30 August 2016


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 managed to dig superficially to re-create Roth's complex, and complicated, Marcus Messner.

The luminous Sarah Gadon, on the other hand, lit up the screen, but beyond her beauty, Gadon managed to subtly capture the flurry of complex emotions that make up her fractured character.

Unfortunately, Gadon and Lerman lacked chemistry to effectively sell their love story. And especially so after having seen Gadon's beautiful chemistry with James Franco in 11.22.63.

However, the highlights were two scenes by two veterans actors: Tracy Letts and Linda Emond.
Both scenes, tonally opposite, were opposite Lerman, and they brought out the best in him. I would like to know how much of the dialogue were by Schamus and how much were Roth's words. Powerful words.

The score by Jay Wadley was reminiscent of early Philip Glass and Alexandre Desplat.

A beautifully made film that was well-acted and directed. It was a pity though that Schamus did not flesh out the supporting characters more and focused so intently on Lerman's character.That left the film rather flat at times and also led to a less effective, not ineffective, finale.

29 August 2016

Lights Out

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.

24 August 2016

Star Trek Beyond

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.

7 August 2016

Suicide Squad

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 service, it was not surprising that many ended on the wayside, however for those that he had chosen to focus on - Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and to a lesser extent, Diablo and Rick Flag - he failed to even provide them with decent characterisation. Subjecting them to rote, flat, boring, and uninspired backstories and inconsistent motivations.

The most erroneously treated character was The Joker. Firstly, Heath Ledger's performance was unique and in all fairness to Jared Leto, he will always have an uphill task in following up on that tour de force. Luckily, Leto managed to make his Joker different enough, but sadly he was a peripheral one-note character that only served as a comparison to Harley Quinn.

Speaking of Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie should be offended by her role and her character. I felt offended for her. She was blatantly exploited and  used as a sexist and misogynistic tool. Her maniacal craziness was too over-the-top and bordered on just plain crazy rather than sociopathic.

Will Smith should have just continued to stay hidden. He cannot commit to really being a villain can him? His story line really was just one big eye-roll.

And everybody else was just flat, one-note and boring. Quips were not funny and their banter was more like a line-by-line table read.

As for the villainest of the villains. Let's just say that Ayers obviously have been taking notes from The Green Lantern and Fantastic Four.

Viola Davis channeled her darkest Annalise Keating, but without the vulnerability and sharpness. Her role barely tapped into the amazing depth that she possess.

Then we have the directing. The whole film felt like bits and pieces of "moments" stitched together to form some sort of bare narrative cohesion. Ayers does not have an eye for action. This was one of the worst action choreography and directing. I could barely understand and follow the fight scenes. There was no big stand out set-piece at all, with no wow-moment or a real climax. Something to compensate for all the dreary blahness in the beginning.

And TOO MUCH slow-mo! Unnecessary slow-mo! Gosh, didn't Ayer learn anything from Snyder's BvS?

There could have been so much potential in this story, but yet it still felt like another stepping stone for DC before Justice League hits. Although with this, pressure definitely increases for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash (hate the look!!!) to perform. But perhaps with reduced expectations, the outcome may be better.

Take a leaf out of the pages of The CW.

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...