Brotherhood Gatsby

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So its almost that time of year and we got another xmas themed slightly raunchy comedy.  I watch this solely for the fact that I didn’t need to think for this and this review probably will reflect that.

First off, there isn’t much new here except for probably Michael Shannon being amazingly awesome and the cameos are pretty good.  I lied, that’s not an exception because usually the cameos are the best thing about these types of movies.

Secondly, there a hint of chemistry between the three leads and I appreciate what they’re trying to go for.  Though, in all seriousness, I can’t wait to see an Asian cast in one of these roles. Hell, there could have been easily 4 dudes instead of 3. So please, one day, Asian actor please. And just have him being Asian and treat him like a normal American and don’t flood us with Asian stereotypical jokes. On the topic of chemistry, I actually enjoyed what each brought to the table.  Seth had family + drug issues, JSL had girl issues and Mackie had fame issues.  I think this made it much more interesting compare to say if all three of them were high cause that would just be a rehash of things we seen before.  So plus for premise? I don’t know.

Lastly, I don’t really have much to say.  The cameos were pretty good.  Though I wouldn’t say its worth the price of admission.  Check it out when its out on DVD at a friends’ house or something.

 

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This was just wow. When I first saw the trailer, I was already very intrigued to how this would do.  The cast and premise caught my attention.  I’m still very novice when it comes to directors so I didn’t really look up or know who Tom McCarthy is but now I know (also plan to check out his other films, though I will be skipping on the Sandler one).

I enjoyed everything from this film. The characters, the pacing, the narrative, the editing and the sound all were exceptional.

The characters.  Man, Mark did it again.  He once again prove his range potential.  He was very enjoyable and engaging to watch to the point where I was looking forward to every scene he had. Keaton just does his thing, though I can’t really gauge his acting ‘ability’ since all I’ve seen of his has been Birdman and that was astounding but I don’t have an opinion on his range.  He did what he had and it was good.  Rachel here was also enjoyable because I find all three leads have great personalities and great chemistry.  Though I’m not sure how accurately portrayed they are of their real life counterpart, I appreciate what they did here.  Keaton, Mark and Rachel all represented different types of personalities in the workplace and it was a good watch.

Brian d’Arcy James could’ve had more screen-time and development cause he was on the team itself but what they did with him was good enough.  Liev and Slattery had even less screen-time but they did what they needed to do which was to help flesh out the world of Spotlight and the workplace.  These three had much less screen-time compare to the three above but they still did a great job.  Stanley Tucci has the most screen-time outside of team Spotlight and he was also enjoyable to watch.  His intensity and slight awkwardness made for a compelling character.

This success boils down to chemistry and screenplay. The screenplay could have easily been bog down by background stories of each character to flesh them out and that would have deterred the film overall.  The focus is always there and its spotlight and the piece.  They mentioned background here and there and  I really enjoyed it.  For example,  Mark’s girlfriend is mentioned but never seen or Rachel’s family is in and out very quickly.  We have glimpses of their lives but we are always on the case.  With such great characters, the world is built and its authentic and believable.

The pacing, cinematography and editing, all lend itself to keep the plot moving.  There was never a dull moment.  Things just kept going and going and I felt that it reflected the urgency of the deadlines and the need to hash out a story as soon as possible.

So if you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this film.  With it being based on a true events made it even more intense.  I definitely recommend this to everyone to watch.  I suspect those who are Catholic and/or know more about these atrocities will take more/less away from this film.  It is part of a dark past but one that should be shown to the world.

So yeah, Spotlight is a movie with great cast, direction and premise.  What else do you want?

Caller I.D saves lives.

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I saw the trailer and found the premise intriguing.  And I am glad that I saw this directorial debut by Kim Bong-ju.

The premise is simple but with a sci-fi spin and I am really glad that the spin was just a given and not a huge part of the plot.  I like this because it’s just a thing that the director expects you to accept and not dwell on the actual science behind it. No hand-holding required nor allowed.

The pacing and editing does a great job in creating a believable world.  Again the director doesn’t hold the audiences hand because there are no time stamps and the such but rather it is up to the audience to remember which characters and their personalities are from which time.  I quite enjoy that as it asked the audience to pay attention.  And it starts with even the first few scenes and that is great as it’s the format of the rest of the movie.

Character desperation and tension is vivid and on both fronts as time is jumping back and forth.  Furthermore, you can seen the helplessness when things in the past affects the present.  I had a huge sense of hope for the outcome of this film. Normally, I would want a realistic ending in where logic trumps clichés but here I was really hopeful for a good ending.  The premise of before and after effects really gives a sense of hope that a happy ending is a possibility. Sure more characterization could have occur in terms of the daughter and the lead detective but I would have found that to detract from the narrative which is strictly from the husband in 2015 and the wife in 2014. And I’m not too sure on the whole ‘humanization’ of the killer as I felt it would have been more authentic if he was just stone-cold rather than have some redeeming qualities.

Overall, the cinematography is what is great here.  The characters and plot-line are not epic in proportion but it does a decent job and what’s wrong with decent? Nothing.

I love you, Grandma

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That was the only moment I choked up the entire movie.

So I finally saw this after all the hype and Alison Brie. And really there’s isn’t that much to say about it.  I mean the narrative is pretty straight forward and it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.  Acting is great from the kid actor but it could largely be due to the fact that not many kids his age have the chance to showcase their skills. Alison Brie not so much but then again what was I expecting.

I think the premise is a great one and had a lot of potential but then the actual storyline is lacking in the deep end but you can argue it is neither as deep nor dark due to the fact that it is from the perspective of the kid.  And that is what I wish was different, in the sense, if the narrative changed once they left the room would have open more doors for more anything, like literally it would involved so much more potential stuff.

I mean the director probably did what she wanted and that was to bring a feel good story about two abductees and a child who sees the world for the first time.  I have to admit, I’m probably not the ideal audience but even with that said, I feel that the cinematography could have been much more personal and authentic in terms of showcasing the kid’s emotional ordeal through this incident.  There were a lot of scenes where it felt like it was going somewhere but the way it was shot felt empty and lacking in emotional punch.  I mean sure, there was an impact but I felt like it could have been done in a way that would have made it much more memorable.

I do have to say that the acting in the room was good enough and it just went downhill after they escaped.  The scenes in the room were powerful in a sense and impressive at times but it seems that people now really just enjoy emotional outbursts and consider that to be a staple of great acting.  The emotional trauma felt rather weak and just didn’t jive well with the rest of the narrative.  With Jack’s slowly digesting the world, I felt they could have done more?  With the rest of the cast at the end, it just felt awkward to introduce them as they were forgettable and got in the way of the actual ‘good’ part of the film which was the mother/son relationship.  The writer herself wrote the screenplay and I never read the book but I felt that those characters were just shoehorned into it and had their problems (new mom boyfriend and fail dad? I seriously do not get why that was even important) try to create more ‘conflict’ . I really hope that there’s more development with the parents in the book because it felt super rushed and out of place in the part of the narrative. But you can justify this by saying “oh it’s from Jack’s perspective, so of course, it would be rushed and he wouldn’t understand”, and yes that is true and it’s just lacking in the depth that I so wish this film had.

But all in all, this goes back to what I would have liked versus the vision of the director.  This probably is liked by the general audience as it’s a feel happy movie and that’s what people want to see nowadays compare to dark and gloomy.  I knew what I was going into and it still felt disappointing because it largely boils down to a good premise but lackluster execution. And its the irony of it all that I found this lackluster whereas the quotes on the poster for this film is revolving around a ‘life-changing experience’.

The Assassin

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Sorry, not that The Assassin but rather Mr. Bond the Assassin.  Like seriously, I’m not even joking. He’s no British spy anymore but rather simply an assassin.

Anyway, onwards to the review.

So we have Sam Mendes getting behind the director’s chair once again and once again good ole JB fails again in the world of sequels.  Yes, this too, like Quantum, is a sequel and luckily for us, it’s a much better film than Quantum but then again it’s not saying much.  Though I’ll have you know that this film had a great opening sequence, albeit, a pretty illogical spy mishap which leads to a cool practical effect with a helicopter (see MI5, use practical effects as something cool AND as narration).

This movie had a lot going for it really.  The cast was looking great.  Christoph Waltz playing the villain. Bautista coming off his Guardians fame. And lo and behold, Monica Belluci playing a Bond Girl? What is going on!?

Alas, it was too good to be true. Pretty lame screenplay with most of the characters except for probably Team Support Bond (Q had a lot more screentime, M seems to fitting the shoes well and Money Penny left the office).  Waltz grand scheme was tiresome and just felt like they shoehorned this whole Spectre thing into it just to please fans. I mean seriously, if you were to have this scheme at least make the motivation worthwhile cause being jealous is pretty lacking.  Bautista was just used as homage to those crazy henchmans but didnt do much beside showing us he had metal thumbnails.  Belluci was seriously just so disappointing, especially after how MI5 dealt with their female lead.  I mean she could have been actually used rather than just show up. Léa Seydoux was great in The Lobster but totally failed here in terms of anything ‘new’ in terms of Bond Girl; from what I heard she was more than a Bond Girl but from what I saw, she was your typical Bond Girl.

Anyway, enough of the cast/story.

So like I said, the opening sequence was really pretty to look at.  And that’s pretty much it. Nothing else really stood out for me except for that huge explosion that apparently got into the Guinness World Record for biggest on set explosion.

For me, Spectre was a mess.  And it didn’t gain any more points where its plot was pretty much the same as MI5 and Skyfall.  I mean you have an agency in trouble from the government (00 and MIF) and a personal vendetta.  So yeah, sigh. Too bad. Wish it was better but it wasn’t.

BUT! Daniel Craig looks a lot better here as JB compared to Skyfall. I can definitely see another Bond or two from here.  He looked really old for some reason in  Skyfall.

 

Die Another Day

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Just wow. I have been very fortunate that the last few documentaries that I’ve seen has been really great and enjoyable ( Citizenfour, Dark Star: HR Gigers Welt, Amy, Deep Web).

When the Everest trailer came out, I was curious about it but never got around to watching it and even less so when I read some reviews.  Luckily enough for me, Meru came out around the same time and I could get me some great avalanche shot fix.

So anyway, on with the movie.

The narrative in this was really enjoyable.  The pacing for it in terms of introduction to the climbers was done in a very organic way.  They did the climb twice and during the first run, there wasn’t much background info on these climbers but when they had their downtime between the climbs, the background info comes in at very appropriate times.  For example, 2 of the climbers start working together on climbs and shoots and they expand on each climber as to what their forte is.  And the things these guys go through is stranger than fiction, surviving through perilous falls and avalanches and yet they still have that drive and passion to continue climbing and challenging themselves.

So this doc was conducted through actual climbing footage and interviews.  The interviews were placed throughout and were done well. They also had Into Thin Air’s author, Jon Krakauer, sit in for interviews.  I enjoyed his interviews much more than the others because he was much more relaxed and casual whereas the rest of the interviewees felt a bit tense (but I guess it’s what happens when you are a bestselling author, with all those book tours and interviews).  The greatest thing here is that even though it is a documentary, it still has some really epic and crazy visuals.  And the visuals are captured through GoPro’s and just wide shots and the like makes it a really pretty film.  It helps a lot as well when you have the cast who themselves are pros in their field in both climbing and cinematography and photography.  They know where the shots and how to get them properly.  And when one of them is even the director, it lends itself very easily to have their vision translate without fault onto the big screen.

All in all, this was a great documentary on climbers and their climbs.  Done well in terms of having actual climbing footage and the interviews added more depth and perspective as the climbers faced different challenges and issues.  This documentary isn’t simply one about a climb up Meru’s Shark Fin but rather a look into the minds of driven climbers.  You get a sliver of perspective as to why these guys do what they do.  I mean seriously, if you survived an avalanche, it’s gonna be a while or even never again will you get back up on a climb.  It’s traumatic stuff and yet these guys just get back into gear and start the climb once again.

Star Power

So I’m back.  It’s gonna be hard to review this without comparing it to the original so I won’t.

So first off, if you watch the two versions, you can really see the difference in culture and values.  So that’s a thing to appreciate if you have seen the original and wonder if this one is worth your time.  Largely, this is worth you time only if you want to make a comparison instead of like ‘enjoying’ it as much as you did the original; or unless you are here for Lu Han, then you are in good hands.

Let’s get him out of the way first.  Lu Han is an ex-member of kpop group EXO and EXO-M (think Super Junior and Girl’s Generation, he’s from the same label).  This is his third time in a film; I can’t say much about his acting growth or whatever cause I have not seen anything of his prior to this.  What I can say is that he is not bad.  Compare to his Korean counterpart, I would say he plays a much more convincing bad-boy turned good.  But that largely could be due to the fact that his character has a lot more screen-time and dialogue.  They really banked on his fame here.  Changed the b-boy dancing stuff to music and made the brother’s activities much more of a component in the narrative.  They even had a song that was played and sung throughout (which actually gets heavy handed when a concert happens).  Okay, enough about him really. End of the day, his performance was welcomed and probably one of the highlights of the film.

Most of the set pieces from the Korean version are present here albeit changed to accomodate the cultural difference (eg. bus instead of subway).  There are slight character background/motivation changes here.  There’s more of a good vs. evil here as our protagonist and the killer both experience lost at their own hands and they represent different sides of the same coin sort of thing.  There’s an interesting view on this app that’s pretty much like the Chinese version of tinder.  In the Korean version it doesn’t really explain how the killer coerce the girls into his car but here they explicitly blame the killings on the app. It’s an interesting take on the killer’s motive but executed rather heavy-handedly.

To sum it up really, the big picture was kept but the details were thrown out and replaced with other stuff.  In a financial sense, Lu Han will get them their budget and more back but as a film itself, the details that was sacrifice was what made the original a lot more real and authentic.  Cast chemistry is non-existent here.  Characters have jarring different personalities throughout the film.  They can be cold one minute and super nice the other and there’s no natural change to it whatsoever.  To it best would to say that they had set-pieces that they wanted to do but did not really worked at all in setting them up or connecting it. And I find the biggest issue with this film.  Scenes just don’t have the heart and emotions from the original.  It feels tacked on and yeah, not natural nor authentic.

I mean in terms of cinematography it’s pretty much the same but the screenplay, line delivery and performance is just not up to par.  I wonder how the director feels about this remake.  Is making a lot of money enough to justify this product? But in any case, if you seen the original and would like a pretty much shot for shot comparison, check it out.  I think it would be an interesting ‘assignment’.

Eyes on the road!

Normal people in extraordinary circumstances; those are the movies that I find the most intriguing and interesting to watch.  Then again, having a blind protagonist is more than just ‘normal’ really since it makes for a bit more thrills and mystery.

The actual premise is rather simple as it’s about a hit-and-run.  However, the story gets a bit more intense when you have a serial killer who did the hit-and-running.

The narrative is done nicely as character building is done to come full circle in the film and doesn’t feel like a cop-out way to make you connect with the main lead.  The pacing is interesting as well.  This has most of what you expect from your typical Korean thriller though the pacing and atmosphere did surprise me.  It starts with a simple procedural in terms of hunting down the hit-and-run guy and things escalate and does it escalate.  It is during this escalation that it reminds you it is a Korean film and the brutality of their genre is intense.  Also this is more so of a how will it end rather than a what is going on film.  From the get-go we know who is the killer and the movie is more about how will the killer get to our protagonist.  I really enjoy this kind of narrative as it makes it much more thrilling and it makes the writing much strong compare to a film where the audiences and the characters figure who the killer is (when the narrative is like that, I feel the potential of cop-out discovery much higher and much more disappointing).

Character motivations are very strong here.  You have both the reluctant officer and the youngster who does not want to be involved in this who changes their thinking when something happens to them on separate occasions.  It is this authentic change that you actually care for what happens to these characters.  The officer is somewhat your typical animated and humours cop and the youngster is your reluctant and misunderstood teen.  I really found myself enjoying their screen-time with the lead as I feel both of them has chemistry with her. It is here that is the crux because when things escalate, you do care. It would have been disastrous if the escalation happen and the risk starting to rise and the audiences didn’t care for these characters.

I would say the weakest would be the killer’s justification and motivation for leaving a trial of carnage in his wake but then again, anything is possible when you have a deranged psychopath on the loose.  So it was more so of an acceptance issue that these things were happening rather than an issue of believing if this can happen or not.  It’s not really an issue.

All in all, I enjoyed this.  From the beginning, it was a tad bit slower but as things started to roll it was enjoyable and I was invested to see how this would end.

Tidbit: I actually found out about this film when I saw that the Chinese remake is playing in theatres.  Interestingly enough, the same director directs both so I thought I’ll watch the Korean version first to gauge if I would be interested even in the Chinese remake.  I am totally interested as to how the director will change up things with a totally different production.