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Showing posts from 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight

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A typical, mindless, over-bloated, all-out sensory assault by Michael Bay that although was just slightly more coherent than the previous "Age of Extinction", it was also less exciting and adrenaline pumping than an usual Bay fare which was very unfortunate since that was the least of all expectations. 
Like the past entries, the story here was a distant third place to CGI and action, with acting a pithy consideration. Even if all that was expected, the film would have benefited a lot more from being shorter. Maybe trim off about 20 minutes and skip the whole unnecessary prologue which served no narrative purpose other than for Bay to do an Arthurian ripoff. And maybe because dragons are wicked. 
Also we could have easily skipped the ridiculous "Stranger Things" homage too and the unnecessary child actor inclusion. 
This go round the main action sequences were more human centric and less Transformers-bases action. And even less Transformers vs Transformers one which i…

The Mummy [IMAX/3D]

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Generously speaking, The Mummy would have made for a good TV-movie and be better appreciated as a standalone film in itself rather than as a reboot of the Branden Fraser's 1999 hit.  Even Tom Cruise's innate charisma could not save it from its poor writing, mundane blandness and generally bad acting. However, having said that, there were four really, really great action sequences that were a lot better than anything in Wonder Woman, so there's that. But still, Penny Dreadful this ain't.

The potential of this Dark Universe, monster vs monster franchise is surely there, but director Alex Kurtzman and the whole team of writers basically just gave us a tone-deaf version of what could have been great (again, see John Logan's Penny Dreadful). And it all starts from the miscasting of Cruise. Or better put, the mischaracterisation of what a typical Cruise-character should be. To his credit, Cruise has an insane amount of charisma, but it plays much better when he portrays…

Wonder Woman

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As a DCEU film, Wonder Woman was definitely less dour and more lighthearted than the other Zack Synder entries, but Patty Jenkins still managed to make it take itself a bit too seriously and all amidst DCEU's usual gloomy palette; as a superhero-origins film, it delivered the heroics, the awe of self-discovery and also the extravagantly megalomaniac villain; but as a film in itself, it lacked a strong thematic cohesion, was saddled with a rambling narrative that could be at least 20-30 minutes shorter, multiple poor script choices with plot holes and contrivances, and beats telegraphed miles away, lackluster and often uninteresting - to the point of bland/boring - action sequences that relied on too much (bad) CGI, and bad banter. However, through it all, Gal Gadot was the absolute star and saving grace of the film and proved that her appearance in Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice was no fluke.

With Jenkins at the helm, Wonder Woman definitely felt unlike any other previous DCE…

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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This was a surprisingly fun and entertaining film only because there was little to no expectations of it going in. And that really is the key to enjoying Johnny Depp re-inhabiting, albeit still rather successfully, the tired trope that is Jack Sparrow. Otherwise, the best part of the film was hearing Hans Zimmer's familiar score throughout the film (now interpreted by his protege Geoff Zanellli). The rest of the film was a tired mashed-up of incoherent, paper-thin, un-inspired storytelling with lame humour, bland characters and an plot twists telegraphed a mile away. Although the end-credits scene does hold potential to a possibly meatier storyline. Though that could just be wishful thinking.

New franchise directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the Norwegian duo that gave us the excellent Kon-Tiki, did try their best to reinvigorate the story and this was encouragingly apparent in the first act - after the prologues (two of them!). It was the most adrenaline-filled and th…

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

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A largely entertaining film by Guy Ritchie with all his signature directorial flair and screenwriting panache that unfortunately was frequently out of sync with its source material and the story he was trying to do. Everything about the film seemed familiar and there really were not any moments that stood out to make the film fresh and exciting.

However, credit where it is due, Ritchie has an excellent eye and hand for action choreography and it was really the action sequences (and the musical montages) that really helped to lift the film from up the doldrums of its oft-ridiculous and schizophrenic narrative (a product of too many writers/storytellers meddling). It shows a lot when a director has the guts to film a whole sequence in daylight and still manages to capture the kinetic energy and thrill of a chase. The street chase/fight was almost as exhilarating as Steven Spielberg's brilliant one-take in Tintin.

But Ritchie also seemed overwhelmed by both the budget afforded to hi…

Alien: Covenant [IMAX]

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A consistently gorgeous, often exciting and occasionally philosophical - and theological - entry into the Alien franchise that reflected a back-to-form for good storytelling by Sir Ridley Scott. There were enough scares and excitements despite the predictability of the plot, but at least significantly less ridiculousness than "Prometheus". And this time there were double the Michael Fassbenders who really carried the film on his god damn perfectly composed shoulders. 
From the opening shot and scene, Scott, his frequent cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and co-writer John Logan (he of the beautiful "Penny Dreadful" musings) established the aesthetics and theme of the film. Together with the ending, the short prologue beautifully bookend this film and heightens the expectations for the next instalment of the franchise. 
One of the biggest challenges of this franchise really how to keep it fresh. By now, even the most casual fans will know how the Xenomorph (or its varian…

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…

Kong: Skull Island

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An unabashedly popcorn movie that was high on both entertainment and ridiculous jocularity. Decent acting, great scenery-chewing, exciting CGI action and a story line that was believable as long as you can check your sensibility and all reality at the door. More Kong here than in the travesty that was Godzillaand at least Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) were more believable than Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts was quick to get into the premise and action, which was really what the target audience really wants in this show. Although the prologue had so much more potential than the actual narrative itself. The plot moves steadily along and the eventual survivors are broadly characterised and introduced, although it did make for good fun to guess who is going to die next (good job on making some deaths emotionally resonant).

Casting was a double-edged sword in this c…

Logan

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A strong film on its own and even one of the best comic-book film in a long time. Director and co-writer James Mangold smartly crafted a superhero film that was character and story driven rather than spectacle and action-led. A road trip, buddy movie masquerading as another entry in the X-Men canon. But at least Hugh Jackman finally gets to flex his acting chops again, and this time with the stellar Patrick Stewart as his more-than-worthy sparring partner.

By limiting the scope of the film to just Wolverine, the script really allowed us to delve deep into the psyche of this man. It is his emotional journey and growth that really drove the story, with Stewart and the young Dafne Keen serving as effective springboards in exploring deeper layers.

Having Logan rated M18 was definitely a smart choice. Wolverine is a violent character, and the sanitised versions of him in the past just felt weird. And he is not only violent in action, but also emotionally and psychologically. The M18 ratin…

Elle

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A subversive, psychological thriller with a powerfully enigmatic and utterly mesmerising performance by Isabelle Huppert. Can she do what Marion Cotillard did and what was robbed from Emmanuelle Riva?

Paul Verhoeven, of "Basic Instinct" fame (and "Showgirls" infamy), has directed an oddly exciting, occasionally disturbing, and almost always taut, sexual-psychological thriller. Dealing with multiple issues related to sex from infidelity, jealousy, cougar-ism, rape, power, gender roles, etc, Verhoeven translated these onto the screen with a very Euro (or "French") sensibility. And it is this rather non-sensational - even blasé- portrayal of sex (and all its aspects) that leads the story down an exciting and, almost heretofore, unchartered narrative.

But through it all, the story was anchored by the phenomenal Huppert. Truly, this lady deserves all the accolades and her performance here was mesmerising. Outwardly strong and tough yet occasionally the facade…

Moonlight

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Director/Writer Barry Jenkins' moving examination about one boy's tumultuous upbringing shaping his teenage years and moulding him into the man he becomes is both a deeply personal story about self-identity and also an heartachingly poetic narrative of love and romance.

Where "Fences" and Denzel Washington failed in their translation from stage to screen, Jenkins effectively transposed Tarbell Alvin McCraney's "In Midnight Black Boys Look Blue" to the silver screen and embraced all that cinema has to offer to give the story the necessary added depth, scope and cinematic magic.
However, all would have been for nought if not for the cast.

Jenkins struck jackpot with his casting of Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert as the film's protagonist in all three ages. Not only for their uncanny resemblance to each other, but also in the way their eyes and body talk. Similarly, the roles of his best friend were also exceptional. Perhaps only Rich…

Fences

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A difficult and complicated film to watch with a lead character that is as unlikeable as he is undeniably relatable to everybody in some aspect. Denzel Washington is a force to reckon with, bringing this complicated man of August Wilson's into being. However, just give the damn Oscar to Viola Davis already. *That* moment haunts you! One of the most powerful scene captured on screen.
Washington directed the film and it was possibly its weakest portion. There was a constant conundrum in how he presented the story. At times, the film felt like a play and at times like a film trying to be a play. The story definitely fits the landscape and ridgity of a stage, but Wilson's screenplay and Washington's direction lacked the energy and scope offered by celluloid.

Although there was quite a fair bit of backlash with Davis for running for the Best Supporting Actress, the way the film presented it, Davis' character was there in support of Washington's even if she was the only…

Hidden Figures

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A feel good, underdog triumphs, girl-power film, highlighting both a significant and unlooked scientific history during a period of known darkness and discrimination. Led by the superbly entertaining and funny trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, this story deserved to be told. However, despite all the hype, its execution was rather lightweight and the storytelling frou frou in nature. Director Theodore Melfi could not find the true heart of the story and although all three women are extraordinary in nature, without a true focus, all three stories felt under served.
Henson was great. Funny and heartfelt, showing us the great range that she has that made her a previous Oscar nominee and now a perennial Cookie/Emmy nominee. However, she was failed by the lack of characterisation and the simplicity in which her character was handled.

Spencer was also strong in her role. Although like Henson, her character was way too simplified.

Monae was a revelation but her sto…

Jackie

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Three things stood out for this film. Firstly, Natalie Portman's transformational performance. She was utterly astounding and absolutely enthralling as she inhabits the role of Jacqueline Kennedy. This is to her what Margaret Thatcher was to Meryl Streep. She made Jackie such a layered character and never allowing her to be clearly defined nor her inner thoughts and motivations transparent.

Secondly, was director Pablo Larrain's style. Filming the story almost documentary-like, it gave a sense of immediacy and intimacy (and even voyeurism) to the proceedings on screen. And the constant close ups gave the actors no chance to let up on their performances. The camera constantly embraced Portman's face and she never broke. An absolute magnetic presence.

Thirdly, was the production. The costumes, hair and makeup were gorgeous. The score was a character on its own, haunting, intimate, jarring and yet also an extension of Portman: constantly heightening her emotions. Both Costum…

Hell or High Water

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A great gem of a film by David Mackenzie that showcased excellent work from all three co-leads.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine sold the story of two different, yet ultimately similar, brothers with their tight chemistry and solid acting. Pine doing his best work and reminding us he is not just Captain Kirk and Foster following up his star-solidifying turn in The Programe with another strong, character work that steals the show. Then of course we have Jeff Bridges, nominated for a Best Supporting Actor here, who imbued a possibly flat character with layers of complexity that made his story worth paying attention to.

Mackenzie's direction was assured and the story told with enough action and tension to actually keep the engagement throughout. Other than a slow opening, the pacing was great. There was enough complexity and depth to not make the characters or their motivations stale. Even when the scene slowed down, to something cliched, Mackenzie wisely chose not to linger too long on th…

The Lego Batman Movie

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The Lego Batman Movie may perhaps be the best DCEU movie thus far - if it was canon - but where The Lego Movie was original and funny and new, The Lego Batman Movie felt more like a parody of the DCEU (and to a lesser extent, MCU and the superhero genre) than a standalone product. Nonetheless, this film was loads of fun for its whole 104 minutes (credits to credits, seriously...don't miss the beginning!).  It was irreverent, ridiculous, silly, laugh out loud funny, loud, noisy, colourful...and forgettable.

The film was at its best when it was aware that it was parodying itself. The self-referential remarks and punchlines were hilariously funny, as were the digs at the whole Batman franchise itself. However, the incessant pop culture references stretched too much and got to the point of reference-for-reference sake and look-at-us-we-are-so-cool-and-hip.

The voice-cast was excellent, especially Will Arnett and Ralph Fiennes. They both had a good audio rapport and was believable. Mic…

Allied

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We are truly living in the Golden (or Platinum) Age of Television when while watching this film, one cannot help but think that the story would make an excellent prestige drama or event series, under ten episodes total. But instead, what we ended up with was a subpar WWII spy drama that lacked urgency, tension, romance, thrills and drama. Ultimately, regardless of the shortcomings of Steven Knight's screenplay and Robert Zemeckis' directing, this film was failed by the absence of chemistry between its two leads: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.

To be fair, Cotillard did her best and she was the more engaging of the duo. Unfortunately, Zemeckis and Knight chose to tell the story from the Pitt's character's POV and after the first third, Cotillard was relegated to the background. Her previously established characterisation wiped clean and forgotten until the penultimate scene.

With the weight of the film resting on Pitt's shoulders, he had a lot to answer for, but sa…

Split

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M. Night Shyamalan follows up his (modest) comeback hit The Visit with another back-to-form psychological/paranormal thriller which really only worked because of the astounding, chameleonic acting showcased by James McAvoy. The epilogue was a pleasant surprise and I am so glad I was not spoilt on it at all.

Shyamalan's writing and directing still lacked subtlety - also evident by the promo posters for the movie - and nothing that happened throughout the film was really surprising. On one hand, that showed incredible restrain by Shyamalan, but yet it does not make for an interesting narrative.

Similarly, all the other characters, besides McAvoy and the lead girl (Anya Taylor-Joy). were so thinly written that it was hard to root for them. As much as Shyamalan tried to upturn the conventional trope of girl(s)-abducted-and-so-be-useless, it came out more mocking than smart.

Furthermore, even with Taylor-Joy's character, she was so blandly written that it made it very hard to root…

Legion

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Chapter 1: I am seriously in love with this new series, and this is just from the first episode. A stunning, visually arresting, absolutely trippy tour de force by Fargo's creator Noah Hawley. I love the directing, the storytelling, the set designs, the sound designs, the music, the cinematography and the acting! This first episode has got to be one of the most daring, beautifully directed and shot pilot in a long time! Despite its trippiness and non-linear narrative and its tendencies to flit in and out of reality - what is reality?? which is reality?? - the story is so absolutely engaging that you just trust that Hawley will deliver the goods. What pilot has the audacity to insert a Bollywood-esque dance number in the middle of a revelatory moment? Kudos to Hawley and I cannot wait for more!

24: Legacy

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12:00 Noon - 1:00 PM: Undoubtedly, the familiar ticking of the 24 digital clock still brings with it the expected adrenaline rush and excitement, but Jack Bauer was most definitely missed in this first hour of the reboot. Corey Hawkins is our new hero and thus far, he lacked the charismatic gruffness of Kiefer Sutherland to adequately engage the audience. In addition, the main plot itself has so far been rather pedestrian and contrived, with plot moments and twists telegraphed a mile away. The "B"-plot itself. 24's usual politicking shenanigans holds more intrigue as it is at least anchored by the magnetic enigma that is Miranda Otto - shades of her Homeland role carried over - with Jimmy Smits and Teddy Sears being the men behind her. The "C"-plot dragged it down almost as much as when Kim Bauer met the cougars. Chloe is sorely missed. Even Teri and Nina and David Palmer and Charles Logan and Tony and Michelle...comparisons will be inevitable and currently 24:…

Riverdale

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Chapter One: The River's Edge: The best thing about the CW's latest pretty people/murder mystery is the eschewing of the expected, Betty-Veronica rivalry. Instead, what the pilot presented was a strong friendship between two beautiful and smart women. Then again, at least they would have a better reason now...Archie got hot! Hot but still simple and annoying and flat and indecisive. The supporting cast are less well-rounded. Jughead was interestingly reimagined but otherwise an enigma (although what happened between him and Archie?); Cheryl Blossom was too much a mean girl to be anything else but annoying; Kevin is the stereotypical gay bff (but at least Moose is in the closet); and Reggie was one-note. Separately, the parental units are not as cookie-cutter as one would imagined. Looks like Riverdale will essentially be focusing on the core trio with Jughead at the periphery and Cheryl as the nemesis. So why is Josie a regular? Only time will tell. As for plot wise, nothing r…

Hacksaw Ridge

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An absolutely brilliant film. One of the best films in a long time, and the best war film since Saving Private Ryan,  It was also Mel Gibson's best film and showcased Andrew Garfield's best performance to date. The film had heroics, pathos, drama, comedy, romance, bromance and emotions, lot of emotions.

Gibson told one of the best stories of the year and he had assembled a strong cast and crew to bring it to the screen, Other than Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffith, Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer and Luke Bracey were all outstanding. The music by Rupert Gregson-Williams was stirring and heroic, and really pumped up the action and tension, but yet also uplifting and romantic when the scene required it. Simon Duggan lensed the film and he did an extraordinary job.

However, this film truly belonged to Gibson and Garfield.

Gibson has crafted an anti-war and anti-violence film without the preachiness and holier-than-thou that affect most such film. Yes, there was still violence …