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Showing posts from September, 2016

Deepwater Horizon

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Paul Berg's disaster thriller was entertaining and surprisingly touching, with moments of  nail-biting tension. But as exciting as the main/climatic action sequence was - and the moments leading to the blowout was truly brilliant - the other sequences were less so, with the film unfolding passively and even confusingly sometimes.

Berg took his time to establish the scene and heavily, and clumsily, foreshadowed the events to come which was so unnecessary since we already know it is coming. That begs the question: what was the point?

In addition, Berg focused on Mark Wahlberg and neglected the rest of the cast, and that made relating to them as they navigate through the disaster very challenging. Especially since they were all dressed similar-ish on the rig,  It was good that Berg spent the first act laying the ground but most audience members would be unfamiliar with the layout of an oil rig. As such, without a clear idea of the design of the rig and how the space is arranged, the…

Cafe Society

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Cafe Society was a typical, run of the mill, predictable Woody Allen romantic dramedy. With a star studded cast, Allen again muses sardonically on love and relationships, albeit only superficially. The main cast, in particular Jesse Eisenberg, were individually good but lacked chemistry together.

The film, and its set design, were beautiful with an authentic 30s NYC/LA feel to it. Costuming did a commendable job too. While Allen kept a keen eye on the aesthetics of the film, his exploration - or musings - on love was a lot more superficial this time. With just a perfunctory circling on the dilemma of loving more than one person at a time and a cursory meditation on Tennyson's wise adage of  "'This better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all",

Eisenberg gave a strong performance here as he evolved his character through the film in both a distinctive physical way and a more subtle emotional growth. But yet, there were some nuances to his character tha…

Pitch

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Pilot: Dan Fogelman's second pilot this season, after This Is Us, is another winner and one of the best pilots in a long time. The concept was clearly established, exposition quickly and neatly dealt with, main characters filled in and supporting cast sketched out, and ultimately a hook for audience to tune in next week. Fogelman and co-writer/creator Rick Singer wrote a smart pilot that was logical and plausible but yet has the potential to be so much more than just your regular sport-drama. Kylie Bunbury has the elusive star quality that makes her magnetic to watch, but whether she has the depth to carry out more emotionally heavy moments is still to be determined. Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays against type and yet somehow still remained the same, and that is truly fascinating, however his chemistry with Bunbury fleets in and out and please don't have them sleep together. Ali Larter - another Heroes alumni in a Fogelman show! - was great and her lines were golden. Also, Pitch de…

The Magnificent Seven

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Antoine Fuqua's remake of a classic Western was a decent film, if albeit chauvinistic and racist. It lacked originality, authenticity, fun and an emotional core. Nic Pizzolato's story was more about plotting and moving the story forward rather than a character-driven narrative (more season two than one of True Detective). Denzel Washington was the only cast member to be able to exude a sort of old school/western charm with Chris Pratt being pushed too hard to be quippy and the rest being one dimensional stereotypes.

Fuqua reunited with Washington and Ethan Hawke, all three were last seen together in the excellent Training Day, and their chemistry was evident. Sadly, Hawke was let down by a weak character that had a seemingly interesting backstory but went nowhere.

On the other hand with Pratt, Fuqua and Pizzolato tried too much to bank on his comedic background, but as funny a guy as Pratt is, his one-liners and quips seemed out of sync with the whole film and the rest of the…

Kubo and the Two Strings

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A simple and predictable fantasy fable that was wildly entertaining. Smart, affecting writing that did not dumb down the material brought laughter and scares, and an emotional sucker punch at the end that was not only surprising, but also well deserved. But most importantly, the stop-motion / CGI animation was downright stunning, and it has been a long time coming that a film's score had been so effectively used throughout.

Laika has done it again. The stop-motion maestros continued to astounding work with Kubo and the Two Strings. From the opening moments, the animation will leave you spell bound. Mixed that in with amazing origami action and seamless CGI background, and this is a real contender for best animation Oscar.

Of course, to be an Oscar contender the story itself is important, and the screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (with story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes) was well written. As simple - and predictable - as the storyline itself was, the way director Tra…

The Good Place

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Pilot, Episode 2 "Flying" and Episode 3 "Tahani Al-Jamil": A very refreshing comedy that explore high philosophical concepts, albeit superficially, in a sitcom-esque format. Anchored by the ever-charismatic Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, The Good Place is good for a good chuckle but three episodes in, there were not any truly laugh out loud moments. Plot and story, and even twists, have so far been predictable, although by the third episode, the supporting cast got more established and relevant. However, like many shows with such high-brow concepts, the main concern is how would the show runners maintain the conceit beyond the first season. What happens once everybody finds out the truth, accepts the truth and move on from it?

Designated Survivor

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Pilot: When Jack Bauer meets Clark Kent, you get Tom Kirkman. A by-the-numbers, political-thriller that seemed, at first glance, to be yet another variation of 24 or Homeland, but without the hook. Yes, the scenario is intriguing but a lot of what was shown in the pilot failed to address the potential fallout from such a scenario. Instead, we were revolving around Kiefer Sutherland who despite attempts to make himself seemed mousey and nerdy and non-intimidating - those glasses! - is undeniably very Jack Bauer still. The supporting casts all seemed bland, the child actors bring horrible flashbacks to Homeland's Chris and Dana Brody - remember them? Shudders! - and the plot itself does not seem capable to go beyond a limited series. And perhaps it is that last point that may keep the audience tuning in, because although Sutherland has charisma, but seeing how the show can sustain itself for a full season and beyond might be interesting.

Episode #2 The First Day: I'm bored. Desig…

This Is Us

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Pilot: Fall TV has finally swung in and one of the first new series is NBC's This Is Us. It may be a bit early to declare it, but Dan Fogelman's new series has the potential to be the next Parenthood. The pilot was smartly written with authentic dialogue and acutely genuine emotions as the family drama unfolds and the emotions are wrung out of the audience. Of course, this would not have been possible if not for the great cast who were perfectly cast and embodied their characters so well. Milo Ventimiglia has come a long way since his days as Jess in Gilmore Girls and in Heroes; Justin Hartley is a handsome revelation and Chrissy Metz is an heartache. Sterling K. Brown gave a great performance but his character was still a bit of a cipher. As was Mandy Moore who did not get much to do this time. The ending gave us a little twist that was, in my opinion, kind of expected but it really does open up many exciting storytelling potentials! Looking forward to the next few episodes.

E…

Sully

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Disclaimer: I have aviophobia, i.e. fear of flying.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first all-round Oscar contender here. Actually, just give Tom Hanks the Oscar now for Best Actor. Clint Eastwood will also almost definitely at least get a nomination for Best Director. Terrifyingly realistic and realistically touching without being overly schmaltzy or excessively melodramatic, Sully wassmartly directed and superbly acted, hooking the audience in from the get go all the way to the end of its 96 minutes run.

After a few misfires with Hereafter and J. Edgar, followed by the fun, but lightweight and mismatched, Jersey Boysand the politically-charged American Sniper, Eastwood finally returns to form that saw him won the Best Director for Million Dollar Baby. 

Eastwood made a lot of smart directorial choices here and most importantly in how to tell the story. He smartly focused on the Captain Sullenberger and not the trigger event itself, and by doing so, when it finally happened, we be…

Don't Breathe

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Don't Breathe was not an original film. Neither in its premise or plot. And despite its short run time of 88 minutes, the final act just would not end. However, director and co-writer Fede Alvarez had some really great moments that really stood out and effectively notched the tension and fear up to 11. Just for those alone, the film redeemed itself from predictability. Sadly, nobody was brave enough to embrace an unexpected ending which would then really have elevated the film from the rest of the pack (looking at you Lights Out).
The biggest issue, other than predictability, was that none of the characters were really worth rooting for. They were not even anti-heroes (or anti-villains) which could have elicit some sort of audience sympathy or empathy. They were flat, generic and single-mindedly motivated. But then again, one does not expect too much going into a film like this and really just ought to accept things and move on. 
Once again, kudos to Alvarez for effectively using …

Pete's Dragon

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A lighthearted, feel good film that had the joyous exhilaration of How To Train Your Dragon, the wide-eyed wondrous awe of The NeverEnding Story with a large smattering of the trademark Disney family wholesomeness.

Elliott was a wondrous creation by Weta Digital and was deservedly a character unto its own.

Kudos to director David Lowery on his first big budget film. He managed to make a remake feel slightly original, yet paid sufficient homage to the original and the brand. Although ultimately it felt like a typical Disney film in the end, the process of getting there, especially in the first act was at least refreshing.

The child actors were good, but Oakes Fegley somehow lacked the innocent naivety required for such a role. And his interactions with the digital Elliott, though touching was even less believable than Neel Sethi's portrayal of Mowgli in Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book.

Oona Laurence continued to shine and she will be a talent to watch out for as she grows.

Bryce…

Sing Street

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A charming, feel-good love-story/musical whose unbridled optimism about love, life and the future is as infectious as the original songs are catchy.

John Carney has written and directed another musical love story. Where Once was original, raw and full of passion, and Begin Againwas polished, sleek and Hollywood, Sing Street presented the young and innocence of puppy love, full of optimism, hope and dreams.

Regardless of what Carney thought of Keira Knightley, she has screen charms and a magnetic waifish attraction that helped to push the illusions of the fairy tale that was Begin Again. But here in Sing Street, Carney's decision to cast unknowns - Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton - as the leads did not lead to the sparks and palpable chemistry that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova had in Once. As such, the focus of the story fell on the idea of the plot rather than its execution.

What would you do to win the girl (or boy, if we are being politically correct)?

The film definite…

Genius

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A heavily sepia-tinged film that seemed a lot more suited to be on the stage but showcased a phenomenal supporting performance by Nicole Kidman.

Theatrically directed by Michael Grandage, especially in its scene transitions and blocking, and from a screenplay by the talented John Logan - who is known to string words together into beautiful sentences - the film and its undoubtedly brilliant cast tried to make the mundane process of editing into something interesting. Unfortunately, beyond the frantic montages of paper flying and red pencil scribblings they largely failed. The most interesting aspect of the film was its exploration of its main characters which felt underserved, but it was also those moments that elevated the film.

As talented a wordsmith as Logan is, he seemed torn in deciding on who his main focus should be on. Grandage similarly. Is the story of Max Perkins? Or is it a biographical adaptation of the life of Thomas Wolfe? Or is it the main focus actually the bromance …