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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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A fun - and funny - film that lacked the urgency or the narrative drive of the first film, and despite the humour it was still, unfortunately, predictable and shallow. James Gunn may have great vision, especially in the cosmo-building of the MCU franchise, and an eye for imageries and great but as a director, and writer, he lacked depth, subtlety and the nuances. And therefore, this sequel will surely be a hit. 
The other thing that Gunn got right was the unabashed embracing of the utter cuteness that is Baby Groot. There cannot be too much of BG, and Gunn got that right. He even had a character voice that sentiment right out (see above re: lack of subtlety). Lucky BG is the definition of cute, although there were brief moments when it was dragged on a wee bit too much. But nonetheless, did I mention how cute BG is? 
And on the other spectrum, Gunn got the music so wrong this time wrong. Unlike the first film where the awesome music was organic to the story, this time round, almost ever…

Colossal

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A black comedic sci-fi feminist allegory (yes, that is the best way to describe this genre-defying film) that was not only original in its story but also boast a winsome turn from Anne Hathaway that has been sorely lacking in her recent (Oscar-baiting) oeuvre. And no this is not just a monster-film. "Colossal" was refreshingly original and thoroughly enjoyable with its humorous black streak and feminist leanings. 
The originality of the story laid not only its premise but also in its execution. Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo kept turning left when you expect it to turn right and not once or twice but almost constantly through its 104 minutes; that is so rare these days. But of course there were also moments where the pacing slowed too much and strange interludes which seemed at odds thematically. 
The final climatic scene was exquisitely executed and the catharsis well-deserved. However, it was the ending of that moment that was disturbing but yet seemed so apt. Taking the fi…

Get Out

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As a horror film, "Get Out" was more B-grade than "The Visit" or "Drag Me to Hell", relying heavily on an overbearing soundtrack and jump shots to heighten the tensions and crank up the scares. But as a satirical film of the times, it was emblematic of the current societal and political conflicts within America. However, it does not translate as well - beyond an intellectual level - to an international audience, especially in a predominantly non-Caucasian market. 
Critically, director/writer Jordan Peele came up with a fresh spin to an otherwise unoriginal story, but the execution was neither innovative or genre-breaking. There were quite a number of smart lines and many moments where the tension was purely in the words. Although, much of it seemed to be due as much to the excellent delivery by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener. 
Unfortunately, behind the satirical curtain the plot itself lends to a number of plot holes and contrivances. Many of which w…

Ghost in the Shell [IMAX/3D]

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We really do live in a time where we have so many choices in how we choose to consume entertainment and ideas. Unfortunately for Ghost in the Shell, what it chose to explore had already been done once, when the idea was still new and fresh, by the original anime and manga, and more recently and more superbly (and in depth) by TV's Westworld,Humans and even Dollhouse. 

Therefore, where it could - and does - succeed was in the technological (and monetary) front. However, there was only so much that souped up CGI can do to entertain and distract from the weak and uninspired plot. The screenplay was by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger and it spent too much time building the world and neglecting the characters, such that when it finally got to the characters, the audience already felt disconnected. But even then, they could never really fleshed out the complexities and the morality of the tech, nor the complexities and moralities of their lead character.

Save for a couple …

Personal Shopper

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An odd little film that was both an independent art-house thriller and a murder/horror mystery. However, Writer/Director Olivier Assayas eschewed Hollywood conventions and in the end, the film will leave you with questions as it lingers in your mind. But one thing for sure, this was a one-woman showcase for Kristen Stewart who although has not reached the heights of Isabelle Huppert or Assayas' ex-wife Maggie Cheung, but has now surely shown that she is one of the more underrated actresses of her generation.

Personal Shopper was essentially a simple story about grief and self-identity but Assayas had wrapped it up in a shroud of supernatural mystery and that oddly worked. He used the exploration of death and afterlife, and through Stewarts' nuanced acting, to examine the complex emotions of grief and how those emotions can affect one's rationality and action.

Assayas made many rather smart directorial choices in his storytelling, but his best decision was to have deliberat…

Life

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A silly, ridiculous, check-your-brain-at-the-door, but yet highly efficient sci-fi/action/thriller. There was absolutely no intelligence nor logic in the story and every plot-point was telegraphed and derivative, but yet director Daniel Espinosa has managed to pull off an excitingly, brisk thriller. There is no doubt that this film has many moments, in terms of tension, thrills, scares and gore, and truly, as long as you can accept (and forgive) the eye-rolling plot and the ghost-walking actors, Life was a fun 103 minutes.

Espinosa started the film off with so much potential. The opening action sequence emulated Alfonso Cuaron's Gravitywith its well- choreographed one-track shot. And it was done really well. Giving us both a sense of dread, uncertainty and claustrophobia. Throughout the film, Espinosa and his Oscar-nominated Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey managed to maintain that scathing atmosphere which really helped to sell the thrills.

Unfortunately, the other elemen…

Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast was a fun, nostalgic, live-action retelling of the beloved, classic animation but with 45 minutes more padding that added little to the depth of an already abbreviated fairy tale. Bill Condon’s remake was literally almost a play-by-play re-enactment and that led to the film being uninspiring and tired and – to quote itself – missing a certain je ne sais quois; the magic and joie de vivre of the original was largely missing. It also definitely did not help that Emma Watson, though physically well-cast as Belle, was otherwise horribly miscast and her lack of acting chops grossly magnified here, and the Beast’s mo-cap/CGI was terrifyingly plastic/wooden. Together, they lacked chemistry and could not sell the tale as old as time.
Speaking of CGI, this was nothing compared to the technological wonders of The Jungle Book. Our beloved Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts, et al were rendered competently but lacked the fluid and artistry afforded by hand-drawn animation. This wa…