21 November 2016

Arrival


Finally! A smart, intelligent, well-written and directed sci-fi film! Denis Villeneuve scored another hit with this tight, suspenseful and intelligent film, led by an achingly stellar Amy Adams, beautifully scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson and intimately lensed by Bradford Young. Possibly one of the best modern sci fi films in a long time! This is what "Prometheus" and "Interstellar" wished they could have been.

Nocturnal Animals


A self-indulgent, vanity project by Tom Ford which is the quintessential definition of style over substance. Even Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon could not save the emotionally hollow, pseudo-noir narrative. But, by golly, it sure was pretty to watch and the main theme by Abel Korzeniowski was on point.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [IMAX/3D]


A fantastic film! Fun, funny, exciting and wondrous. It's been a long time since a film had me in such childlike awe with its world building. Well done David Yates, J.K. Rowling, James Newton Howard and Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol! IMAX, 3D is definitely the way to go!

12 November 2016

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk


I am pissed that we do not get to watch this as Ang Lee had intended it to be (120 fps, 3D 4K HD). You can see that this film was filmed in such a way that flat, 2D just do not do it justice. Nonetheless, this was a good film - just not a great film. It was more Lee's The Ice Storm meets Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima  than Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker or Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.

Very strong supporting performances by Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund and a definite breakthrough role for newcomer Joe Alwyn.

Lee weaved a tight story, based off the script by Jean-Christophe Castelli, who in turn based it off the novel by Ben Fountain. A character driven study, rather than an action piece, the story required the main cast to really sell the emotional and satirical conflict of war and peace, army and civilian, family and comrades. Although Alwyn, Stewart and Hedlund managed to do exactly that, the rest of the cast and the script failed to hold them up. In particular, the ending really had to dumb it down to drill across its point which is insulting to its audience. Then again, this ain't really an indie. Is it?

Castelli focused too much on trying to make this film a satire that he actually missed what the novel was really about. Too many meta, in jokes (which not of it landed) on the film industry and not enough insight into the irony of war.

Lee and cinematographer John Toll obviously shot the film with the intention for the audience to experience the whole technology. Unfortunately, we could not. The POV shots made sense but I can also imagine it to veer towards distracting. Too much panning in the Iraq scenes was a distraction when watched at normal 24 fps frame-rate. And the actual war-scenes lacked viscerality, which may have worked with the POV moments if the audience was really immersed in the scene.

Another odd directorial choice by Lee, especially since you'd think that he would have some clout by now, was the purposeful avoidance of showing Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland's face. It just became too distracting the longer he focused on the backs of the stand-ins.

Alwyn has a great introduction with this film. The boy has potential but as of now, still limited in range. It will be interesting to see his career trajectory. Will he go the way of Jack O'Connell or Sam Worthington?

Stewart continues on her path to differentiate herself from Bella Thorne, and she is doing a tremendous job thus far. Unfortunately, she was let down by the script although she did her best to elevate it beyond the obvious.

Hedlund was a revelation. Is this really the same guy from Tron: Legacy? Well done to him for making good career choices since then, and he was easily the highlight of the film. If his material was stronger, it would not be hard to actually make a case for him to get a Best Supporting Actor nod.

Vin Diesel was miscast. Steve Martin was miscast. Chris Tucker and Ben Platt filled their roles. Fellow newcomer Makenzie Leigh was unmemorable and lacked chemistry with Alwyn to convincingly sell her character.

This film had so much potential, and buzz, going in, but it failed to fully connect with the audience either intellectually, emotionally or viscerally. Maybe should just go read the book.

10 November 2016

Death Note: Light Up The New World


Absolutely over-acted, over-written, over-directed and over-long (scrap the unnecessary prologue and the extended epilogue), this film was unnecessary and utterly tarnished the franchise. It took itself too seriously and the actors tried too hard to emulate the effortless charisma and quirkiness of the original actors. It also lacked the smarts and intelligent to be an effective thriller/whodunit that characterised the originals. There is a germ of potential sowed in its final sequence and the film should have just gone with that idea in the beginning.

9 November 2016

君の名は。your name.


A typical Japanese seishun eiga anime that tugs efficiently at the heartstrings. With an atypical sci-fi premise, director Makoto Shinkai tried to be unconventional but ended up still being rather predictable and unsurprising, keeping in line with the genre

What worked was its portrayal of the main characters and the pacing of the story. The two leads were well-liked, albeit the scenarios that they were thrown into were cliched. In addition, the story established the premise quickly and set up the emotional baggage efficiently such that the audience gets involved fast.

Just accept that this is a YA anime and the logic that goes along with it, and it will be easy to escape into the story. The animation was gorgeous and really makes one want to go to the Japan.

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...