Showing posts from January, 2018

Black Lightning

Episode #1: The Resurrection and Episode #2: Lawanda: The Book of Hope
The CW's latest entry into its ever expanding DC superhero franchise is decidedly different from anything else that Greg Berlanti et al has done. And, no, it is not only about the pre-dominantly African-American cast, but also the whole tone and mood of the series. It definitely is not as light and breezy as The Flash or Supergirl, nor is it as irreverent as DC's Legends of Tomorrow; but yet not also not as dark and grim as Arrow. Black Lightning as a point. It is topical. It is gritty. It is violent (or as violent as can be on network TV). It does not shy away from making a socio-political statement reflective of the world we live in now. And for all that, it is an exciting series. The closest - and perhaps inevitable - comparison would be with Netflix's Luke Cage. Thematically they are both similar, but whereas Luke Cage benefited from cable network's PG-standards and a higher budget. Black Lightn…

Phantom Thread

This was a very Paul Thomas Anderson sort of film. PTA crafted an unique/atypical love story (and a somewhat cautionary tale regarding loving an artist) between two highly-complex sociopaths that was tremendously well-acted by Daniel Day-Lewis, in another highly committed performance, and newcomer Vicky Krieps, in a star-making turn; both of whom were supported by the ever-reliable and commanding Lesley Manville. As expected, the costumes by Mark Bridges were gorgeous; but more unexpectedly was the beautiful score by Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist of Radiohead.

PTA wrote and directed Phantom Thread and it is hard to imagine that it was not in some way sort of semi-autobiographical. Nonetheless, this historic fashion drama is unlike Saint Laurentor YSL, but a highly nuanced character study of one very unlikeable man, and his equally unlikeable muse. However, the strength of PTA's work laid in layering these characters for they were never really outrightly detestable.

At the heart…

The Resident

Pilot and "Independence Day": After two episodes, it is safe to say that this latest medical drama tried to offer up something supposedly edgy but ended up with just another ho-hum medical procedural. But at least Matt Czuchry gets to play the lead after being second - and then third - fiddle in his last series The Good Wife. Czuchry is good here. And also wasted. Maybe, hopefully, his storyline will pick up and he develop more as a character, rather than just being the rebel without really a cause. Standouts so far include Billions fave Shaunette Renee Wilson and late entry Melina Kanakareded. Both ladies brought a complexity to their characters given their little screen time. Emily VanCamp, on the other hand, as the female co-lead ain't no Nurse Carol, and so far, other than being shown to smart, attentive and had a thing with Czuchry's character, is kind of a blah/blank. At least she has chemistry with Czuchry. Lastly, we have Bruce Greenwood who is so good at bei…

The Post

A very timely and topical film that was well-directed by Steven Spielberg and boasted terrific performances by its multi-talented cast. However, in its totality, the film did still feel like a by-the-numbers kind of thriller that was perhaps a bit too blatant and on-the-nose in its moralising. That being said, it was still entertaining, smart and riveting and Meryl Streep was great in it. Streep had many standout scenes both loud and commanding, and quieter yet mesmerising ones; Tom Hanks, on the other hand, although good and convincing, was much less showy than Streep and in his previous two films. The very-talented supporting cast was a veritable who's who of Hollywood (both the big screen and small), including Tracey Letts, Carrie Coon, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Michael Stuhlberg, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Zach Woods and Allison Brie. A Best Picture nominee for sure, with Spielberg and Streep as potential nominees in a crowded field, and perhaps an Origin…

Darkest Hour

Together with the cast and the creative team, director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarten, created a film that was utterly riveting despite all the talking and the 125 minutes run time. But more than that, the film was also surprisingly funny, unexpectedly rousing and heartfelt. This was Wright's best film since Atonement. Gary Oldman was phenomenon in it, just give him the Best Actor Oscar already, and the supporting cast was also stellar, especially the underrated Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James and Ben Mendelsohn. In addition, the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel and the score by Dario Marianelli (whom also worked with Wright on Atonement) were both absolutely top-notched; similarly, the costume design by Jacqueline Durran was outstanding, as were the makeup and production design. This film was an outstanding creative achievement.

Wright's direction was assured and he paced the story very well, except maybe for a slight lagging in the middle of the second act. Howeve…

Molly's Game

This was, from the start, a very Aaron Sorkin-ish kind of film with bullet-speed dialogue, rapid-fire exchanges, sports metaphors and humour. The film was engaging, intelligent, funny and even a bit sentimental, and despite its 140 minutes runtime, it never felt long or draggy. There is a benefit of having Sorkin direct his own script, as he would be the best person to understand how he would want to tell the story. Although the choice to have so much voiceovers was a gamble, but luckily he has a way with words and Jessica Chastain's narration was great. She was a great casting choice, with her pro-feminist persona in full force as she ably rattled off Sorkin's words with aplomb, and giving a strong, layered performance as Molly Bloom. Her chemistry with Idris Elba as a Sorkin-dialogue sparring partner was palpable and it would have been great if they had more moments together.

Sorkin's directorial debut was competent, however he does not seem to have an eye for continuit…

All The Money in the World

A competent thriller/drama, given all its last minute controversies, that remained intriguing and rather tightly tensed by Ridley Scott despite the mildly apparent and distracting reshoots. Nonetheless, Scott deserved praise for his dedication and direction to saving this film in light of Spacey-gate. Christopher Plummer more than aptly raised to the challenge presenting a fascinating portrayal of an equally fascinating man, and Michelle Williams gave a strongly nuanced and layered performance that deserved to be seen. Unfortunately Mark Wahlberg was the weakest link of the main cast. David Scarpa's screenplay was efficient but the story - and Scott's direction - tended to meander and lose focus in a long/draggy second act; Dariusz Wolski's washed-out palette also did not help to engage the audience visually. Where the film worked best was its character studies of J. Paul Getty and Gail Getty, and consequently when the focus were on Plummer and Williams.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

An absolutely riveting, searingly powerful and bitingly black comedy/drama by the brilliant director/writer Martin McDonagh. Led by Frances McDormand in a tour de force performance and the equally astounding Sam Rockwell, the talented ensemble cast (in particular Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Hedges) brought McDonagh's wickedly smart script to life. This was despite the film's difficult premise and generally unlikeable characters. However, McDormand and Rockwell really nailed their complex characters and hit it right off the park. They both should be in the running come Oscar season and hopefully together with McDonagh for screenplay and maybe even direction, Carter Burwell for another sublimal score and Ben Davis' for his lensing. With one of the longest title - yet also catchiest - "Three Billboards..." had moments that were sincerely touching and emotionally raw, and also equal parts bitingly funny and honestly bleak, this film was superb and a…

The Greatest Showman

An entertaining, original, period-musical that was over ambitious in its scope, scattered in its direction and shallow in its emotional execution, but by god, Hugh Jackman was charismatic and the songs were show-tunes calibre and quality. The life story of P.T. Barnum - interesting in its own right - was too complex to be shoehorned into an 105 minutes musical. Newbie director Michael Gracey lacked the chops to handle the story and the reshoots by James Mangold were apparent in the scattered tone of the final product. The book - or the script by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon - had too many strands that were not well handled, resulting in a lack of character depths and emotional resonance. Other than Jackman, broadway star Keala Settle was a refreshing breath and Rebecca Ferguson was aptly cast; unfortunately Michelle Williams looked bored and lacked chemistry with Jackman, and Zac Efron was badly miscast (does Zendaya have a clause in her contract that her romantic partner must not be t…


A wonderfully told, unabashed, tearjerker that absolutely earned its tugs on the heartstrings. A film for all ages that is so relevant with its message of optimism and kindness. Directorial manipulation is inevitable but Stephen Chbosky kept the swells of the strings and the montages to a bare minimum, instead relied on the strength of R.J. Palacio's story, the sincerity of its characters and the honest, heartfelt portrayal of its actors. If Sandra Bullock could win a Best Actress with "The Blind Side", then Julia Roberts really, really deserves at least a nomination. Her performance exuded sincerity, warmth, vulnerability and a genuine maternal love. But this film belonged to the young actors and the casting of Jacob Tremblay, Noah Jupe and Izabela Vidovic were superb casting choices with Chbosky eliciting a natural, authentic ease from them. Equally, the rest of the supporting cast from Owen Wilson and Mandy Patinkin to Daveed Diggs and Danielle Rose Russell were spot …


A beautifully shot and uniquely crafted film. Director Dee Rees weaved a multi-faceted and multi-layered story interlaced with alternating POVs of the main characters like chapter divisions in a novel. The film explored a myriad of themes from race and class division, family vs self, post-war PTSD and place in society, and ignorance and inaction vs responsibility and guilt; but for all its ambitions, "Mudbound" could not sustain the juggling act and some stories fell to the side. However, the most important of which - racial politics - was powerfully told and climaxed in an heart wrenching third act. And Dee Rees was the director to tell that story, in particular this less often told period of American history: the changing of generation and evolving attitudes and the conflict within family towards the change. A complex story with complex characters, simply told. Mary J Blige was a standout with a strong, restrained performance; Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan were as usual …

Call Me By Your Name

A touching and affecting coming of age story by Luca Guadagnino that exuded sensuality without overt sexuality and effortlessly showcased the emotional turbulence of First Love. Beautifully crafted, the film is intensely powerful in its languidity as Timothée Chalamet commanded our attention as we cycled with him through the emotional turmoil that is adolescence. Chalamet fell into his character with natural ease, perfectly embodying the 17-years old in all his youth, energy, confusion, naïveté and passion. He will surely get a nomination, but would he win? Was he acting or was he just playing a role that was him? Either of which, he deserves recognition. Playing opposite him, Armie Hammer had the best role of his career; believable in his capacity as the older, more worldly-wised man. But for all the film's honesty, sensuality and beauty, the chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer lacked the enigmatic passion that would have made this a love story for the ages. Instead, the coming…

Wonder Wheel

A good performance by Kate Winslet that bordered on over-maniacal against a more-exaggerated-than-usual Woody Allen dramedy on Fate and Love. Jim Belushi held his own with Winslet and Juno Temple was an interesting revelation, however Justin Timberlake was miscast and distracting with his foundation-caked complexion, botoxed and doll-eyed blank stares. Perhaps it was the Allen controversy, but Winslet does deserve some recognition for her work here as a complicated woman/mother/wife/lover. She had two stunning monologues - in single takes no less - that showcased her talent, but perhaps her lack of campaigning amidst the current climate was a double-edged sword for her.

The Disaster Artist

James Franco turned in a committed and truly charismatic and very funny performance as the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau that was oddly affecting and also surprisingly touching. James Franco really does deserve a nomination again for Best Actor this year. As the director, Franco did a great job in telling the unique story of Wiseau and "The Room" without mocking nor belittling the history or the legacy; and also not excessively elevating it beyond its cult status. Instead, what he did was that he managed to make a consistently funny pseudo-mockumentary that injected empathy for its subject and a piqued curiosity for those who have not watched "The Room". The parade of pals-of-Franco making cameos throughout also helped to keep the film interesting. With regards to casting his brother - Dave Franco - as a co-lead, that was a brilliant decision. The chemistry and trust between them both were critical in the selling of the story and the dynamics between Wiseau and Greg Seste…

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Another outstanding and original modern day morality fable by Yorgos Lanthimos inspired by the Euripides' "Iphigenia in Aulis". Highly macabre and deeply disturbing, but yet tinged with the bleakest of black humour in its harrowing - yet darkly honest - exploration of humanity, family, parenthood and responsibility. Led by a suitably restrained Colin Farrell and a chillingly haunting, top-formed, Nicole Kidman, with a breakout performance by Barry Keoghan. The film was also enhanced by the eclectic and aptly fitting, atmospheric music/score by sound designer Johnnie Burns and Lathimos, and the visual cinematography of Thimios Bakatakis.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

As part of the Star Wars franchise, this was a great entry into the mythos with major character developments coupled with good action, narrative twists and emotional relevance. However, objectively, as a film, it was poorly acted (still looking at you three Daisy Ridley the blank, Adam Driver the petulant pout and John Boyega the stare) and ham-fistedly scripted, riding on the goodwill of the fan base to cover up the lack of emotional resonance, multiple plot holes and contrivances and heavy handed mythology exposition - too much tell, too little show, Rian Johnson. And as cute as the Porgs were, it was too much blatant merchandising branding by Disney. At least we had Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro and Oscar Isaac, some gorgeous cinematography by Steve Yedlin (one moment at the end of the Second Act was simply...WOW!) and another great score by John Williams. "The Last Jedi" clearly moved the pieces to prep the stage for a potentially great finale, and with JJ Abrams back at …