Thursday 23 March 2017

Life ... Keeping out the alien (refugees)

SPACE horror film Life is about a sample from Mars that grows from humble beginnings to a killer
that will stop at nothing to survive. Naturally, in most horror films, there's an abundance of people for the evil specimen to devour with gusto.
  I am not ashamed to say that Life is the first horror film to make me jump out of my seat; the scare is so unexpected. You watch with fear at how the killer stalks its prey and you pray that the humans can survive the onslaught, despite the many protocols or barriers they have put in place.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Power Rangers .. No power

POWER Rangers is a Breakfast Club (1985) copycat mixed with science-fiction daring-do, and the latter
 is certainly an invigorating classic compared with this film. You throw five screw-ups together in a small town's high school detention class and viewers are supposed to be uplifted by their sorry tales of woe.
  The five of them discovering their superpowers is nothing new. It resembles Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire and Andew Garfield) going wild with his newfound Spidey senses. In fact, there's a scene showing them jumping over a mountain gap, which is similar to Peter Parker leaping from one building to another.

Monday 13 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast ... 'Beauty' is not in the eye of the viewer

I WISH I could say that Malaysians lost an opportunity to catch a great film, but Disney may have done them a favour by pulling director Bill Condon's Beauty and The Beast from Malaysian cinemas.
   Netizens have expressed their displeasure at Disney, who did so because Malaysian film censors snipped off a gay moment in the film. Disney will appeal against the decision (on March 21), but it looks like the censors will stand their ground.
    This live-action film is great to look at, with its palatial interiors and grounds, and some of the songs are catchy, but they won't leave an impression on viewers.

Monday 6 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island ... War at its worst

I STEPPED into the cineplex expecting director Jordan Vogt-Roberts's King Kong reboot,
 Kong: Skull Island, to deliver a political statement on the Vietnam War, and it doesn't disappoint. The film may be set in the wake of US forces leaving Vietnam in 1973, but its tentacles reach until the present day.
   The film, which takes its inspiration from Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park, overflows with references to Vietnam War and possibly every other conflict the US is mired in. It's part war film, part horror film, and can't seem to decide which is more important.
   The moral of the story is the US accepting the status quo in God-forsaken parts of the world, and that attempting to change it brings only more death and destruction.

Monday 27 February 2017

2017 Oscar/Academy Award winners


Warren Beatty explaining the confusion as the cast of 'La La Land' hands over their Oscars to the producers of 'Moonlight' on stage. AFP pic

Sunday 26 February 2017

Logan ... Logan's on the run

IT'S been 17 years since the first X-Men film appeared, and in that time, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine has taken the world by storm. Logan is supposedly the final film in the Wolverine trilogy. The film is chockful of violence, and it's also about the loner Logan shedding his inhibitions and learning to be part of someone's life, and standing up for that someone.
   Logan is introduced to new young bilingual mutant Laura (Dafne Keen), whose skills are introduced through an awesome scene in an abandoned industrial plant in the Mexican desert.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Lion ... Tracks to nowhere

VIEWERS can be forgiven for thinking that the first act of Australian director Garth Davis's debut feature film Lion resembles the porn poverty in Slumdog Millionaire. An irresistible Saroo (Sunny Pawar), 5, steals the show with his impish grin and indomitable spirit to survive amid the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, India.
   The scenes with his elder brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) are strong and emotional, as are the scenes of him escaping a would-be abductor.
   The him, however, flounders when Saroo is adopted by an angelic white Australian couple, John Brierley (David Wenham) and his wife Sue (Nicole Kidman). After one meal, one bathtime session and one nice talk, Sue has bonded with the illiterate Saroo.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Moonlight .. Atmospheric and meditative

IN Richard Linklater's Boyhood, viewers see the transformation of an actor playing a kid over the years. In writer-director Barry Jenkins's Moonlight, viewers see the transformation of a character played by three actors in pre-pubescent, teenage and adult years.
   This is a delightfully slow and atmospheric film that washes over you with its great acting, long takes and rocking soundtrack.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Hidden Figures ... Girl power blasts off

AFTER the fiasco of last year's #OscarsSoWhite, there are three black films up for Best Picture at Sunday's Oscars ceremony.
  The film opens in Malaysia today to coincide with the hoopla surrounding it, which is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly -- Hidden Figures: The American Dream And The Untold Story of the  Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race.
   My first viewing of writer-director Theodore Melfi's film made me tear up. It's so blatantly an uplifting tearjerker. The same thing happened the second time.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Fifty Shades Darker ... Dull and deploreable

TWO years ago this month, I kicked off my blog with a review of director Sam Taylor-Johnson's forgettable Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the best-selling book of the same name by E.L. James. The film was critically ravaged, but it made tonnes of money.
   The sequel to that film is back to haunt us, or make us laugh, depending on your point of view. Director James Foley's Fifty Shades Darker, based on the book of the same name by James, continues from where the first film left off.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Rings ... The horror of watching this film

THERE was a reason why VCRs and video cassettes became obsolete, and Rings, which is based on a
Japanese horror film, should follow the same path.
   You all know the drill: you watch a well-edited black-and-white video, and you get a call immediately after watching it (there's no mention of how the evil spirit gets your number) that tells you that you have seven days to live.

Friday 10 February 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 ... Speeding into oblivion

"I'LL kill them, I'll kill them all."
   Assassin John Wick (a morose Keanu Reeves) utters this at the end of violent film John Wick: Chapter 2, directed by Chad Stahelski. I'm not sure why someone decided to make this sequel.
    It could be to satiate viewers' lust for blood. There's not much exposition in this film, and whatever dialogue present is strictly functional.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Manchester By The Sea ... Honest, gritty depiction of grief

THE protagonist in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s mostly all-white film Manchester By The
Sea  is quiet, abrasive and prone to bouts of violence.
   He lives alone in a tiny room while working as a janitor/handyman in a few  buildings. He’s proficient at his task and he’s a fly on the wall, privy to residents’ conversations while he goes about his job. It could be that he’s invisible to others.
   He’s lost interest in women and has a short fuse.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Hacksaw Ridge ... Oh Christ! the violence

DIRECTOR Mel Gibson has his cake and eats it too in Hacksaw Ridge, about real-life US Medal of
Honour recipient Desmond Doss, a devout Christian and medic who single- handedly rescued 75 injured US soldiers, and some Japanese, according to the film, in the ferocious Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
   And conscientious objector Doss did it without carrying a gun, which he says, in the movie, is one of the Ten Commandments: thou shall not kill.

Monday 30 January 2017

The Space Between Us ... Spaced out

ON the surface, director Peter Chelsom's science-fiction flick The Space Between Us is about the first
and only person born on Mars wanting to return to Earth after 16 years to discover the identity of this father. In the process, the orphan, whose mother died giving birth to him, strikes up a friendship with an Earthling who's also an orphan.
  Dig a little deeper, however, and it's about the boy and the girl losing their virginity with each other. And the fact that they did it in near a campfire in an Arizona desert  is icing on the cake.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) ...

DIRECTOR Alfred Hitchcock's remake of his own film, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956),
features an assassination plot that's supposed to take place during a classical music performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
  It's excruciatingly spine-tingling watching Doris Day watch the shooter, who in turn, watches his target.
  Then I remembered that I had seen something similar in Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation (2015), in which Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise seek to foil an assassination plot that will take place during an opera performance of Puccini's Turandot.

KungFu Yoga ... Bent into boredom

JACKIE Chan plays Professor Jack, China's most famous archaelogist, in director Stanley Tong's English and Mandarin film KungFu Yoga. This is a running joke in the film, as whenever someone calls him that, he looks abashed and demurely says: "One of the best."
  A modest Chan? Age must be catching up with the 63-year-old martial arts proponent, who's rehashing his films so often that one can say that if you've seen a Chan film lately, you've seen it all.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Split ... Personality plus

THE verdict on Split comes down to the performance of James McAvoy, who gets to flex his acting
chops by playing a man who has 23 personalities, with a 24th about to burst to the surface. McAvoy gets to play a 9-year-old child, a woman, an effeminate fashion designer, and a man obsessed with cleanliness.
    While I applaud his versatility, I didn't really feel the impact of his performance. Yes, he gets the mannerisms and speech patterns down pat, but I always felt they were superficial.

Thursday 19 January 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage ... XXX is ZZZZZssss

VIN Diesel wants to recreate he chemistry of his Fast and Furious franchise in director D.J. Caruso's xXx: Return of Xander Cage. He's got the multiracial cast, pretty babes in bikinis and preposterous action scenes, but considering that I rated the last Fast film low, it's not surprising that his reprisal of the role he first made famous in xXx (2002) falls flat.
   Diesel is 50 this year, so watching his character, extreme athlete Xander Cage, move like a hyena is hard to believe.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ... Kill, kill, kill

THE Resident Evil series thrives on incessant violence, and the violence in Resident Evil: (hopefully) The Final Chapter puts to shame the gore in Saving Private Ryan and sword-and-sandal flicks. Knives cutting through bodies like butter and decapitations are the norm. A laser slicing off a few fingers is considered mild by the film's gory standards.
  Our beloved heroine Alice (the lovely and indomitable Milla  Jovovich) is on the warpath again, eliminating everything and anyone who stands in her way.

The Bye Bye Man ... Say goodbye to it

A FEW hours after I had seen The Bye Bye Man, I had forgotten about it. In fact, I had forgotten that I
had even gone to the movies. That's how exciting director Stacy Title's haunted house flick is, and not even the cameo by veteran actress Faye Dunaway can save it.
   The screenplay is co-written by her husband Jonathan Penner and based on the book The Bridge To Body Island. 

Thursday 12 January 2017

Patriots Day ... Love is good, but why did bombers do it?

EVERYONE would have heard of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. The New Straits
Times newspaper in Malaysia provided indepth coverage of the event, right up to the capture of one of the two bombers in a boat in the Boston suburb of Watertown four days later.
   Director Peter Berg's film is a dramatisation of the event from the hours before the bombings to the capture. The bombings killed three people and injured 264.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Elle ... Huppert carries sexually-charged film

ISABELLE Huppert's performance is a tour de force in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's disturbing and yet engrossing French film Elle (She). Watching Huppert navigate elite French society, dealing with people's negative reaction to her, and gaining the upper hand in her sexual liaisons is worth your admission ticket.
   Huppert, 63, won the best performance by an actress in a film (drama) at the Golden Globes on Jan 8 for her role in Elle. She casts a spell on you from the first to the last scene. I watched the film twice on consecutive days and was enthralled by her performance.

Monday 9 January 2017

His Girl Friday ... Snappy dialogue but obsequious female role

WOW. That's how I felt after watching director Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday, with the witty
repartee between Cary Grant's newspaper editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell's reporter ex-wife Hildy Johnson leaving me breathless and wanting more.
   There was hardly a moment's silence in this 92-minute comedic black-and-white 1940 film. The characters talk incessantly, never giving others the opportunity to interject. The back-and-forth dialogue is a joy to watch and listen, and I wish there were more films like that nowadays.

Friday 6 January 2017

Allied ... Bombed into oblivion

A DESERT in World War 2 is supposed to remind viewers of the contours of a woman's body a la The English Patient.
   Then there's the opening setting in Casablanca, which pushes viewers towards Casablanca territory.
  Allied, however, is neither of the above films. The film wants to tug at our heartstrings, to feel the supposedly unbridled love between a handsome Canadian spy and a gorgeous French resistance fighter, but all it makes viewers feel is the incongruity permeating through director Robert Zemeckis's film.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

La La Land ... Just blah

MUCH has been made about writer-director Damien Chazelle's La La Land, a tribute to the golden
age of Hollywood musicals set in present-day Los Angeles. It received seven Golden Globe nominations, and is expected to win comedy/musical best picture, best actress (Emma Stone) and for score at the award ceremony on Jan 8.
  Chazelle also wrote and directed Whiplash (2014).
  However, I found myself yawning midway through La La Land. The opening one-shot piece set in a congested LA highway didn't get my juices going. It looks like any other dance music video, I thought to myself.