26 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Update (9 July 2015): Caught it again on IMAX 3D, and - boy! - it was worth it! IMAX was spectacular and the 3D really added to the depth of the cinematography. The action scenes were still just as exhilarating!

A bit late to the show, but this was a great film, even if measured beyond a Summer blockbuster yardstick! This film was exhilarating, exciting and gorgeously stylish throughout its whole 120 minutes which was barely felt.

George Miller has a very interesting eye for the visuals and action choreography. He and cinematographer John Seale created many gorgeously sumptuous images with both wide-angled and close-ups. The intense action scenes barely let up from start to end, and it is to Miller's credit that none of the sequences were messy. And this was also despite the tonally similar palette.

Kudos also to Junkie XL for the music. The drums and bass really enhanced the adrenaline pumping thrills from the screen.

The story - also by Miller - was deceptively simple and yet believable. The narrative punctuates the action in this instance and not the other way around, and when it slows down, it was never boring or tedious. Miller made full use of each downtime to forward the story/characters - even the kooky love-story.

But all that would be for naught if Miller did not have an excellent cast to start with, and one requirement the main cast seemed to have was that their eyes must be expressive. There was minimal dialogue in this films - not much time for talking amidst all the action.

Tom Hardy brood his way throughout and though with minimal lines, we are actually able to empathise with him.

This movie was really more about Charlize Theron's story. It is like a Mad Max vignette where our titular hero stumbled into another protagonist's life. Theron was pretty and tough and ably held her own.

Nicholas Hoult has one of the bluest eyes in the industry, and those definitely held him to stand out. Even Rosie Huntington-Whitely had her best role in this movie.

But definite standout was Hugh Keays-Byrne as the antagonist. He and his crazy-eyes!

This would have been excellent on an IMAX screen and 3D may or may not add value.

Best overall movie of the summer! Yes, I think it was better than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

25 May 2015


Tomorrowland may be one of the biggest disappointments of Summer 2015. A visually stunning movie by Brad Bird who clearly had big visions for the story that he wants to tell, but unfortunately, Damon Lindelof (and Jeff Jansen) came along and Prometheus-ed it to where Lost now lays and wither.

The good thing about this movie is the potential that it had from the moment it starts. A great opener and a brilliant choice by Bird to start the movie with a double prologue. The black box mystery was established early - the concept itself interesting though not highly original - and the audience’s imagination was tickled.  

Bird’s directing, Michael Giachhino’s score and Claudio Miranda’s cinematography really brought Tomorrowland to life, and there were a few set pieces that were truly impressive. Britt Robertson is the modern Disney heroine – more in the vein of Katniss Everdeen – and an excellent protagonist for us to root for. It was established early that she was special and we were aching to know why as we follow her on this journey.

But as the movie progressed, the laziness of the storytelling pervaded into everything and the movie looked lethargic. It all went downhill when George Clooney was formally introduced. 

Okie, maybe about 10 minutes after he was formally introduced.

From then onwards, the narrative became a mess. Nothing gets explained. 

It was as if the First Act was a completely different movie from the Second and Third. Think of it as World War Z in reverse, except that there is no Drew Goddard here to save the plot.

It did not help that when the action slowed down, the dialogue was clunky and expository-heavy with Lindelof and Bird trying to be quippy, but they are not Joss Whedon.

Clooney has always been a one-dimensional actor and cannot really act beyond roles that are not quintessentially him. All he did here was to shout his line, and perhaps if he shouted them loud enough we may be convinced of the feasibility of Lindelof’s house of cards.

We should have had a buddy sci-fi movie with more Raffey Cassidy’s Athena and Robertson’s
Casey solving the mystery.

Like Prometheus this was a stylish movie with a director that clearly had a vision and the chops but betrayed by a bad script (just so happened that it is again by Lindelof).


A scare-less horror movie that paled in comparison to the original.

This was a remake that basically just updated the story to the 21st century: with Apple products, flat screen TVs and drones. However, it lacked the creepy atmospheric feeling of the 1982 original and the few scares that it had was due to jump cuts and the always effective clown-dolls.

The trailer of Insidious III that played before the movie had more scares than this movie itself.

The clown-poster above is also scarier than anything in the movie, which is kind of sad considering that it's about poltergeist and not scary-possessed clowns.

The original movie itself was scary because of the build-up to the capture of the youngest girl, but in this update, there were barely any hauntings in the beginning, and we were told the background to the house almost straight-up.

Poor Sam Rockwell seemed almost as exasperated as us in dealing with the whole situation; Rosemarie DeWitt too.

There were many made-for-3D shots but I do not think even those moments would have added to the appeal of the movie.  

Ex Machina

An original sci-fi movie not in its concept but in its smart narrative and storytelling, and bolstered by great acting from its three principle casts: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac.

Alex Garland’s script was interesting and fascinating and leads us to question certain aspects of ourselves, our roles in society now and in the future, and the role of technology in our life. It is not a new concept but the storytelling behind Ex Machina was intriguing.

As a director, Garland has a very stylish aesthetics but the narrative could have been tighter with more focus placed on the “inventor” or the “sessions”. Although kudos for the design and filming of Ava without looking overly CGI.

The title of the movie itself is also a glib choice, playing both to the literal meaning as well as to the missing component of the more common phrase: deus ex machine. And in this case, even the missing God is a double-edged sword.

Gleeson is really going places and once Stars Wars VII hit the screen, his star may just get brighter besides all these indie flicks like Frank and Anna Kerenina, although he seemed to be getting typecast for the moment.

Which is the opposite for Isaac with his very different roles in the critical darlings InsideLlewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year. However, like Gleeson, Isaac has Stars Wars VII and X-Men: Apocalypse on the horizon, and I hope he will still keep doing these smaller, indie films. His maniacal portrayal here was instantly mysterious and creepy but never really evil.

Vikander is another rising star and a co-star of Glesson in Anna Kerenina. Her portrayal of Ava was surprisingly tender and believable, even all the way to the end, she leaves us with the question: Is she an AI?

With these three thespians having had acted opposite each other before, the chemistry was clearly evident and really an inspired casting choice.

Kingsman: The Secret Service [SQ Inflight Entertainment]

This was a fun and entertaining romp as long as Colin Firth was on screen, with great action choreography and snappy British quips.

It started off mildly campy but always had its British tongue firmly in cheek, even Samuel L Jackson was besides his usual bad-ass self and brought his game along for the ride. Jack Davenport had a small but highly entertaining role, and Mark Strong remained grossly undervalued.

The action sequences by Matthew Vaughn was very well directed especially Firth’s big show down at the end of the Second Act. Someone needs to make Firth the next Bond when Daniel Craig steps down.

Firth has the best suits in the house. Double-breasted suits are going to make a comeback. But, anyways, Firth has the amazing ability to be funny and yet keep that serious British fa├žade going. This kind of suave, Bond-ish roles, with a side of humour and wry, is made for him – more so than the serious, Oscar-baiting roles which he too tackles with aplomb.

Taron Egerton played the young recruit and although he was interesting enough, not enough time was spent to develop his character to make him a strong character to anchor the Third Act, nor make his final show down climatic enough

A fun ride that would have been worth it to watch on a big screen.

18 May 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

An entertaining piece of fluff that had a few laughs, but lacked the heart of its predecessor. With Elizabeth Banks at the helm, this felt like a very extended and highly unfocused MTV medley.

Banks directorial debut definitely helped saved cost, but the results was a poorly and messily directed movie especially during the choreographed bits. When the "action" slowed down, Banks was able to focus better.

However, the script by Kay Cannon was no better. There were one or two smart quips and asides, and genuinely funny moments courtesy of Rebel Wilson, but most of the laughs were cheap and mildly offensive - taking stereotypical, cheap digs at culture, race, gender and sexaulity. Just because there are a few laughs at yourself - "America" - does not make this smart, self-aware or satirical.

Furthermore, Cannon and Banks - and all the other producers - had decided to do what sequels are prone to do: bigger, louder and more, more, more! Throughout most of the movie, it felt like a mash-up of MTVs interspersed with some slapstick comedy.

Also, too many unnecessary scenes that dragged out the timing that served no purpose other than "let's add more music to the mix!".

If only more people followed the apparently unpopular choice of Joss Whedon and Avengers: Age of Ultron and made a sequel that dealt more into characters.

Banks must have gotten notes from Ryan Murphy (although she thanked in Shonda Rhimes - no big difference - in the credits), because ultimately this felt like the final three seasons of Glee: "I don't care about the process, just let me know how it all ends!".

In Pitch Perfect, we were at least invested in the story and Anna Kendrick's character's journey, but in this sequel, the investment was negligible. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld's character was ostensibly not developed because she was not The Star. Even Kendrick's own storyline seemed out of place and interrupted the flow of the whole narration. Its only purpose seemed only to provide conflict and resolution, oh and to give Becca "purpose - which we then don't immediately care about anymore.

Kendrick is charming and very likeable, but here, she really was just going through the lines and singing the notes. Although at least she was more covered up than in the first one.

Wilson only got more toned down, which is really to the show's detriment. Wilson was the breakout star of the first picture.

The show got momentarily better when Anna Camp returned. Camp needs a show STAT! Is she still on The Mindy Project?

The boys were props and comic-relief, although Adam Devine and Ben Platt were cute/funny to watch when on screen. Devine had a hilarious mid-credits scene that outshone most other scenes of the movie itself.

Flashlight may have been co-written by Sia, but it just did not resonate as much as that annoying Cups.

17 May 2015

Wayward Pines

Pilot: This pilot did everything a pilot was meant to do! It delivered on an intriguing and interesting premise that left you hooked and wanting more. A small town mystery that threw more questions up in the air than you would expect. There were mysteries in terms of plot, characters and motivations, with twists, turns and surprises occuring with such speed that I am concern whether M. Night Shyamalan and gang can keep this momentum up through all 10 episodes. Matt Dillon is convincing in his role and as equally bewildered as us in this evil-Storybrook-esque town, but the real standout is Melissa Leo. She is delightfully evil with the right amount of creepiness and humour. The plotting could use a bit more tightening, but stylistically this is a very Shyamalan film. It is smart of Fox to delay this till after Empire, with Terence Howard star-power drawing in more eyeballs. Juliette Lewis's and Carla Gugino's characters are the most enigmatic and interesting, but I am interested to find out how Shannyn Sossamon's character will tie into Dillon's storyline in Wayward Pines.

Episode 2, "Do Not Discuss Your Life Before": This show is addictive. What with its central mystery on what exactly is happening in Wayward Pines?! The acting is nothing to shout about, but the characters are slowly getting interesting. Carla Gugino is a mystery: friend or foe? Is Juliette Lewis nothing more than just an extended cameo? Melissa Leo is plain creepy and Terence Howard is plain crazy. Finally Shannyn Sossamon is heading out into the main thread.

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...