animation Oscar.

Of course, to be an Oscar contender the story itself is important, and the screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (with story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes) was well written. As simple - and predictable - as the storyline itself was, the way director Tra…

The Good Place

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Pilot, Episode 2 "Flying" and Episode 3 "Tahani Al-Jamil": A very refreshing comedy that explore high philosophical concepts, albeit superficially, in a sitcom-esque format. Anchored by the ever-charismatic Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, The Good Place is good for a good chuckle but three episodes in, there were not any truly laugh out loud moments. Plot and story, and even twists, have so far been predictable, although by the third episode, the supporting cast got more established and relevant. However, like many shows with such high-brow concepts, the main concern is how would the show runners maintain the conceit beyond the first season. What happens once everybody finds out the truth, accepts the truth and move on from it?

Designated Survivor

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Pilot: When Jack Bauer meets Clark Kent, you get Tom Kirkman. A by-the-numbers, political-thriller that seemed, at first glance, to be yet another variation of 24 or Homeland, but without the hook. Yes, the scenario is intriguing but a lot of what was shown in the pilot failed to address the potential fallout from such a scenario. Instead, we were revolving around Kiefer Sutherland who despite attempts to make himself seemed mousey and nerdy and non-intimidating - those glasses! - is undeniably very Jack Bauer still. The supporting casts all seemed bland, the child actors bring horrible flashbacks to Homeland's Chris and Dana Brody - remember them? Shudders! - and the plot itself does not seem capable to go beyond a limited series. And perhaps it is that last point that may keep the audience tuning in, because although Sutherland has charisma, but seeing how the show can sustain itself for a full season and beyond might be interesting.

Episode #2 The First Day: I'm bored. Desig…

This Is Us

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Pilot: Fall TV has finally swung in and one of the first new series is NBC's This Is Us. It may be a bit early to declare it, but Dan Fogelman's new series has the potential to be the next Parenthood. The pilot was smartly written with authentic dialogue and acutely genuine emotions as the family drama unfolds and the emotions are wrung out of the audience. Of course, this would not have been possible if not for the great cast who were perfectly cast and embodied their characters so well. Milo Ventimiglia has come a long way since his days as Jess in Gilmore Girls and in Heroes; Justin Hartley is a handsome revelation and Chrissy Metz is an heartache. Sterling K. Brown gave a great performance but his character was still a bit of a cipher. As was Mandy Moore who did not get much to do this time. The ending gave us a little twist that was, in my opinion, kind of expected but it really does open up many exciting storytelling potentials! Looking forward to the next few episodes.

E…

Sully

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Disclaimer: I have aviophobia, i.e. fear of flying.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first all-round Oscar contender here. Actually, just give Tom Hanks the Oscar now for Best Actor. Clint Eastwood will also almost definitely at least get a nomination for Best Director. Terrifyingly realistic and realistically touching without being overly schmaltzy or excessively melodramatic, Sully wassmartly directed and superbly acted, hooking the audience in from the get go all the way to the end of its 96 minutes run.

After a few misfires with Hereafter and J. Edgar, followed by the fun, but lightweight and mismatched, Jersey Boysand the politically-charged American Sniper, Eastwood finally returns to form that saw him won the Best Director for Million Dollar Baby. 

Eastwood made a lot of smart directorial choices here and most importantly in how to tell the story. He smartly focused on the Captain Sullenberger and not the trigger event itself, and by doing so, when it finally happened, we be…

Don't Breathe

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Don't Breathe was not an original film. Neither in its premise or plot. And despite its short run time of 88 minutes, the final act just would not end. However, director and co-writer Fede Alvarez had some really great moments that really stood out and effectively notched the tension and fear up to 11. Just for those alone, the film redeemed itself from predictability. Sadly, nobody was brave enough to embrace an unexpected ending which would then really have elevated the film from the rest of the pack (looking at you Lights Out).
The biggest issue, other than predictability, was that none of the characters were really worth rooting for. They were not even anti-heroes (or anti-villains) which could have elicit some sort of audience sympathy or empathy. They were flat, generic and single-mindedly motivated. But then again, one does not expect too much going into a film like this and really just ought to accept things and move on. 
Once again, kudos to Alvarez for effectively using …

Pete's Dragon

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A lighthearted, feel good film that had the joyous exhilaration of How To Train Your Dragon, the wide-eyed wondrous awe of The NeverEnding Story with a large smattering of the trademark Disney family wholesomeness.

Elliott was a wondrous creation by Weta Digital and was deservedly a character unto its own.

Kudos to director David Lowery on his first big budget film. He managed to make a remake feel slightly original, yet paid sufficient homage to the original and the brand. Although ultimately it felt like a typical Disney film in the end, the process of getting there, especially in the first act was at least refreshing.

The child actors were good, but Oakes Fegley somehow lacked the innocent naivety required for such a role. And his interactions with the digital Elliott, though touching was even less believable than Neel Sethi's portrayal of Mowgli in Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book.

Oona Laurence continued to shine and she will be a talent to watch out for as she grows.

Bryce…

Sing Street

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A charming, feel-good love-story/musical whose unbridled optimism about love, life and the future is as infectious as the original songs are catchy.

John Carney has written and directed another musical love story. Where Once was original, raw and full of passion, and Begin Againwas polished, sleek and Hollywood, Sing Street presented the young and innocence of puppy love, full of optimism, hope and dreams.

Regardless of what Carney thought of Keira Knightley, she has screen charms and a magnetic waifish attraction that helped to push the illusions of the fairy tale that was Begin Again. But here in Sing Street, Carney's decision to cast unknowns - Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton - as the leads did not lead to the sparks and palpable chemistry that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova had in Once. As such, the focus of the story fell on the idea of the plot rather than its execution.

What would you do to win the girl (or boy, if we are being politically correct)?

The film definite…

Genius

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A heavily sepia-tinged film that seemed a lot more suited to be on the stage but showcased a phenomenal supporting performance by Nicole Kidman.

Theatrically directed by Michael Grandage, especially in its scene transitions and blocking, and from a screenplay by the talented John Logan - who is known to string words together into beautiful sentences - the film and its undoubtedly brilliant cast tried to make the mundane process of editing into something interesting. Unfortunately, beyond the frantic montages of paper flying and red pencil scribblings they largely failed. The most interesting aspect of the film was its exploration of its main characters which felt underserved, but it was also those moments that elevated the film.

As talented a wordsmith as Logan is, he seemed torn in deciding on who his main focus should be on. Grandage similarly. Is the story of Max Perkins? Or is it a biographical adaptation of the life of Thomas Wolfe? Or is it the main focus actually the bromance …

Indignation

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After watching a film adaptation of a book and if the film makes one want to go out to read the book, it generally means that either the film was good or had squandered its potential. And in this case, thankfully it was the former, especially since it was a Philip Roth adaptation.

First time director James Schamus also wrote the screenplay and he has elegantly presented the 50s onto the big screen. An era where American idealism was at war and the sexual revolution was at its precipice, Roth/Schamus' flawed protagonist comes of age as he navigates the complicated terrain of sexual awakening/exploration and collegiate life. We follow his journey and explored what is the meaning of indignation. Is indignation a sign of principled behaviour? Or a show of weakness?

Logan Lerman matured as an actor, from his days as Percy Jackson to being a Wallflower, however he still has a distance to go. He may be the anchor of the film, but he lacked the depth and conviction of the role and only m…

Lights Out

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A fairly enjoyable horror flick that relied more on jump scares and violin screeches to deliver the jolts rather than creating a tense-filled atmosphere. Nonetheless, the evil was suitably creepy albeit laden with an unnecessary, and utterly, generic backstory.

David F. Sandberg directed the film from a script by Eric Heisserer based on Sandberg's original short story. And it shows. The slim 81 minutes of run time barely had enough substance to sustain a plot, much less any sense of character development. Too much time was spent on trying to give the horror an unnecessary, and unfortunately thin, origin story,

Teresa Palmer did a commendable job as the lead but Maria Bello was the standout. Gabriel Bateman was inconsistent as the token child-under-threat-in-a-horror-movie trope. He was creepier in Outcast.

Some good scares in the short run time, but not enough elements to sustain a high interest throughout.


Star Trek Beyond

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This Justin Lin directed sequel was thankfully devoid of lens flare, but despite its more straightforward narrative and competent directing, signs of franchise fatigue was obvious: the jokes ran thin (mainly courtesy of co-writer Simon Pegg), there was minimal emotional investment in the characters and all the actors looked like they were just dialing in their roles (and cashing the cheques), even Idris Elba.

Suicide Squad

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This film was bad. Not Batman v Superman bad, but still it was the kind of film whereby you would actually enjoyed it if you checked your brain at the door. Incoherent plot, choppy directing and editing, flat and flimsy characters, and worst of all - for a superhero (or in this case a super-villain) film - it was funless.

Behind-the-scenes studio-involved shenanigans notwithstanding, writer and director David Ayers can be blamed solely on the failure of this supposedly subversive entry into the superhero genre. Ayer did try to inject some fun into the, thus far, dark and gloomy DC Universe with Suicide Squad. And he did succeed in the first third. With a fun introduction to the main characters, but the first signs of trouble were also apparent then with his mismatched choices of "fun music" (trying too hard to emulate Guardians of the Galaxy, DC) to preface the scenes.

It is sad when one of the best scenes is better known for Eminem's rapping.

With so many characters to…

Ghostbusters

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A fairly charming and moderately entertaining comedy/horror that was surprisingly still sexist despite its much touted all-female lead.

The film, co-written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, and directed by Feig was uninspired and unoriginal. And if it was not for the nostalgic moments and Easter eggs that peppered the show, it was hard to be very interested in the Ghostbusters.

Sure, there were some funny moments and some good lines, but mostly the tone was flat with a lot of repetition and indifference. The best moments were too fleeting and you know you are in trouble when one of the best moments of the film is when the credits are rolling, with no audio..and the soundtrack over it.

Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy were undeniably the two leads - not necessarily the biggest stars - but their chemistry together were weak and tired (and tiring). Wigg plays the straight woman to McCarthy's kooky/eccentric one,  but at least Wigg understood comedy whereas McCarthy is, and always ha…

Steve Jobs [Blu-Ray]

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Such a pity that this film was largely ignored by audience and during the last awards season.

Aaron Sorkin's script was biting, fierce and sharp, and Danny Boyle's direction matched the electricity and fiery of Sorkin's words. Not that the whole film was all speeding-train fast. When Sorkin's script dialed down to bullet time, Boyle equally, and effectively, matched the tamping of mood and moment.

But none of all that if not for the excellent cast. Primarily the main duo of Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. Fassbender gave one of his best performances, easily eclipsing Leonardo DiCaprio who won for The Revenant. Similarly, Winslet was brilliant - as (almost) always. She and Rooney Mara should have been the real contenders for Best Supporting Actress - Alicia Vikander's role in The Danish Girl was really more lead than supporting.

Eddie the Eagle [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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An unabashedly feel good, the-underdog-triumphs, sports movie that effectively embraced its own schmaltz-ness and inspires the audience that dreams can come true. The film's strength laid in that it never took itself too seriously with a healthy dose of comedy mixed in with the over-wrought drama to tide us through its predictable 105 minutes run time.

Taron Egerton plays the eponymous with such indefatigable pluck and optimism that it was truly hard to resist not rooting for him. And Hugh Jackman...he was just being Hugh Jackman - effective in this case - but not essential (they couldn't get a real American to play a fake American?...or is that a meta joke?)

Speaking of which, it would have elevated the film if it was actually more rooted in fact.

The Lobster [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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A deliciously black and wholly original satirical love story masquerading as a fairy tale by Yorgos Lanthimos. The plot is simple, but the journey to the end - is it the end? - is not in a straight line.

Colin Farrell has never been better and Olivia Colman stole the show whenever she is on the screen. Strong performances by Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux with the always reliable Ashley Jensen, John C. Reily and Ben Wishaw providing backup.

A piercing commentary on our current societal obsession with pairing up and the superficiality of dating apps and yet, simultaneously not excusing the absurdity of those who vehemently oppose such behaviour. But ultimately, The Lobster is still a hopeful romantic at heart.

As Phoebe Buffay would say, "She's your lobster!"

The BFG [3D]

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A magical, family-friendly adventure fairy tale that will sure to delight children and the adults unfamiliar with Roald Dahl's classic.

For those who grew up mesmerised by Dahl's creations, this film is a potent mixture of nostalgia, masterful directing by Steven Spielberg, superb acting by Mark Rylance, magical music by John Williams and gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kamiński, that will entertain and amaze through the 117 minutes.

Finding Dory

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A fun, entertaining and worthy sequel that delivered the laughs, the drama and the emo-pathos. Finding Dory lives up to Pixar's legacy, but ultimately, it lacked the originality and wide-eyed, awe-inducing spectacle of the original and Pixar's best works.

Captain Fantastic

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The first truly great film of 2016 (that I've watched)!

A familiar yet wholly original family road-trip dramedy that is a strange and wondrous brew of what a Wes Anderson-esque Little Miss Sunshine would have been like. A truly fantastic cast all around, including all the young actors, and bolstered by strong supporting turns by George MacKay, Frank Langella and Ann Dowd. But this film belonged to Viggo Mortenson who gave a career-best performance that was utterly sensitive and mesmerising.

Writer/Director Matt Ross gave us a charming, touching and funny film that ran through a whole gamut of feelings and emotions from joy to sadness to heartbreak to love. At times it was cringe-worthily embarrassing and at times just blistering funny. The amazing chemistry and bond between the casts - particularly the children - was phenomenal and really entrapped the audience into their world.

I think this indie gem will be a shoo-in come awards season, with Mortenson in the running for a Best …

Independence Day: Resurgence

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Well, that was rather insipid?

A pale, nobody-asked-for-it, sequel that was as emotionally empty as the CGI was surprisingly bad and the destruction disturbingly bland. With only one truly good scene, the rest of the film plodded along with no real climax - both dramatically and emotionally.

Independence Day worked so well back then twenty years ago, because not only was "destruction-porn" something new, they had characters that we cared for. But in this case, although Roland Emmerich is back at the helm, these past twenty years of experience showed us that he had not learnt anything new in terms of visual storytelling or just plain storytelling.

The new characters were all so bland and generic and one-dimensional. We do not care about their fight or sacrifices. Especially since their chemistry together was barely existent. In the end, it was the alumni that really stole the show, but if only they had more screen time.

The product placements and Chinese endorsement were just…

Last Days in the Desert

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A contemplative and meditative film that was more a family and morality drama rather than a didactic scripture lecture from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia, son of literary legend Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Absolutely beautifully shot by three consecutive-times Oscar winner for cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki. Ewan McGregor and Ciaran Hinds were outstanding in their roles, but Tye Sheridan was badly miscast. And how come no one is complaining about whitewashing in this case?
There is a joke somewhere there in the casting: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mance Ryder and Cyclops walked in the desert…
Garcia’s story definitely had traces of his father’s Magical Realism and really that could be the only way to tell the fictional story of those 40 days in the desert. Some parts were a bit too heavy-handed on the religious symbology, but Garcia effectively told a story that explored the themes of Family, Morality, Filial Piety, Self vs Others without alienating the non-Judeo-Christian audience member.
The …

The Conjuring 2

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A genuinely scary horror film that entertains despite it being familiar and predictable. Director James Wan succeeded in making a worthy sequel that had great scares and a horrifically tense atmosphere especially in the first act.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga had great chemistry together and the film/franchise really sold the premise based on these two actors. In particular, Farmiga anchored the film with her character's faith, love and strength. Frances O'Connor held her own as the mother-of-the-haunted-child, although she never really allowed herself to be totally immersed into that genre/stereotype - which can be good or bad depending on your attitude towards these films.

Pity the children were not scary. Similarly, neither was the "villain" which came across more Babadook than Puzuzu and lacked the horror that Wan so meticulously built up.

Running at 134 minutes, it was just a tad too long and the finale felt rushed. As effective as the first act was, it coul…

Outcast

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Pilot: What a great pilot! Smartly written with a great hook and effectively establishing the creepy as hell tone from start to end. It feels like The Exorcist meets The Conjuring meets Preacher. Everything from the music (by Atticus Ross) to the directing and cinematography was top notch in making this feel scary and foreboding. Robert Kirkman's script wisely chose to start in media res and slowly tease out bits of information on the backstory which really gets the audience hooked. I can't wait to find out more about what the hell is really happening! The casting was spot on, and even though our leads were relatively unknowns, the benefit of them not having the burden of fame helped to sell the story. Patrick Fugit in particular seemed to be channeling Hugh Dancy from Hannibal. Gosh, that boy was scary! Can't wait for the next episode!

The Angry Birds Movie

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This was a film with ADHD and directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reily added on Ritalin and Adderall. It  moved along relentlessly in an riotous explosion of colours, sounds and juvenile gags. Aimed squarely at the young ones, this animation rarely raised above a slight chuckle as its three-act structure neatly checks off everything one would expect an app-turned-movie to do: prologue/background of the central premise and follow that with anything and everything from the game because that is what they expect the audience to want. Although, that ending was a bit of an emotional surprise which goes to show that regardless of all that mayhem that happened in the earlier 90 minutes, Red/Eyebrows is still an effective hero. Cute little mid-credits scene at the end.