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Showing posts from February, 2017

Elle

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A subversive, psychological thriller with a powerfully enigmatic and utterly mesmerising performance by Isabelle Huppert. Can she do what Marion Cotillard did and what was robbed from Emmanuelle Riva?

Paul Verhoeven, of "Basic Instinct" fame (and "Showgirls" infamy), has directed an oddly exciting, occasionally disturbing, and almost always taut, sexual-psychological thriller. Dealing with multiple issues related to sex from infidelity, jealousy, cougar-ism, rape, power, gender roles, etc, Verhoeven translated these onto the screen with a very Euro (or "French") sensibility. And it is this rather non-sensational - even blasé- portrayal of sex (and all its aspects) that leads the story down an exciting and, almost heretofore, unchartered narrative.

But through it all, the story was anchored by the phenomenal Huppert. Truly, this lady deserves all the accolades and her performance here was mesmerising. Outwardly strong and tough yet occasionally the facade…

Moonlight

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Director/Writer Barry Jenkins' moving examination about one boy's tumultuous upbringing shaping his teenage years and moulding him into the man he becomes is both a deeply personal story about self-identity and also an heartachingly poetic narrative of love and romance.

Where "Fences" and Denzel Washington failed in their translation from stage to screen, Jenkins effectively transposed Tarbell Alvin McCraney's "In Midnight Black Boys Look Blue" to the silver screen and embraced all that cinema has to offer to give the story the necessary added depth, scope and cinematic magic.
However, all would have been for nought if not for the cast.

Jenkins struck jackpot with his casting of Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert as the film's protagonist in all three ages. Not only for their uncanny resemblance to each other, but also in the way their eyes and body talk. Similarly, the roles of his best friend were also exceptional. Perhaps only Rich…

Fences

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A difficult and complicated film to watch with a lead character that is as unlikeable as he is undeniably relatable to everybody in some aspect. Denzel Washington is a force to reckon with, bringing this complicated man of August Wilson's into being. However, just give the damn Oscar to Viola Davis already. *That* moment haunts you! One of the most powerful scene captured on screen.
Washington directed the film and it was possibly its weakest portion. There was a constant conundrum in how he presented the story. At times, the film felt like a play and at times like a film trying to be a play. The story definitely fits the landscape and ridgity of a stage, but Wilson's screenplay and Washington's direction lacked the energy and scope offered by celluloid.

Although there was quite a fair bit of backlash with Davis for running for the Best Supporting Actress, the way the film presented it, Davis' character was there in support of Washington's even if she was the only…

Hidden Figures

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A feel good, underdog triumphs, girl-power film, highlighting both a significant and unlooked scientific history during a period of known darkness and discrimination. Led by the superbly entertaining and funny trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, this story deserved to be told. However, despite all the hype, its execution was rather lightweight and the storytelling frou frou in nature. Director Theodore Melfi could not find the true heart of the story and although all three women are extraordinary in nature, without a true focus, all three stories felt under served.
Henson was great. Funny and heartfelt, showing us the great range that she has that made her a previous Oscar nominee and now a perennial Cookie/Emmy nominee. However, she was failed by the lack of characterisation and the simplicity in which her character was handled.

Spencer was also strong in her role. Although like Henson, her character was way too simplified.

Monae was a revelation but her sto…

Jackie

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Three things stood out for this film. Firstly, Natalie Portman's transformational performance. She was utterly astounding and absolutely enthralling as she inhabits the role of Jacqueline Kennedy. This is to her what Margaret Thatcher was to Meryl Streep. She made Jackie such a layered character and never allowing her to be clearly defined nor her inner thoughts and motivations transparent.

Secondly, was director Pablo Larrain's style. Filming the story almost documentary-like, it gave a sense of immediacy and intimacy (and even voyeurism) to the proceedings on screen. And the constant close ups gave the actors no chance to let up on their performances. The camera constantly embraced Portman's face and she never broke. An absolute magnetic presence.

Thirdly, was the production. The costumes, hair and makeup were gorgeous. The score was a character on its own, haunting, intimate, jarring and yet also an extension of Portman: constantly heightening her emotions. Both Costum…

Hell or High Water

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A great gem of a film by David Mackenzie that showcased excellent work from all three co-leads.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine sold the story of two different, yet ultimately similar, brothers with their tight chemistry and solid acting. Pine doing his best work and reminding us he is not just Captain Kirk and Foster following up his star-solidifying turn in The Programe with another strong, character work that steals the show. Then of course we have Jeff Bridges, nominated for a Best Supporting Actor here, who imbued a possibly flat character with layers of complexity that made his story worth paying attention to.

Mackenzie's direction was assured and the story told with enough action and tension to actually keep the engagement throughout. Other than a slow opening, the pacing was great. There was enough complexity and depth to not make the characters or their motivations stale. Even when the scene slowed down, to something cliched, Mackenzie wisely chose not to linger too long on th…

The Lego Batman Movie

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The Lego Batman Movie may perhaps be the best DCEU movie thus far - if it was canon - but where The Lego Movie was original and funny and new, The Lego Batman Movie felt more like a parody of the DCEU (and to a lesser extent, MCU and the superhero genre) than a standalone product. Nonetheless, this film was loads of fun for its whole 104 minutes (credits to credits, seriously...don't miss the beginning!).  It was irreverent, ridiculous, silly, laugh out loud funny, loud, noisy, colourful...and forgettable.

The film was at its best when it was aware that it was parodying itself. The self-referential remarks and punchlines were hilariously funny, as were the digs at the whole Batman franchise itself. However, the incessant pop culture references stretched too much and got to the point of reference-for-reference sake and look-at-us-we-are-so-cool-and-hip.

The voice-cast was excellent, especially Will Arnett and Ralph Fiennes. They both had a good audio rapport and was believable. Mic…

Allied

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We are truly living in the Golden (or Platinum) Age of Television when while watching this film, one cannot help but think that the story would make an excellent prestige drama or event series, under ten episodes total. But instead, what we ended up with was a subpar WWII spy drama that lacked urgency, tension, romance, thrills and drama. Ultimately, regardless of the shortcomings of Steven Knight's screenplay and Robert Zemeckis' directing, this film was failed by the absence of chemistry between its two leads: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.

To be fair, Cotillard did her best and she was the more engaging of the duo. Unfortunately, Zemeckis and Knight chose to tell the story from the Pitt's character's POV and after the first third, Cotillard was relegated to the background. Her previously established characterisation wiped clean and forgotten until the penultimate scene.

With the weight of the film resting on Pitt's shoulders, he had a lot to answer for, but sa…

Split

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M. Night Shyamalan follows up his (modest) comeback hit The Visit with another back-to-form psychological/paranormal thriller which really only worked because of the astounding, chameleonic acting showcased by James McAvoy. The epilogue was a pleasant surprise and I am so glad I was not spoilt on it at all.

Shyamalan's writing and directing still lacked subtlety - also evident by the promo posters for the movie - and nothing that happened throughout the film was really surprising. On one hand, that showed incredible restrain by Shyamalan, but yet it does not make for an interesting narrative.

Similarly, all the other characters, besides McAvoy and the lead girl (Anya Taylor-Joy). were so thinly written that it was hard to root for them. As much as Shyamalan tried to upturn the conventional trope of girl(s)-abducted-and-so-be-useless, it came out more mocking than smart.

Furthermore, even with Taylor-Joy's character, she was so blandly written that it made it very hard to root…

Legion

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Chapter 1: I am seriously in love with this new series, and this is just from the first episode. A stunning, visually arresting, absolutely trippy tour de force by Fargo's creator Noah Hawley. I love the directing, the storytelling, the set designs, the sound designs, the music, the cinematography and the acting! This first episode has got to be one of the most daring, beautifully directed and shot pilot in a long time! Despite its trippiness and non-linear narrative and its tendencies to flit in and out of reality - what is reality?? which is reality?? - the story is so absolutely engaging that you just trust that Hawley will deliver the goods. What pilot has the audacity to insert a Bollywood-esque dance number in the middle of a revelatory moment? Kudos to Hawley and I cannot wait for more!

24: Legacy

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12:00 Noon - 1:00 PM: Undoubtedly, the familiar ticking of the 24 digital clock still brings with it the expected adrenaline rush and excitement, but Jack Bauer was most definitely missed in this first hour of the reboot. Corey Hawkins is our new hero and thus far, he lacked the charismatic gruffness of Kiefer Sutherland to adequately engage the audience. In addition, the main plot itself has so far been rather pedestrian and contrived, with plot moments and twists telegraphed a mile away. The "B"-plot itself. 24's usual politicking shenanigans holds more intrigue as it is at least anchored by the magnetic enigma that is Miranda Otto - shades of her Homeland role carried over - with Jimmy Smits and Teddy Sears being the men behind her. The "C"-plot dragged it down almost as much as when Kim Bauer met the cougars. Chloe is sorely missed. Even Teri and Nina and David Palmer and Charles Logan and Tony and Michelle...comparisons will be inevitable and currently 24:…