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Showing posts from 2019

Long Shot

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Long Shot was a light, frothy and entertaining rom-com, but they sure do not make rom-coms like they use do. It knows it is a rom-com but had a fear of committing totally to the genre. The film was littered with rom-com tropes but always toed the line of either going all meta and genre-parodying or breaking new ground and going against the expected. 
Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen have great comedic chemistry, although their romantic chemistry was somewhat lacking. There were some really good laugh out loud moments, but they were more because of great, unexpected physical comedy by Rogen rather than smart, funny writing. The screenplay was the film's weakest link.. It was a bit too long, too uneven, too ambitious and unnecessarily political. If I wanted to watch a Trump-skewering political comedy/satire, I would watch re-runs of The Good Fight  or Veep.
Rogen is a good actor, but his character felt stereotypical and repetitive. He was a walking trope but he lacked the affable, sel…

Burning 버닝

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Lee Chang-dong successfully and faithfully translated Haruki Murakami’s beautiful, poetic prose to the screen. 

A slow-burn psychological thriller / character study that weaved an ambiguous narrative with haunting imageries. There are cats, jazz, running and even a sprinkle of magical realism, but all yet grounded in Lee’s reality of KPop, societal isolation, the desolation of youth and the dichotomy of classes. 

Three actors held “Burning” together, and although Steve Yeun and Jeon Jong-seo were great in their role, especially the latter who had a haunting yet magnetic presence, it really was Yoo Ah-in’s story that Lee was telling and Yoo was exceptional. He was emotive without being exaggerating, and sincere without being superficial. And through the film, we do end up caring about him and for him.

Burning was possibly one of the best Murakami’s adaptation and rewarding for both fans of Murakami and cinephiles.

Avengers: Endgame

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One word: Epic. Two words: Fan Service. 

Nonetheless, kudos to the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige for crafting a fitting finale that never felt at all like it was 3-hours long. An unabashed fan service final film that daftly balanced character work, action/CGI extravaganza, emotional drama and physical comedy. However, as epic as Endgame was, it was surprisingly a tighter ensemble drama than Infinity War. There were emotional payoffs that felt earned, although ultimately the story - and the storytellers - lacked the bravery to have more consequential narrative beats.

The film was neatly divided into three acts and each act could easily have been a movie unto itself. This was good in terms of structure and storytelling. It was clear, objective and succinct, but then it also resulted in briefer and narrower character arcs that did not allow non-major characters to be anything more than narrative devices or plot contrivances. And it was this that made the film felt fan service-y. But, this…

A Private War

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This was the film and character that Rosamund Pike deserved to get nominated for an Oscar for. She should have been there along side Olivia Colman, Yerlitza Arpacio and Glenn Close (the other two - not naming names - not so much).  A strong, ferocious portrayal of the equally strong and courageous Marie Colvin, Pike was magnetic. It was a vanity-free performance that was layered and nuanced and convincing.  The biggest drawback however, was that director Matthew Heineman and writer Arash Amel chose to focus primarily on Colvin’s career and less on who she was and why she was how she was. Luckily, Pike managed to elucidate some of that of mystery through her interpretation and her performance, and we do get some sort of idea of the kind of person Colvin might have been in private.  Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander and Stanley Tucci rounded out the main men supporting Pike, and they all sparred with Pike to give her the moments to shine.  Heineman’s film was tight, brisk and taut and Colvin…

Vox Lux

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An uneven film that was unsure of its purpose, does it want to be a satire about pop and celebrity culture or a family drama of two sisters or a social commentary about America and/or modern society? 

Director and co-writer Brady Corbet seemed to want to be experimental but the final product just ended up being unfocused. And was the Wilem Dafoe narration really necessary? Show, not tell...

However, Natalie Portman was magnificent! This was her film. 

Portman appeared in like a tornado in the second half and absolutely Black Swan-ed her way from start to end. With her, the film finally gained some momentum and even Corbet’s unnecessary and indulgent long takes were improved by having Portman owning the screen. 

Raffey Cassidy - as the young Portman and then her daughter - held her own in the first half, but she lacked the screen charisma of Portman. 

Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law and Stacey Martin rounded out the main cast. They supported Cassidy and the film in the beginning but were there real…

Dumbo

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A true family-film and crowd-pleaser. The first, proper four-quadrant winner of 2019. An absolute delightful mix of Disney nostalgia and Tim Burton aesthetics. Burton's storytelling was a perfect fit for Dumbo and this will surely appeal to children and also their Gen X/Y parents who still remembered the 1941 cartoon and Burton back in his heydays of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

Gorgeously shot with beautiful visuals and a great score, this was Burton and Danny Elfman at their best...finally, again! Kudos to cinematographer Ben Davis who is doing better work here than he did for MCU. Maybe he should work with Burton more.

Dumbo was funny, touching, scary, exciting, tense, exhilarating, and most of all, simple. True, it was a bit too simple (but hey, we do not need to complicate it for children) and the screenplay by Ehren Kruger was the weakest link. Some of the heart and sincerity of the original's story telling got lost by expanding the film to nearly 2 hours. Howeve…

Us

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The only reason to watch Us was Lupita Nyong'o's performance; it definitely was not for Jordan Peele's writing or direction, although granted there were some good directorial/cinematographic choices. However, overall, Peele's execution was left wanting. A great concept that had ambitious, lofty goals to examine themes of Consumerisms, self and identity, the American Dream and class conflicts (Us vs Them, the Have-nots vs the Have-lots), but ended up feeling scattered and unfocused. And way too much logic holes and gaps that interfered with the storytelling.

All good horror and sci-fi films either have some truth that ground the story or just be totally out-there, but Us could never commit to either. The result was a film that was flat and never really kicked into gear. As a horror film it was un-horrifying (even less so than Get Out) and un-terrifying; as a thriller it lacked tension and the pacing was awkward (most of the comedic moments felt out of place and really …

Captain Marvel [IMAX]

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Comparisons will be inevitable, so let’s just say that “Captain Marvel” ain’t no “Wonder Woman”, and Brie Larson did not have the screen charisma of Gal Gadot. But it definitely landed the ending unlike WW which petered and crashed out in the end. The film ran on first gear throughout and only untill the last act did it rock out. But that was awesome! And you know you are in trouble when the best character on screen is named “Goose”. Larson’s hero moment was worth it (and justified the IMAX) but getting there, the first two acts suffered a major dearth of emotionality or audience empathy. “Captain Marvel” can be best classified as a Buddy Cop Comedy meets Intergalactic Drama, but Larson was never really dramatic nor funny. She appeared wooden most of the time and constantly seemed blanked rather than confused/unsure (as good as “Room” was, Cate, Saoirse or Charlotte should have won that Oscar); and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson seemed forced. There were plenty of quips strewn a…

If Beale Street Could Talk [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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What a beautiful film this was. Beautifully shot, directed, written and scored. And oh so heartbreakingly emotional. Such a shame that it was not more well received at the Oscars. Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel was sublime. The main plot which was essentially a crime drama and a doorway to the racial-political theme was engaging enough but it really was the central romance that held the film together as it weaved in and out through the narrative like a framework threading tears along the way. It was tender and sincere and remarkably brought to life by Kiki Layne and Stephen James, especially Layne who will be a star to look out for in the future. Regina King absolutely deserved her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her fierce, strong and powerful performance. It had a raw honesty absent from Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”. The score by Nicholas Britell was beautiful, stirring and emotive without being intrusive; the cinematography by James Lexton…

Mary, Queen of Scots [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

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On paper this film had so many things going right for it. A controversial historical character led by Oscar nominated lead actresses, but the execution was a mess. At times the film felt like a bad soap opera. The dramatisation lacked depth and substance and neither Queens had much characterisation beyond the superficial. Political intrigue gave way to sexual exploits for a simplistic historic retelling. Queen Mary really deserved a better biopic. Although I applaud director Josie Rourke’s choice of racial-blind casting, the decision for everybody to use their own accents was not a smart one as it added another layer of unnecessary distraction. And that heavy-handed focus on political correctness was absurd and too jarringly out of place. The costumes and make ups were gorgeous but pox-scarred does not make Margot Robbie anywhere close to Regina, Emma or Rachel’s calibre, though her showdown scene with Saoirse Ronan did show a sliver of Tonya-calibre acting. Ronan has a beautiful visa…

At Eternity's Gate

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A poetic film that managed to illustrate Vincent van Gogh's life through a series of vignettes and moments that were largely absent of dialogue. Any dialogue present served only to illuminate the thoughts and mental health of this seemingly troubled genius, rather than furthering any narrative. Director Julian Schnabel assumed that the audience for this film already has an idea of van Gogh's life and his purpose is really to create a filmscape echoing an artist's search for perfection and for truth; film is Schnabel's canvas as painting was to van Gogh.

Willem Dafoe bore a striking resemblance to the van Gogh's self-portraits and he had an intensity to the role that vividly brought Schnabel's van Gogh to life. Rami Malek could learn a lesson or two on acting. However, his age was a distraction. Van Gogh died at 37 years old and Dafoe is now 63 years old. Granted living condition then, and the fact that van Gogh was possibly an alcoholic, it was possible that v…

91st Academy Awards (Oscars 2019)

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This year's Oscars is genuinely rather exciting and unpredictable both for its nominations and also the production antics surrounding the event. Surprisingly, there aren't many locked-ins this year. The closest we have to a guaranteed win is "Shallow" for Best Song, and maybe Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor. We will be in for an exciting award show as the season finally comes to a close.


*Winners are highlighted in red


BEST PICTURE

BLACK PANTHER
BLACKKKLANSMAN
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
THE FAVOURITE
GREEN BOOK
ROMA
A STAR IS BORN
VICE
Who Should Win: Roma Who Will Win: Roma
Who Could Win: Green Book or Black Panther

Any film can win the big prize except Bohemian Rhapsody. Please. This year was really a toss up between Roma and The Favourite. Roma was beautiful, affecting and heart-wrenching in its simplicity and honesty. The Favourite was terrific, witty and an absolute delight to watch with riveting performance by all three ladies.


BEST DIRECTOR

BLACKKKLANSMAN Spike Lee COLD WA…