Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Great Wall ... White man to the rescue

THE ravishing, lissome and lithe Chinese heroine General Lin Mei (Tian Jing) tells Western white mercenary William Garin (Matt Damon) that they're both not that different from each other. What she means is that China and the US are alike.

Passengers ... Worst film of the year

PASSENGERS has two of the biggest movie stars in the world, but the nondescript and risible
screenplay, and the lack of chemistry between them, mean the film won't lift off.    Norwegian director Morten Tyldum's Robinson-Crusoe-on spaceship film deals with the consequences of being stranded in space alone and quickly moves on to the film's bread-and-butter issue: the romance between Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
   Lawrence and Pratt are two likeable people, but the film envelops them in romantic cliches: romantic dinner, romantic film date, romantic view that will take your breath away and romantic gesture with a rose.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Dangal ... Wrestling with two themes

SPORTS biopic Dangal could have been an engrossing film about how a small town girl overcame
societal pressure and gender discrimination to win India's first-ever wrestling gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It's based on the true story of Geeta Phogat, who became the first Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics.
    But when you have Aamir Khan producing the Nitesh Tiwari-directed film and starring as Geeta's former national wrestling champion father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, your loyalty, and focus in the film, will be divided.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Arrival ... Taut, intelligent and fawning to US army

AMERICA is a peace-loving country that leaves the sabre rattling and belligerence to Russia and China. This is what viewers will get after watching Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve's Arrival.  It's also about a woman navigating a minefield of male egos and the army.
    The film spouts linguistic theories and how a language affects the way people think. Furthermore, the down-to-earth and radiant performance of Amy Adams will keeps viewers engrossed in this sci-fi drama that's wrapped around US army strength, and she full deserves her Golden Globe nomination for best actress. The non-linear structure of the film is also enticing.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Assassin's Creed ... Kill off this film

ASSASSIN'S Creed is one jumbled-up mess of non-stop violent action interspersed with highfalutin
ideas about free will and eliminating violence in society.
   I wasn't surprised when I heard the guy sitting next to me snoring lightly midway through the film, and I wasn't even upset with the two people a few rows in front of me fiddling with their smarthphones. I supposed they had to do something to escape the drab playing in front of them.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ... Only the battle sequence stands out

THE synopsis of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reads: "The rebellion makes a risky move to steal the
plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow."
    This tells you all you need to know about this standalone Star Wars film, which is set just before Star Wars IV. I'm not spilling the beans when I say that the rebellion does succeed at the end, because the entire world knows that jedi protege-cum-pilot Luke Skywalker brings down the Death Star in Star Wars IV, thanks to the stolen plans.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Dear Zindagi ... Mental blocks

IS Hindi film Dear Zindagi about the benefits of psychiatric treatment, or is it about a pretty 25-year-
old woman's fear of being called a slut?
   The first part of writer-director Gauri Shinde's film focuses on up-and-coming cinematographer Kaira's (Alia Bhatt) colourful life, meaning she can't commit to a man, regardless of how dashing and well off he is. She's in a relationship with a restaurateur, but while on a shoot in Singapore, she sleeps with handsome film producer Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor).

Monday, 28 November 2016

Hell Or High Water ... Banks are the new robbers

 A SENSE of desolation and desperation pervades director David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water.
 Two brothers are in dire straits, and the only way they think they can get out of their predicament is to rob the branches of a small Texan bank.
  They have a certain target they must achieve, come hell or high water.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Doctor Strange ... In need of a defribillator

WAIT a minute. Was I watching Inception (2010), the movie about a dream world that allowed people to bend physical locations at will? No, I was watching director Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange, which is about a surgeon's transformative and heroic journey from an arrogant and cocky human to a Marvel character who can travel between mystical worlds.
   It's not that I detested this film, but I found myself comparing it to other origin films about how a cocky and arrogant character got his just desserts before becoming the white superhero the world needed.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Deepwater Horizon ... Blown out of the water

DIRECTOR Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon is a commonplace disaster film with the requisite
rescue scenes and inevitable moments of courage by the hero. He sets up the hero's familial background and actually does a pretty good job using the hero's 10-year-old daughter's project to explain the workings of an oil rig. A Coca-Cola can never got better product placement than in this scene.
   The film, based on the true events of the worst oil spill in US history in April 2010, goes behind the scenes to show how BP brought pressure on the rig's boss to get the rig started. Money is the main culprit, says the film.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dirty Harry ... Harry harries baddies

WOULD San Francisco homicide detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) been put on a
pedestal in 2016 for using tough-guy and unorthodox methods to catch a serial killer?
   This 1971 film by director Don Siegel takes potshots at the civil rights of criminals, especially Miranda rights. The Miranda warning is a right-to-silence warning given by cops in the US to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated. This is to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings (Wikipedia).

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven ... Early death

IT'S always a danger when you remake a classic film, The Magnificent Seven (1960), based on Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954).   Director Antoine Fuqua's remake, starring Denzel Washington (Fuqua directed Washington in The Equalizer, 2014) as the leader of a multiracial bunch of ragtag shooters, is heavily dependent on its violent scenes, especially the finale, which reminded me of the finale in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
   Fuqua is known primarily as an action director, although his direction of Washington in Training Day (2001) garnered the latter an Oscar for Best Actor. In The Magnificent Seven, he could not handle the task of focusing on seven actors and a female sidekick.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Billionaire selling Malaysia's largest movie theatre chain

SEPT 13: Billionaire Robert Kuok is seeking a buyer for Golden Screen Cinemas
Sdn., Malaysia’s largest movie theater chain, in a deal that could fetch as much as $500 million, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Sully ... Sept 11 balm

IT'S not a coincidence that director Clint Eastwood's Sully is released during the 15th anniversary of
the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the US. What people remember most of that fateful day is the two passenger aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center buildings.
   Sully is based on the real story of Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, a pilot with 42 years of flying experience, who glided his stricken plane onto the Hudson River on Jan 15, 2009, thus saving all 155 people on board.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Don't Breathe ... Non-stop action

DON'T Breathe is the best break-in film I've seen this year. The plot is tight, the setting is filled with
tension, the motives are blurred and ambiguous, the editing and music are in tune, and there's a twist that will make you wonder if you can ever look at your neighbour in the same way again.
  At the heart of the film is whether the burglars or the home owner have the right to draw guns on the other party. This question will give viewers something to chew on.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Top 100 films of 21st century by BBC Culture

'Mulholland Drive'  tops list of 177 film critics  
Naomi Watts (left) and Laura Harring in David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive'

Top 100

1 Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
2 In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
3 There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
4 Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
5 Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
7 The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
8 Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
9 A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Purge: Election Year ... Sacrificial lamb

 A QUESTION that has always perplexed me about The Purge trilogy is people staying put in country and not attempting to flee the Purge before it starts.
   The three films make no mention of this, but it posits in the The Purge: Election Year that blood-thirsty foreign tourists are willing to risk their lives to kill others with impunity.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Kabali ... Gangster's paradise

DIRECTOR Pa. Ranjith's Tamil film Kabali pits the mainly poor and oppressed Tamil Malaysians against the mainly rich Chinese Malaysians, and when you have Indian superstar Rajinikanth playing a Tamil gangster don, you can guess how the film will end: with Rajinikanth sitting in his own Game of Thrones chair.
   Ranjith, an Indian national, obviously feels a strong link to Tamils in Malaysia. Tamils are referred to as Indians in Malaysia, and they first came to Malaysia to work as labourers before the nation achieved independence from Britain in 1957.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Suicide Squad ... Death by indifference

I WASN'T getting into writer-director David Ayer's (Fury and End of WatchSuicide Squad. The
characters were cardboard thin and the violence was over the top, probably so that viewers gloss over the film's inadequacies.
   In short, I was indifferent to the wham-bang permeating the film. It's hard to empathise with any character when Ayer introduces them to us in a flurry of disjointed editing that takes way too long. They're supposed to be evil prisoners, the creme de la creme of society's faecal matter, but Ayer presents them as people who have simply slipped of the straight and narrow path.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Lights Out ... Have no fear

HORROR film Lights Out by Swedish director David F. Sandberg, based on his short film of the same name, is not scary.
   It's got competent editing, music and acting to send some shivers down viewers' spines. But the film's real theme is the fear of familial abandonment, which is reflected when a creepy creature appears only when there's no light.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Jason Bourne ... Bourned to death

MATT Damon made a mistake returning to the Bourne series for the fourth time. Physically, Damon, 46,
still has the body of a natural born killer and still packs a killer punch. But his haggard look reveals a tired franchise that should have just ended with his third Bourne outing, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
   Returning director-producer Paul Greengrass, who co-wrote this film, has run out of ideas. The action and situations are similar to those viewers will have seen in the first three films.

The Shallows ... Looking Lively

THE Shallows is light on length and entertainment. Blake Lively's bikini bod is there for us to ogle. Her
best pal while stranded on a rocky outcrop is Steven Seagull; the bird provides her with someone to talk to.
     The film has scary moments, like when the humongous shark jumps out out of the clear blue sea and swallows a Mexican with great relish. The shark's athletic prowess notwithstanding, I couldn't figure out why it didn't just jump out of the water again and at least nudge our hapless bikini bod victim into the sea.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Star Trek Beyond ... Management study

THE crew members of USS Enterprise in Star Trek Beyond make an interesting study of how people
thrive in perilous situations and how the leadership of a captain, initially unsure of his position in the world, can bring out the best in them.
  It's not hard for some characters to disappear in a film with many characters, and it's to Taiwanese director Justin Lin's credit that he lets each of them have their day in the sun. Lin's proficiency in this department could be due to the fact that he has marshalled a few of the Fast and Furious films.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ghostbusters ... Ghostly pallor

THIS reboot of Ghostbusters is easily this year's biggest flop, bigger than even Independence Day:
Resurgence, a sequel. The plot is simplistic, the ghosts are a pale imitation of themselves and the baddie will be known more for his curly hair than his evil deeds.
   Heck, even the appearance of Chris Hemsworth as a dumb blond hunky secretary fails to derive an avalanche of guffaws.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! ... Let the good times roll

WRITER-DIRECTOR Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!! is so funny that its message may fly under the radar. Linklater calls this film the spiritual sequel to his Dazed and Confused (1993).  Dazed was about high school in 1976; Everybody is about being yourself and being open to discovering and experiencing new things in university.
  His message is incisive in 2016. People are often pigeon-holed according to whom they hang out with, the music they listen to and even the bar they frequent. I studied in a small-town college in Iowa, and it was normal for cliques to form according to sports teams, nationalities, ethnicities and majors.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Legend of Tarzan ... Swinging by a thread

AT first glance, director David Yates's live action film The Legend of Tarzan is about a beautiful blonde
and her studly husband going through the pains of a miscarriage.
  A deeper look, however, reveals its roots to Dancing With Wolves, The Last Samurai and Avatar. All the films are about a white man assimilating with a local culture and helping the natives ward off attacks from heavily-armed soldiers.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence ... Fireworks washed out

INDEPENDENCE Day (1996) was loud and brash, just like one of its main characters, but at least it
was fun, and viewers could go home happy in the knowledge that the US military was still still the master and commander of the world.
  The sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, is bigger and louder: the alien ship is more than 3,000 miles in diameter and the alien queen is the biggest and ugliest gangly thing you'll ever see on screens. The cast is also bloated, and director Roland Emmerich dumps contrived and forced emotional background stories on the characters.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Me Before You ... Rich guy helps poor chick

IT'S not uncommon to hear sniffles at the end of romances ensconced in medical dramas, for example, The Fault In Our Stars (2014), about two teenage cancer patients.
    However, director Thea Sharrock's Me Before You goes one step further and delves into euthanasia, and confirms that life's not worth living, even if you have a sultry Game of Thrones actress in a red dress straddling you.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Money Monster ... 'Money' wasted

DIRECTOR Jodie Foster's Money Monster is an indictment of the greediness that courses through
Wall Street and its unedifying ramifications on the working class.
   It's also about the transformation that takes place in a financial pundit, who is initially uncritical about a huge financial loss and insensitive to the plight of those who have dumped all they had into the stock market.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse ... Normal stuff

A FOREIGN megalomaniac has come back from the dead and wants to destroy the world.
He also wants
to rid the world of false gods.A mutant joins the dark side because his family was killed. A frenetic finale with swirling weather conditions forms the background for the epic battle between good and evil.
  Blockbuster films stick to the tried-and-tested path of previous blockbuster films, and director Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse is no different. It introduces us to the new brats on both sides of the divide, and gives us a baddie whose name is a mouthful, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac).

Bad Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ... Sexual warfare

SOME people would have had bad experiences with noisy and inconsiderate neighbours. I know of a
man who tortured his neighbours for four months while renovating his house. His workers' incessant drilling forced his neighbours to flee their house during the day and to return only when the workers left in the evening.
   I believe this is why people can relate to director Nicholas Stoller's Bad Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, the sequel to his Bad Neighbors (2014).  The humour is as raucous and bawdy as the first film's, but there are two themes in this sequel that will touch viewers.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Summer Camp ... 20-minute zombies

ZOMBIE films are pretty straightforward. People get infected by something, they turn into raving lunatics and go on a rampage. These zombies remain in that state for a considerable amount of time, unless they're injected with an antidote.
  Italian director Alberto Marini's Summer Camp turns this idea on its head by allowing three people to each be a zombie for 20 minutes. This allows each to display how loud his roar can be, how fast he can run and how hard he can hit against a door.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Captain America: Civil War ... Battle stations

THE third Captain America instalment is uneven. It starts off with a big bang, similar to Avengers: Age
of Ultron, loses a lot of energy after that with a chatty part about following United Nations restrictions (always a sore point with Americans), explodes with a full-scale superhero battle pitting two sides against each other, and then ends with a more personal, intimate battle.
  The Civil War part refers to the American superheroes fighting each other at the risk of flouting UN rules. One faction wants to adhere to the rules that constrain them, and the other, represented by Captain America, who represents American views, wants to do as it wishes, free from the shackles of the global body.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Eye In The Sky ... 'Hood' winked

TRAILERS are supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt as they present just the best bits of films to
entice people, but at least you know what you're getting.
  The same can't be said for South African director Gavin Hood's Eye In The Sky, which purports to be a thriller about using a drone to flush out or destroy a terrorist cell in Nairobi, Kenya, but instead turns out to be a long-winded debate about the collateral damage of killing one girl.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Pandemic ... Zombie bash fest

PANDEMIC gives zombies a bad name. Director John Suits derives great
pleasure in showing humans beating the crap out of zombies, including using a rifle and baseball bat to bash the skulls of zombies. 
   Scenes of zombie attacks are nicely spread out to give viewers ample opportunities to enjoy blood splatters. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War ... Frozen solid

LOVE, or the lack of it, permeates French director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan's The Huntsman: Winter's
War, the sequel to Snow White and The Huntsman (2012), which became known for Kristen Stewart's affair with director Rupert Sanders. Nicolas-Troyan was the visual effects supervisor in the 2012 film, so viewers are assured of a deluge of special effects in the latest film.
   I found the special effects remarkably nondescript. The sight of someone creating a wall of ice or freezing someone has long lost its charm. And so's the sight of someone lashing out at people with tentacles.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane ... Tension below

BEAR McCreary's music is one reason to watch horror drama 10 Cloverfield Lane,
directed by Dan Trachtenberg. His stirring violin music hightens the tension in the bunker between Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) and paranoid farmhouse owner-cum-former Navy satellite operator Howard (John Goodman).

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Jungle Book ... Survival of the fittest

DISNEY gets rid of the racist overtones of The Jungle Book in this live-action film, which has a host
of top names and a newcomer that will make you cheer for the underdog.
   Neel Sethi, as shaggy-haired and dishevelled Mowgli, a human who grows up with a pack of wolves in the wild, shows strength, sensitivity and determination to show what his character can do.
    He also learns to accept his differences from his "family" and bands together weaker animals against a violent tiger named Shere Khan, voiced appropriately menacingly by Idris Elba.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ... Faster than a sleeping pill

I WAS bored watching director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel (2013), and things haven't changed watching his sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This is because the film doesn't allow viewers time to empathise with either superhero. Just when you think you can get behind one cardboard superhero, Snyder whips you to another scene involving another superhero.
   Another big letdown is the purported battle between the two white superheroes. It's a misunderstanding that could have been resolved with both of them having a tete a tete. After all, I'm sure Superman didn't mean to wreak havoc of untold billions of dollars when he fought the evil General Zod at the end Man of Steel.

Friday, 18 March 2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi ... Baying for blood

A WAR film with tonnes of action is a perfect match for director Michael Bay's shaky camera and
non-stop editing style. Astute viewers know that Bay's editing is akin to someone having chilli flakes in his underwear; he just can't sit still.
   American war films (for example, Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor) put outnumbered but brave and heavily-armed American troops in foreign conflicts and show that the soldiers, who have sweet families waiting for them at home, can beat the hell out of baying Muslim rebels.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Part 1) ... Leading the way

THE drones in The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Part 1) are the most intriguing and interesting
parts in the film. Heck, if they were characters, I'd root for them. This is because they do most of the heavy lifting in this film about personalties.
  A person has three drones. With a swish of his hand, the drones pop out from behind his jacket and circle the air, hunting for prey to be destroyed or providing a bullet-proof shield.