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Wobbly and Contrived in Some Areas, But Generally a Competent Movie
As far as Inga knows, she was raised by her grandparents after her mother drowned. An aspiring writer, Robert, happens to come about her real back story and makes contact with Inga, with an ill-conceived plan to use her as the subject in his first novel without her knowledge, taking notes about her as she goes about uncovering her past.

Acting overall is fine. However, the key failing of this movie is that both the protagonists do not aspire empathy and characters moving enough to inspire a strong interest from the viewer. Inge's reaction and behaviour is too adolescent and self-centred for us to care enough about her and her 'predicament', coming across as unnecessarily selfish and petulant, so we just watch her unmoved. Robert is too low-key,hesitant and annoying, so we too watch him unmoved.

Only the mother held some empathy from the viewer - a relatively small part, played by the same actress playing Inga the daughter -while the acting was fine, it is perplexing why the director would have both of these characters look exactly exactly exactly the same, which is ridiculous, confusing and annoying to the viewer. Using a more sepia tone to denote we are watching the past is not good enough when the two different characters obviously look identical.

Overall, it is a good enough effort from director Christian Schwochow, given this is his first feature length movie.

Sojunghan nare kkum

A Worthy Competent Animation
The best thing about this animation are the visuals - the clarity and attention to details are mostly fascinating.

This movie is reasonably good but not superb, and definitely worthy of much more attention then it eventually received, having done rather poorly at the theatres, as I understand from Wikipedia. Sadly, after seven years since its release, I am the first (but hopefully not only) person to review it here.

While the animation is top notch, the premise is generally acceptable but not unique enough - movies with very similar storyline (both life and animated) about teenagers at school and growing up, have been thoroughly done all over the world - Korean and Japanese included. The plot is acceptable, but adds nothing new enough to make it stand out.

The pacing is also too slow (even the characters themselves often look bored), and the few main protagonists are not given enough oomph and the all important je-ne-sais-quoi to capture the viewers empathy and attention. (It also did not help that the version I saw did not have very good English subtitles - substantial meaning and nuances are probably lost through the poor translation and poor title timing).

An outstanding animation needs to have key traits about it that would make a life version of it lacking and inferior, compared to its animated version. However, Green Days can be easily conceived as being as good or better if done life - hence, while there are no complaints about the animation itself, at the same time, animation did not bring anything sufficiently unique or outstanding to the movie (except for the last 10 mins of the 'dinosaur park fantasy' sequence where animation did count).

Insufficient marketing funds aside, this animation while definitely worthy and competent, is not able to stand out from the crop of good to excellent similarly-themed animations that have emanated from Japan, and apart from the language there is nothing about it (probably unless you are Korean) that marks it out as quintessential 'Korean'.

Do I recommend it? Yes, sure of course - while it is not right up there amongst the best, it is still heads and shoulders above the host of other lesser animations.


Sunshine Visuals, Clouded Drizzly Plot & Script
Even by 1999 (that is when this movie is released), the dime-a-dozen premise and in-your-face moralizing that this movie offers is way passe. When I saw this in 2017, the problem is only exacerbated, there being many clone-after-clone movies of this nature having been released in between.

With greater inventiveness and a much tighter script, this movie could have stood the test of time. As it is, its is visually pleasing, but another way overlong humdrum decades spanning wannabe 'epic' with a childishly ambitious scripting and unnecessary voice-over 'let me tell you how fantastically unimaginable things were for us' schtick.

Squeezing in way way too many unnecessary and pointless dialogues, scenes and subplots that add nothing, while skipping over important developments in the blink of an eye, brought this elephantine movie to 3 hours, when much much more impact could have been delivered in a more professionally tightened and focused script at under 2 hours.

Trying to bang-in on Ralph Fiennes star-power by letting him play three generations of himself looking and behaving exactly himself with moustache on/off is just a ridiculous Monty Python joke - totally big mistake.

Someone in the directorial team must have also thought, "Oh sex sells, especially pseudo- incestious sort of sex so lets put in not one, but two of it. How brilliant of us!" Which of course just make a bigger lemon of the whole outing.

The exploding village refinery at the beginning of the movie, and the freezing second version of the same old same old Ralph Fiennes are about the only two interesting bits. The rest of the visuals are definitely worth viewing, but the main problem is the mundane scripting and the casting of Ralph Fiennes as cloned grandpa-dad-grandson and totally mirthful attempts at shock-family-sex-affairs, and of course the 3 hours of why-was-that-scene-even-necessary.

And of course it was a commercial flop. For me, also an artistic flop. Cinematography is the only plus.


Colossal? Well, could have been. As it is, just somewhat interesting.
Conceptually, this movie could have indeed been huge colossal fun. Unfortunately, while the premise holds multitudes of promises and possibilities - for some strange reason, or just a total lack of imagination beyond the initial concept, the director/writer chooses a tone too low-key, a path too uneven, and the entire movie simply loiters, fumbles and meanders along without any enticing characterisation nor identity to hold up its lofty titling.

It is one of those movies which held such promise, but in the end cannot decide what it wants to be, and simply goes for a little of everything and ends up nothing very much, far far from the heights it could have been. While it tries to be different, what we eventually get is the reverse - bits of clichés from all sorts of genre - romcom, city girl in a small town, nice guy to dark guy, spoof, satire, black comedy, slapstick, fantasia, sci-fi, monsters & robots in the city, you name it ... none convincing nor properly developed, ending up with a pointless whimper in every category.

Anne Hathaway does try to hold it together, but the meandering hesitant plot and script just don't allow the actress (and her fellow actors) to gain a firm footing to propel the characters and movie forward - which indeed just got stuck in jerky low gear throughout.

Colossal waste of opportunity is what it finally is ... could have gone to very enticing places ... but it just didn't wanna have fun, didn't wanna get down to the groove, .... sput .... sput .... sputter .... end.

Century of Cinema: Nihon eiga no hyaku nen
Episode 1, Season 1

Nagisa Ôshima's 100 Years
When I watched it, the DVD was clearly entitled "Nagisa Ôshima's 100 Years of Japanese Cinema".

Nowhere in the DVD nor the narration that it purports to be the definitive "100 Years of Japanese Cinema", simply Nagisa Ôshima's OWN experience and view of it. Anyone with some intelligence and a clear open mind watching this short 54mins documentary with personalised narration would know it is not meant at all to be definitive in any way, but simply one person's view.

Except of course for the two pseudo-purists reviewers before me here who simply ignored this aspect and simply went on to blindly savage both this very interesting 'personalised view' and Nagisa Ôshima himself as if he is a demagogue interested merely in promoting himself.

This is totally far from the truth - it is these two ridiculously narrow-minded reviewers who are so keen to promote their own egoistical 'wow I am so knowledgeable of Japanese cinema' that they simply took cheap advantage of their own chosen misinterpretation to promote themselves. Ignore these two farcical and pretentious know-it-alls.

This personalised documentary is highly interesting in itself for what it is, with well-chosen imagery and snippets from a range of Japanese movies from 1910s to 1990s from a range of directors, and there is nothing about it that is meant to be definitive, and is great as it is.

Nagisa Ôshima's efforts to compile this set of quaint compelling imagery and narration representing his view is a treasure.


Wild Oats

MacLaine & Lange Excellent! Such Wonderful Aged Wine Served in a Cheap Plastic Cup of a Script :(
Both Shirley and Jessica are experienced talents capable of bringing to live a real topper script, compared to this humdrum 1980s TV movie script they've been saddled with.

If they had their hands on a truly competent script, these two would sizzle in both the comedic and dramatic aspects. The direction don't fare any much better, and all you get is a lazy evening mildly enjoyable fare.

Demi Moore is given next to nothing real to do here, except mouth tacky predictable soap opera lines ... another waste!

What wasted opportunity with such acting talents on hand!

Andy Tennant (Director here) just snoozing out another of his sub-par bland celluloid.

The producer, script writer, director ... all ought to be zip-locked and cast away into 80s TV movie land!

The Man Who Knew Infinity

Wasted Opportunity. Simply Trite and Just Not Compelling.
In better hands - scripting, directing and casting of main character - this would have been a winner of a movie based on a real-to-life mathematical genius.

As it is, the whole thing is simply trite, contrived and a whole waste of a good opportunity. Right up front, the use of near standard English by the Indian cast who were supposed to be from the "abject poverty" of Madras is downright unbelievable and ridiculous.

The script doesn't know what it wants to focus on - is it about an Indian displaced in England? Is it about the genius of the man? Is it about the tribulations of leaving your young wife and family to go abroad? Is it about another important leap of mankind in the area of mathematics? Is it about the relationship between a student and his mentor? It is all over the place and at the same time pointless and trite.

Jeremy Irons is superb and is the only key redeeming feature of the whole movie. Cinematography is colour-by-numbers, but good enough. Apart from the mundane meandering scripting, Dev Patel is a total miscast. He is simply a one-dimensional school play actor who simply does not at all have the talent to take on the range a proper lead sorely requires. He is just playing himself in all the movies he has done - same doe-eyed expression, same hesitating mannerisms, same scuttling around, same intonation, just same himself - he does not at all inhabit this very important lead character, and his amateurism is just a constant sore annoyance throughout the movie.

This movie is a dis-service to Srinivasa Ramanujan. It doesn't give any insight into his genius nor a sense of his highly unique and compelling short life.

Watch it with little expectations, and it may be mildly entertaining, but never interesting, and certainly never compelling.

Star Trek Beyond

Enjoyable Adventure, Plot Kinda If-fish
The latest installment of the franchise is packed with action and physical combat, and is an enjoyable enough adventure in itself, but breaks no new grounds in terms of sci-fi film- making nor advancing the Enterprise and it's crew in any longer term arc.

The plot is kind of loopy and unconvincing, and one kinda of have to just ignore the weaknesses and just go with the action. The motivational element of the villain(s) is more of a 'really? That's it?" The Enterprise and its crew seems to have gone into 'unchartered' space rather carelessly and unprepared, and too easily overwhelmed. Also, Krall, the villain, could have simply threatened first to get the 'thingy' he wanted, and effectively demonstrated the efficacy of his threat, rather than go into the, "Who is he? Why is he doing all this massive destruction? What does he want?" Anyway …. see it for the adventure, not the strategy and logic (despite Spock).

Some plot devices are just overly retro and tacky in a bad way e.g. playing loud metal-rock music to blast the smithereens of the rival multitudes of space pods => really? Some parts can also be a tad too Indiana Jones.

There are probably too many scenes on terra-firma (almost three quarter of the movie). Being a Star Trek movie, one would probably expect more intergalactic actions.

There is a reasonably good attempt at humor and most are worthy of a smile, though the overall dialogue could do with more oomph and sufficient gravitas. Chris Pine's Captain Kirk somehow does not come across here as sufficiently Captain-ny, and he looks a little blotted and not quite in tip-top shape. I think Idris Elba would have been a much more effective menacing villain (he has the look and the talent to pull it off) if they had NOT alien- masked him. As it is, he is indistinguishable, and is just another space-age movie villain.

The stand-out character would be Sofia Boutella's white-bodied Jaylah, who flowed into the character smoothly and would likely see her again in future installments. (Sofia also did an excellent job as the blade-legged lady in 'Kingsman The Secret Service')

Sadly, this would be the last outing for Anton Yelchin as Chekov (though he has four other upcoming movies in the pipeline). Also included is a little tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy. As for the 'gay Sulu' thing - hardly noticeable nor matter - that little non-dialogue scene could just as easily be about his brother and niece.

Enjoyable enough, nothing disappointing, but nothing to write home about either. Worth a watch!

Captain Fantastic

Mainly Hits The Mark - Both as a Compelling Drama of an Unusual Family & a Social Commentary
As an almost first time director (his second), Matt Ross, did a fantastic job with Captain Fantastic, appropriately nuanced without being cloying, anti-establishment without being absurdist, interesting multi-dimensional characters without caricatures, and different yet being sufficiently mainstream, skillfully steering the difficult edges between realism, satire, and drama.

In lesser hands, it could have become another Jason Bateman or Robin Williams type of one-dimensional comedy or pretentious drama - which unfortunately the likes of The Family Fang (acted and directed by Jason Bateman, whom I like as an actor, but doesn't yet have the director's chop) fell into despite its initial promise of being a Wes Anderson type black comedy.

Matt Ross is also an accomplished actor - I remember him as the shallow conniving yet cowardly Alby Grant from Big Love some years back. So effective was he in that TV series, that I find it hard to accept that such a low-down 'character' could bring such warmth and empathy towards Captain Fantastic as a director - which could have in lesser directorial hands become affected and pretentiously clever rather than the effective portrayal of an unusual non-mainstream family.

The casting is excellent, including the mother who we only see in brief flashbacks or as a dead body - but everything about her face and the way the others interacted and talked about her fits in like hand and glove, providing the believability that is required to carry the movie forward given the unusual premise the family is in.

The children and of course the father (Viggo Mortensen) played their roles very realistically without under or over-playing it, which they could easily have done, which would then change the whole tone of the movie to something plain, loud, crass and boringly overly showy and dramatized or 'comedied'.

Kudos too to the director's sensitivity in not turning the grandfather into another one- dimensional white selfish righteous rich buffoon. It almost went there, but pulled back just in time.

There are of course some inconsistencies (e.g. how did the girls have nicely coiffed tresses, or the kids ever learning things just sitting down and reading 'deep' books, etc) and un-explained fast forwards (e.g. how could all the children hide beneath the bus floor for so many hours, and why the grandparents did not alert the police of their absence, or why digging up a grave by the whole family did not raise any alarm, etc) - but at the end of the day, they mattered somewhat, but not enough to mar the flow, impact and enjoyability of the movie.

Go see it!

On the Road

Way Too Little, Too Late, Too Long, …. Simply Uninteresting
A movie is definitely in big trouble if the cameo roles (and there are many here) are way way more interesting than the movie is by a long shot. And yes, this movie is that movie.

It has pretty good cinematography, very competent actors all round. Each minute if taken in itself could be part of a great movie … but string them all together all 143 minutes of it (and I saw the long version!) …. it becomes one pointless uninteresting movie.

The many many sex scenes are unnecessary and pointless. It's the only movie that could make Kristen Stewart wanking off two guys, all three totally naked while speeding down the road … totally inconsequential and just plain contrived and boring.

If this movie had come out when the characters it was based on were still fresh and hot … like in the 60s … it could have been of some interest. In the 21st century … it's passé.

Seeing a bunch of unremarkable everyday deadbeats wasting their pointless life on pointless things … who cares. Deadbeats traveling around doing irresponsible selfish nonsensical things while simply backstabbing and laying waste to one another … just not interesting at all.

But the worse of it is, it's really not about the material nor the time nor the premise. The main problem is really just mundane uninspired direction and scripting (though technically competent but not great). A movie like this needs to take on a very different inspired approach that would bring out the freshness and the meaning of these meaningless souls straying in the American landscape in the beat era (and not just come across as ordinary boring deadbeats who you'd rather not bother to know).

But the opportunity was lost on the director and the scriptwriter who just did the technically competent 'tell it like it is' …. boring and uninteresting be damned. And well it is. In truly competent hands, this sort of movie could sparkle, especially with such a good cast and cameos. As it is, the cast efforts …. simply wasted.

Quoting or mumbling poetry and having percussion jazz just doesn't cut it … just makes it come across as desperate, pretentious, uninspired. (Btw - the percussion jazz was nice, but out of place in this movie and comes across as misplaced and distracting)

Truly, what a waste!

Fuk sau

Ridiculous, Pretentious, Tacky … Just a Bad Joke of an Action Movie
If you make a bad spoof of a bad spoof action movie, this would be it.

The ridiculously high ratings given even by so-called 'professional' institutional reviewers makes you wonder how much gad zillions of palmed-off cash was paid off to give such a sell-off rating.

Everything about it so contrived right down to the really cartoonish acting by Johnny Hallyday and his dark glasses, black coat, upturned collar, hat cocked hat over the brows … so bad it's not even funny. The plot makes no sense, the dialogue is whatchama get out of a 3 year old. The acting is so so bad … much worse than even a school play. The two kids hiding in the close with their hands over the mouths … just about the best acting you can find in this jaw- droppingly bad movie!

I wouldn't blink an eye if 'Get Smart' or the 'Pink Panther' suddenly appear and do a tacky caricatured karate chop and high kick. Adding parody to nonsense is still pointless nonsense.

Thank god Alain Delon has the simple good sense to run away from this nonsense after reading the script. Johnnie To? Will not bother with any of his other rubbish. It's Johnnie goodnight.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Poorly Scripted, Senseless Plotting, Badly Dated, Cookie-Cutter Characterizations
If this sequel had appeared in 1997 or 98, it would have been averagely interesting. But in the past twenty years hence, the audience has had the delight to savor so many other much more superior movies of its genre (which were ironically spawned by the first Independence Day's success) - something which the direction of this movie did not bother to account for, hence we are in for a very badly dated why-bother sci-fi flick. The original was passably good for its time, and this sequel is but almost a poor spoof of itself.

Everything from the plot to the mundane cheesy dialogue, un-laughable jokes, and empty characters, and OK-ish CGI … all cookie-cutter mishmash from other passé movies. Situations make no sense, neither do the illogical reaction of the characters, including our supposedly 'super-intelligent' big mother-monster chasing after a school bus for no real reason apart from the fact its there, like a playful kitten after a spot of light on the floor. And of course the 'saviour' alienship with all its bombastic intellect and scientific pizazz comes right up face-on to be blown to smithereens without doing the obvious thing of announcing the altruistic reason for its presence … when apparently it does speak English at that too! Anyway, so so so many nonsensical senseless situations here, don't even bother to care two hoots after a while.

None of the characters nor actors have any lasting impression nor charisma … and the two 'romantic' couples …. totally plastic with inert chemistry. I can almost hear Jeff Goldblum whispering to Judd Hirsch, "Geez, this movie is just so bad we need to wind-up our exaggerated gestures and jaw-drops to save it!"

The original TV Star Trek would be more interesting.

Saul fia

Overly Self-Conscious and Void - Like a Child Trying Too Hard at Show-and-Tell
'Son of Saul' started off with a refreshing burst, but barely a quarter in, it meanders on its own overly self-conscious showiness. It becomes painfully obvious that there's a director and production crew behind it trying too hard to drive the impact and be different, resulting in a showy look-at-me stilted performances from its actors and even the set screams "wow aren't we just realistic and meticulous in our details", like a bratty girl twirling her hula-hoop in a vigorously attention seeking manner.

The core motivation of Saul in trying to get 'a random son' buried is …… nada. The entire essence of this movie pivots on this core 'motivation'. Without it, there is only the mundane uninteresting idiosyncrasy of Saul - drifting in the sea of all the other equally mundane idiosyncrasies, all of which are equally uninteresting.

The actors (both the clothed and the naked) are way too healthy and lackadaisically bland in their appearances and attitudes, lacking any anguished sense of desperation and despair. As you watch them and the overly-crafted sets, you can't help but be 'constantly aware' that you are watching actors and extras and movie sets going about their motions as directed.

Even the constant background chattering sounds consciously deliberate and staged. And the Nazi officers - another bunch of one-dimensional caricatured bullies … same cartoonish-cardboard ones you find in WWII comedies, action genres, dramas, you name it.

Hence, even after over an hour into the movie, there is no immersion of oneself into the proceedings of the plot nor in the characters.

The most realistic actors on set are the ones playing the dead bodies, but even then their positioning and the manner in which they are piled and dragged around …. overly choreographed.

Why did it win the Oscar Best Foreign award? Absolutely no idea - just another no-sense award from Hollywood. Probably it gives the voters a misplaced sense of politically-correct 'artsiness'.

'Son of Saul' has become an obligatory-must-watch-because-its-won-these-bunch-of-awards. A good compelling movie it is NOT. Vain-glorious, and does not impress beyond its first 5 mins of fame.

99 Homes

If Only … It Had Steered Clear Off Hallmark Mushiness
This movie is frustrating to watch because it's first quarter implied much potential in truly bringing the issue and the drama to the fore. Acting by both Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield is fine, but given what eventually turned out to be a Hallmark-ish script, good acting can only help it that bit. Laura Dern and her character was way under-utilized, and all three characters way over-caricatured.

Whether the fault of the author or the script-writer or the director or all three, the plot is sadly let to falter from a realistic captivating opening moment into corny Hallmark ordinariness, which got worse and worse as it slid-slides away and by the end absolutely tanks into beyond-repair mawkish Spiderman-saves-the-day oh-geez nonsense.

If only the subject and the movie is dealt with by truly competent writing and direction …. instead of this mishmash mush. IF ONLY …..

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batty vs Super Silly. Who Wins? Comical Pretensions
A very flimsy bad silly script, massively massively padded with semi-appealing visuals and scenes when strung together is so pointless and meaningless you can't even be bothered with the tonnes of plot loopholes.

You get the way overdone obligatory city scene with collapsing buildings, a very buffed-up Superman, and the laughable Barry White deep whispery mumblings of Batman (all the funnier when coupled with the usually thin-voiced Ben Affleck), a plumpish Lois Lane, psychotic ramblings of Lex Luthor, lazily conceived lump of a monster, punch punch blah blah speeding vehicles, burning vehicles more blah blah … and of course ask all the actors to put on pseudo-dramatic facial consternation so as to badly imitate gravitas in a badly scripted cartoonish movie …. plus a few naked shoulders and a bit of exposed torsos … and voila a multi-million dollar bore of a pretentious movie.

No fun, no spunk, no deal.

Midnight's Children

Poor Poor Cousin of an Overly Long and Badly Done Malgudi Days
If ever a movie could kill the credibility of both the author and the book its adapted from, this would be it.

(Note: I do love the Malgudi Days TV series …. but not this movie)

Poor acting, poor direction, bad scripting, and downright plain silliness mar this mish-mash kaleidoscope of pointlessly strung together scenes, for no other reason than there is probably a chapter in the book that says it is there.

Salman Rushdie's highly amateurish scripting coupled by equally bad school-teacherly reading (yes, he was supposed to be narrating but he was just reading in a raspy-voiced poorly way) add to the woes of this atrocious adaptation.

Just like to an over earnest student who tries hard but you know darn well will just not achieve much, you have no choice but remark "hard worker" ….. similarly you can tell the director, cast and crew did put in the effort (which is what the 3 stars are for), but the result is just abysmal daytime soap nonsense.

Putting on a trite cartoonish caricature of Indira Gandhi just smack of childish selfish vengeance - another big big minus.

I have not read the book, but the impression I HAD is that it would be one of mystical and mythical wonders …. this movie just damn killed all of that. The book I believe is driven by narration and imagination … all killed dead now and flushed down the midnight sewer.

Il racconto dei racconti - Tale of Tales

Average Tales That Could Have Been Great - If Better Scripted
Visually and acting-wise, Tale of Tales is satisfying.

Tale wise, it is unfortunately lacking in wit, plausibility and depth.

Its free display of multitudes of bosoms and lesbian kisses and gropes put it firmly in adult viewing territory. However, its overly simplistic bland tale-telling are more suited for children age 5-12. While teenagers may drool at the sexuality of it, even they would find the stories less than compelling.

In children stories, it is fine to let adult characters behave in one-dimensional, ignorant manners, in order to focus attention on specific humanistic traits. In adult tale telling, the adult characters need to be fleshed out with more befitting complexity. The plot, regardless of its magical settings, need to invite adult curiosity and intrigue - which it doesn't.

The attention to settings and costumes are fine. But it seems to have taken the attention away from good solid tale-telling which is what Tale of Tales sorely needs.

Still, good eye-candy, and worth a lazy watch.

Relatos salvajes

Five Tales Ranging from Very Good to Very Bad
The five separate tales here are so uneven that it is unbelievable they all came from the same director, unless he has split personalities ranging from 'inspired' to 'grade-B wannabe'.

Without revealing the plot here are the five:

1) 'Flight' thingy - a little over-contrived but still an interesting and suitable short intro to the suite

2) 'Road Rage' thingy - the best of the lot. In the modern world, nothing brings out the raw brutality of ordinary people more than road rage incidents, and this piece is such an excellent brutal elegy to this very human condition - tightly choreographed, extreme yet highly believable - a worthy display of black comedy realism.

3) 'Explosive expert exploding' thingy - another gem on the exposition of modern day rage gone awry. Again well-scripted, well-acted and highly believable - how daily encounters with official incompetence and boorishness can build and trigger explosive reactions that jeopardizes more than its worth, yet someone who is otherwise ordinarily sane, would mindlessly pursue it to its end without regard of the damage it wrecks on oneself and the innocent.

4) 'Switch driver' thingy - this one is a big big let down. Totally unbelievable, poorly conceived and badly scripted. Definitely in cheap B grade territory.

5) 'Wedding couple extremes' thingy - worse even than the previous: just plain bad bad bad. Wedding guests just standing around like zombies while the couple 'act it out' - just bad directing and bad acting, and stretching out in duration way way way past its welcome. Cheap grade B attempt, trying to be clever but just ending up everyone's fool.

If the director had just stuck with the first three, it may have just about won the Oscar - 2014's winner "Ida" was more an exercise in black-and-white style rather than substance.

What a waste as the 4th and 5th could have worked if simply better thought through and in the able hands of whichever person (or personality) that scripted the 2nd and 3rd.

Coud have been a classic suite - well, que sera sera!

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Average-y, Spark-less, Oomph-less, Point-less
The only two saving graces of this Star Wars outing is ole faithful Harrison Ford's Hans Solo and the new oldie Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata.

The two new 'politically-correct' young leads have no chemistry, little charisma, and both mistook "annoying-perpetual-earnestness-of-expressions-and-behaviour" as acting - very much ala Shia Lebouf and Dev Patel's school of "monkey-can-act-so-can-I" variety. The two leads' earnestness is as stupefying and as laughable as the stoniness of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen (and what has become of the latter?).

Storyline? Plot loopholes galore!

Script? Humdrum!

(E.g. You haven't seen the mother of your lost child for ages, and one of the first remarks is, "You changed your hair". Huh? Which 3-yr old wrote the script?)

Oscar Isacc is one of my favorite upcoming stars, but even he could not bring the magic into the whole pickle. Most frustrating of all is Carrie Fisher - whatever happened to the ebullient devil-may-care Princess Leia?! What we have here is a tired, bored and defeated looking persona that in no way channels gigantic-ear-phoned Leia. Even Chewbacca had more sprite!

And Adam Driver as the key villain?! My goodness - he looks so lost and unsure about his role, that I was more afraid of chuckling out loud.

And of course to wrap everything up is the wet cloth of a whole range of copied and caricatured scenes from Star Wars IV, which many reviewers have already pointed out here.

By the end of the movie … the tacky un-shrouding of THE Jedi inspires but a who-cares! Very doubtful Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker will be able to carry the next installment without Hans Solo. Might as well bring back JaJa Binks next …. who cares!

In the Heart of the Sea

Soulless and Flat - No Heart
The movie sets out to imbue one with a sense of ol' seaman adventure and intrigue, but very soon falls into mediocrity with at best borderline competency.

The premise holds neither interest nor meaning - you think a scene would lead somewhere, but scene after scene it just leads to "so what?, who cares?" territory. Scripting is a huge problem - dialogues are mundane, pretentious and stilted. None of the characters capture any attention as characters. Chris Hemsworth got to count on his good looks and appealing voice to generate interest, and little from the character. Brendan Gleeson's character (his acting is fine) turns out to be just downright pathetic and plain silly, and not the ol' seaman with a woe-so-great gravitas the character was supposed to be. The talents of the likes of Cillian Murphy wasted on another pointless character. Ben Whishaw's character is just childishly idealistic and annoying to boot. Other cookie-cutter characters whisk in and out with no depth nor believable motivation.

The premise of many scenes make little sense. Supposed experienced seamen simply lounging in an empty boat with no capabilities of open seas survival is laughable - even our boy from Life of Pi did better. Simply drawing lots as to who will get cannibalized next - huh? And scattering human bones of comrades you ate inside a tiny boat - huh?

The whales, especially 'the' whale, should be an important 'character' requiring development - however, it is just made to be a lumbering vengeance seeking bully, a visual tail flipping thingy. Nothing else.

The only reason to see this is for Chris Hemsworth good looks and the fact that currently there is no other ol' seaman movie around - so this soulless 'Heart of the Sea" is both the best and worst there is at Dec 2015.


Not Burnt, But Charred and Overdone on the Outside, Squishy and Underdone on the Inside
If 'Burnt' had been the first cuisine movie from say the 70s, it would have been refreshing in both a raw and burnished manner. Forward to 2015 - its just another movie about Michelin Guide-3-stars-wannabe. In other words, out-dated, predictable, safe, and unnecessary, but watchable as a plain no-brainer piece.

Its neither that bad nor as good as reviewers here and elsewhere make it out to be. You could watch it as an ordinary rom-dramedy or as an ordinary give-me-a-second-chance-inspirational-celluloid, and you would get what you should ordinarily expect, nothing more nor less.

The premise is straight-forward, the outcome predictable, the attempted 'edginess' crude and way overdone (though one may forgive this when its overdone by dour-blue-eyed Bradley Cooper, including a full-on lip kiss with another guy … no tongue).

On the romantic and human interest side, characterizations are rushed and overly one-dimensional. One moment swinging at one another for no believable reason, and the next moment sappily supportive or laughably betraying, again for no believable reason.

As for the food and the cooking - … very a-la-carte as with any other cuisine movies - close ups of usual steak and fillet with adornments being sprinkled, kitchen tantrums, food being chucked, plates being broken, pots and pans being stirred …. in unnaturally clean and pristine kitchens, likewise the utensils and uniforms.

I did especially like Sienna Miller's performance - nicely understated and believable. Daniel Brühl is also effective as the pained and spurned gay restaurant manager. While Bradley Cooper did help to make Burnt more watchable, the unfortunate side is that since it is meant to be a Bradley Cooper vehicle, your expectations are heightened - and that could only lead to disappointment in the case of Burnt …. and Aloha :)

As a simplified placement - Burnt is notches below The Chef, while Hundred Foot Journey is notches below Burnt. C'est la!

Crimson Peak

Absolute Grade 'A' Visual Feast, but with Dime-a-Dozen Leaky Plot of a Cheap B-Grade Movie
An absolute visual treat especially when seen in an iMax venue. The costumes and detailing of the sets are impeccable (although I have no idea of historical accuracy, not that it matters for a fantasy-horror-murder-mystery-romance thing).

Good acting by a strong cast, but with each deploying an overly caricatured characterization, which is likely the fault of poor scripting and the popsicle-style direction from Guillermo del Toro.

As with a number of Guillermo del Toro's movies (e.g. Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, The Devil's Backbone) the movie initially promises much more than what is eventually delivered, driven by the strong visual factors which unfortunately are not at all backed-up by anywhere a worthy enough plot nor script, belying the initial promise of genuine intrigue, and the storyline eventually deflates into B-grade movie territory.

Crimson Peak gives one the sense of copycatting from a range of other movies. For instance, the final scene of knives and shovel wielding femme fatales going at one another a la Fatal Attraction and Death Becomes Her, is just way too common and overdone.

It also seems to copycat Guillermo del Toro's own The Devil's Backbone plot - ghosts not out to haunt, but to warn and to seek revenge.

Still, the movie is worth the visual feast - so do see it. Just soak in the view, and just switch to 'que sera sera' mode when it comes to plot and plausibility.

I still hope that Guillermo del Toro does still have it in him to churn out something truly outstanding, something in the likes of Hell Boy.


Bland Colour-by-Number Pretensions
We get it already …. Jap soldiers equal cruel robots, American soldiers stoic heroes, given to weakness only because they are victims of cruel robots. Exactly - modern age propaganda in full swing.

Instead of celebrating the success and tribulations of Louis Zamperini, it only makes a mockery of it. Just as well he did not get to see the final product.

This movie has no sense of humanity, no soul, just caricature after caricature.

Rating of 4 purely for the hard work put in by cast and crew … the result unfortunately shows for NOUGHT.

Scene with 'beam over the head' … Laughably agonizing pretensions only Ms Jolie could be blind enough to think it is anywhere near 'inspirational'.


Fine Acting, Marred by Unnecessarily Overwrought Script
Watching this for the first time in 2015 (37 years after its release), Autumn Sonata does not really pass the test of time. Despite fine acting by all the four principal actors and an appropriately emotive 'autumny' look and feel to the cinematography, the scripting is very dated in a bad way - labored and patronizing to the viewer.

It's supposedly believable and relatively straight-forward absent-parent-isolated-child-now-both-adults premise has been very heavy-handedly weighted down by an unnecessarily overwrought script filled with dialogue that borders on the paranoid - an unintended outcome from an over earnestness on the writer-director's part, who doesn't seem to believe subtlety is a virtue in the effective conveyance of a family drama.

As it is, the movie has unfortunately caricatured and locked itself into a time-style warp that doesn't lend it the relevance and timelessness of better constructed movies. As it is, the proceedings is much like an overly exaggerated stage-play where the audience is plied with layers of thick emotions of 'hidden' pain and guilt and near-hysteria, just so their minds wouldn't think and the eyes wouldn't stray from the sheer heftiness of things. Audience introspection is minimized and deemed unnecessary. And many of the revelations are closer to the rantings of spoilt children and adults, throwing the proceedings between Eva and her mother into the ilks of rich-spoilt-brats who have the luxury of indulging each other in their own self-loathing.

The result is, while you admire the actors performance, the viewer is kept distant from the 'staged' characters these actors are directed to play. It is akin to watching an indulgent family quarreling amongst themselves but feeling neither sympathy nor empathy, but merely curious at the childishly 'dramatic' behavior of these players.

The sometimes disjointed flow subtracts rather than add. The most obvious 'subtraction' is near the end where the matriarch (played by a wonderful Ingrid Bergman in her swan song) 'leaves suddenly'. We are told this, but we do not witness this very important departure. Given the overwrought interactions between mother and daughter(s) and the situation that was set up just prior to this 'leaving', there would have been very telling interactions amongst them during the 'leaving'. The matriarch certainly did not disappear quietly into the morning light.

In the relatively short 95 mins or so, I felt I have just watched a stage play, where the focus is on highlighting the skills of the stage (and 'staged') actors, rather than on the collective strength of a well-scripted and well-directed play. It rarely felt like a movie. I would hesitate to call it 'pretentious' mainly because of the fine acting. In the hands of less able actors, such a staged script would fall square into pretentiousness.

I am not familiar with Ingmar Bergman's movies - perhaps this is his 'style'. Would recommend Autumn Sonata as a 'study' of dated scripting and movie/play making, but not as an engaging movie. Maybe it once was engaging, but not today, nor likely in the future.


A Movie With Quirks Apt for When It Was Made
Watching Antonia's Line 20 years after it was made (and winning Best Oscar Foreign Film then), it still has its quirky 'life-is-full-of-the-unexpected' charm reminiscent of 'new wave' movies of the 90s, though it does feel dated now.

It's about lore, life, love/lovelessness, and definitely not about logic. So if you go about looking for typical character motivation, plot sensibility or any form of social, religious or political allegory, then you're looking for these typical "movie subtext" in the wrong garden.

It is laughable how so many read 'feminism' into the movie. There is none of it, unless you go about creating one on your own. Both male and female characters can be interpreted as "strong" or "weak" depending on how you choose to view them based on your own bias - the movie as it is, has no bias whatsoever. For example, is resisting marriage a 'strong' or 'weak' trait? Depends on your own experiences, opinions, and views, isn't it. Or, to bay at the full moon because you can't marry your Protestant lover - is that 'weakness', 'foolishness', 'madness' or 'strong love'? Or to drown your own kin (who has committed a heinous rape) when he is already beaten and weak by pushing his head into the water from the back without his ability to defend himself - is that 'righteous', 'weak', 'strong', 'anarchic', 'cowardly', brave' or what?

The movie presents what it presents. If you choose to draw any conclusion from it, then know it comes entirely from you, and don't merit your own intentions to that of the movie's intention.

Watch it with open eyes and just let it rinse into you, and wash out whatever washes out.

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