God Mode

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I watched this for Old Boy but lo and behold, this was actually New World’s newest film. So its like two birds with one stone.  I didn’t really know what to expect for this film cause I haven’t seen much hunter films and man, oh man, was I glad I caught this in theatres.  I swear the tiger action sequences itself is worth your time and money.

So yeah, let’s start with the tiger. He should win the Oscar, not the bear.  I really do not know how they did the tiger here.  It’s clearly cgi but there were moments where you just appreciate how beautiful the cgi is.  The tiger is less attractive during the scenes where its by itself in somewhere bright.  The depth of feel and color gradient feels off.  But when its slightly more dark and there are actors in the scene, the tiger literally comes to life and really causes some havoc.  This movie, really shows the potential destructive power a tiger has on a human body.  Its brutal to begin with when you put a tiger and a human in fight but since this is a Korean film, they added a lot more humans and a lot more blood and visceral damage to the human body. It was a love/hate relationship with the tiger being on screen.  I was immersed deeply when the tiger was real but when it felt like cg, I was pulled out of the immersion.

Now, Oldboy himself; he plays a silent and strong father which is something I haven’t seen him do before so that was interesting.  Though the overall plot has him moping a lot and keeps to himself so in essence its not that much of a stretch from his other characters.  Though, I did enjoy the scenes he has with his son as the chemistry was there during both the happy times and the hard-breaking times. Jeong Man-Sik plays his direct opposite; a hunter who is hell-bent on appeasing his addiction to hunting but at the same time show up the Japanese troops.  Jeong at times feels overacted but it probably is due to the fact that everyone else is so underwhelming that whatever he does it feels dramatically different.

Now in terms of cinematography, there’s a lot of forests and town scenery so there’s not much to write home about though there are shots of isolation in the beginning but that atmosphere isn’t that present throughout the film.  I find it ironic that the scenes that were well shot are so little and generic set shots are throughout the film.  I feel like this movie could have benefited from more eye-catching cinematography as I felt the forests itself could have been a more defined character rather than a simple location.  Then again, even some of their lines inferred about the mystical-ness of the mountain and yet not much was done to convey that sense of feeling.

My biggest gripe about this is when the last quarter feels overtly melodramatic and things just falls into place despite what happened prior.  It just felt too perfect and a bit of a stretch for the things that happen to happen.  I mean I totally believe a tiger can and will wipe out a whole platoon of soldiers but for it to understand that a character wants a final showdown of respect and honour? That’s a big stretch. Furthermore, the pacing for this is slow and its not a good slow but rather it just takes things forever to get moving and when it does, you don’t feel like the wait was worth it (well except for the tiger action, that was totally worth it).

So with everything said, the tiger is worth the watch but you just gotta get through a lot of forgettable stuff.

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The Voice

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So it has come to this. Ole Leo finally succumbed to Oscar Bait. As much as this movie has for nominations, this movie had so much promise and potential.   And sadly, this movie could have been so much shorter and the last quarter is pretty much cannon fodder and a feast for the masses.

Well first off, Emmanuel Lubezki has done it again.  After Gravity and Birdman, he once again brought to the masses amazing cinematography. Birdman had a lot of great tracking shots which really lend itself in portraying constant movement and progress.  This time around, there’s a lot of tracking action shots that are just amazing to watch. At times, it just feels like I’m watching a hyper-real cut-scene from a video game.  The way the camera capture the action was refreshing and fluid.  The scope and atmosphere were really caught throughout the film.  It was really easy to be empathetic with Glass as he goes through the harshness of Mother Nature.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu once again delivered behind the director’s chair. The way the cast is moving and merging seamlessly with the action, the direction for this film is phenomenal. The landscape shots and the use of natural light is amazing.  I know this was shot in sequence and that is a huge undertaking which is just like his ‘long-shots’ in Birdman but I wonder how much and/or if it will be appreciated by average audiences.  I feel in terms of acting it creates a new level of immersion for the cast to stay consistent in their character progression.  Normal films are shot whenever and actors are expected to do whatever scene is being shot that day. But with this format, actors are literally experiencing the same things in the same order as the character.  I do hope that other directors may pick up this costly but curious way of directing so that audiences can see an actual effect of this directing style.

Now, beyond the movie looking pretty and well directed, I felt the story itself was pretty bland.  It had potential. Tom and the natives could have been more developed. The biggest gripe I have is that when Leo comes back to town, the movie feels like it changed genres.  From the beginning, the movie was shot and paced in a way that I don’t think general audiences would appreciate but once that change happens, it totally felt like a film general audiences typically would like. When he went back to town, everything he did, I simply did not care for.  Largely, I felt that the movie was more so on a survival vein rather than a revenge flick. Furthermore, Leo was no longer vulnerable and he became an able body. He literally crawls for a while in the beginning and to see him have a full recovery and be cocky just felt like a cop-out change in character.

I haven’t read the book and I know this film was inspired by the book and that makes me sad that they didn’t take more liberties with the story and make it more compelling.  I mean, sure if this is how things went down between Leo and Tom, then it wasn’t properly build up to.  On another note, props to Will as he was able to stand beside these huge stars and not be left in the dust and I swear Domhnall is now in everything (just can’t wait till Oscar, Tom and Domhnall to be in the same movie, I mean just imagine) and it was nice to see his range here.

So yeah, with all that said, this movie looks great and it was a good try for Leo in trying to win an Oscar. He has a high chance winning but in my Oscars, he didn’t win Best Actor.

Making a Macbeth

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ALL HAIL SHAKESPEARE! Studied this when I was in Grade 10 so its been more than a decade since I last visited this story of the humble Thane of Glamis.  My advice for this film is that you should brush up on the actual plot for this before you go in (as in literally just go wiki the play and refresh your memory).

Why?  Let me tell you why.

If you do that, you can focus more on the actual acting, production and direction of this movie.  Monologues are a thing that occurs in plays and they happen here as well.  Though sometimes it’s hard do differentiate a monologue and a dialogue and it detracts from the actual scene. So if one were able to refresh their memory then they might be able to distinguish it better or maybe, it’s just me. Furthermore, if you forgot the finer details of the story and rely on the actual spoken lines, you might get slightly confused.  All the lines here are in Shakespearean English, all of it.  Its not simply the difference between you and thou but rather the ‘chunking’ of sentences.  There are a lot of lines where it feels likes it a run-on sentence and the speaker just keeps speaking and speaking.  If it doesn’t get to you, that’s great but it got to me and it was harder to focus on what was said. The trailer might be edited in a way where it seems like its not but it is, trust me, I just watched this.  So yeah, refresh your memory and it will be better, hopefully.

Anyway, now on to the actual film.

Fassbender and Cotillard were stellar here.  Their (obvious) monologues had a lot of emotion in it and it was great to watch.  The transformation the Macbeths go through is done so well by them.  Comparing when you first met them and when they descend into madness, it just great characters.  The Macbeths here are authentic, convincing and the progression is a logical one.  The vision sequences throughout are depicted with more dialogue rather than visuals and their line deliveries were just great.  They overshadow everybody else in the cast unfortunately but that’s largely due to the actual play itself.  Macduff gets more lines but it just no on par with Fassbender’s performance.  I do wonder if they had cast someone who could really go toe-to-toe with Fassbender, how that would look like.

With the whole movie, one major only gripe I had was the run-on sentences feeling but that was with everybody.  And there are times where the initial lines of dialogue feels strange but that is dependent on how verse you are with Shakespearean English.  One really has to prepare themselves to hearing that sort of line delivery and vocabulary.  I’m the uninitiated as I haven’t heard Shakespearean English in a long time and it took a while to adjust to it.

The production choice is an interesting one.  It seems like a low-budget film yet the scenery chosen and the atmosphere never feels that way.  Furthermore, the cinematography adds to the scope of things and makes it much more grand and intense through editing and slow-motion.  Locations are revisited many times and really does feel like a play. Seeing that this is the director’s third film, I would say a job well done.

All in all, this is an impressive adaptation if one were just recently studying Macbeth.  If you forgot about the actual story and the finer details, this may not be an ideal medium in revisiting this play.

Friendly Fire

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Michael Bay has returned and he brings with him the most un-Michael Bay movie ever.  I initially didn’t know it was directed by him.  I was curious about the film due to the fact that Jim from The Office is in it and he’s the main character, not a hardly there supporting one (Aloha); and also the fact that it seem like a controversial film as in operatives went in a place where they didn’t have jurisdiction or the authorization. So lo and behold, when I find out that this is done by the great explosive MB, my expectations sort of went downhill from there.  Controversy and big explosions don’t necessarily match as the authenticity of the ‘based on true story’ is usually thrown out the window for grandeur and Hollywood-ness.  Fortunately, that is not what I got.  Instead, I got a relatively low-key explosive film with lip-service dealt with all sides of the conflict.

So on with the actual review.

This movie gave a Black Hawk Down vibe. It was enjoyable to that sense. I think it reminded me of that movie because it was gritty and tactical.  There wasn’t any glorified action for the sake of it.  It was gritty because they were really going to die in a lot of places and it was simply due to the fact that they were trained and had a stronghold and the other guys weren’t trained and hid behind pillars.  In terms of the action, my only gripe with it was that there were a couple of instances where it clearly was obvious that a bullet was added post-production as the actor did not react whatsoever to a bullet hitting centimetres to his head. In terms of cinematography, it is your standard military flick though there were a few instances of first person perspective that was jarring and could have either been cut or could have included more instances of.  The premise this time is also ‘seen it, been there’ but the subject matter includes more current issues such as contract ex-military personnel and local friendly militia looking exactly like local enemy militia. Beyond anything, this movie addresses the changes of the life overseas and it is a welcome change and a wake-up call for those back at home.

So now with the cast. Jim was great here. He somewhat played an extension to his counterpart in The Office but yet it was appropriate. He’s an ex-military vet who has seen it all so he knows when to be serious and that’s pretty much like Jim.   Jim’s time as the main cast is shared with James Dale who is the leader of the group and it is a welcome change of perspective.  With Jim it is the ‘new guy’ whereas James’ is the ‘guy who deals with the politics’.  This change shows that there are a lot more things going on behind the scenes than just go in gun blazing.   In terms of characters, you get a sense of the group early on and during down time you get to see a glimpse of their lives and their struggles.  The american macho-ism were there but they were called out by other characters so it wasn’t ALL HAIL AMERICA and DIE SCUM! type of vibe which is great cause I think people are getting sick of that in a sense.  I think this movie addresses a huge problem of where vets just have too much of a hard time adjusting to time back home that they rather just come back here. I think the group that will be most offended about this movie probably will be CIA operatives because they whine a lot in this movie and they are severly overacted but that seems to be a standard for MB films so I guess he tone down the explosions but kept this part of his trademark.  But in reality, MB did them a service as it reminds audiences that CIA does not mean I am Jason Bourne.  Then again, there will be Americans who are super upset as to how Libyans are portrayed in this film, there’s always those people.

With everything said, the fact of it all is that this incident occurred and Libyans and Americans were killed (clearly more Libyans than Americans) and people will get angry.  But I won’t join them as this movie is based on a book that is written in the perspective of the Americans during the incident so whatever.  Though, I am glad that MB fixed his mistakes in way as if he watched that Honest Trailer that was released for Pearl Harbour and fixed everything they had issues with and kept the cool stuff. I mean at the end of the day, this gave somewhat of a lip-service to those who died and even the locals who are usually marginalized to people with guns and that’s it.  But the very fact that local militia showed up and helped these Americans says something and its that not all Middle Easterners are from ISIL and that is something I hope those hard-core macho HAIL AMERICA Americans can see and relate to.  But that is hoping for too much and is getting more into social commentary than a movie review.

Anyway, I recommend you checking out this un-MB MB movie when you got some time to spare.  I mean anything that makes  you think of Black Hawk Down is a good thing if you are into that genre, right? Right.

PS: this movie was based off 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff.

PPS: Roy from The Office is also in this.  I am so glad that they settled their differences and could work on the same team.

 

 

 

 

 

Birdman

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Nope, not talking about Keaton here but rather Mr. Feng Xiaogang. I would definitely say this re-titling is up there with  Gravity 2: Before In the Cellar.  However, this title speaks on a much deeper level than simply a play on Damon’s character.  You will understand when you watch the movie.  At first I thought the English title, Mr. Six, was kinda lame but then I realize the Chinese title is the same thing but in Chinese. Though technically, the Chinese title is the full name of Mr. Six rather than just his last name but I digress.

I watched this movie simply because I saw the trailer and thought it looked pretty interesting but I wasn’t totally sold on it.  I was sold when a week ago all the showings on a cheap Tuesday for this film was SOLD OUT.  I’m talking about the showing at noon till the one at 7 at night was ALL SOLD OUT.  I have never seen that before so with that I was sold I had to check this out.  Then I found out who was in it during the opening credits; a former Chinese member of Korean pop group was in here, just like in The Witness (though with that member, he is still active).  At first I was afraid that it was simply because of his name that the draw was this huge but fortunately it wasn’t the case.  Simply put, the cinematography, soundtrack, storytelling and characters speak for themselves.

The cinematography here is great.  The tracking and wide shots really help build the atmosphere and the characters.  I think I’m bias since I don’t know who the director is nor do I watch many China-production films so I wasn’t really expecting this kind of cinematography.  The pacing of the shots were also great in the sense it was right up my alley.  The shots of mundane everyday activities always win points with me in terms of storytelling and character as it shows you the real life of that character rather than just giving you a high-light reel of said characters’ life.

The theme and imagery also shined through as well as it was paired with the soundtrack beautifully so it really added to the atmosphere and the scene.  Other things such as build-up and character realization were subtle and just authentic.  The execution of the pacing of the movie is interesting. It feels long but yet I was invested enough that I didn’t mind it at all though there were moments were plot devices felt very far-fetch but then later on when everything fell into place it didn’t feel like that at all but rather an authentic progression of plot devices.

The acting here was great though it largely depends on if you can go along with the overall theme as things could potentially fall apart when you don’t necessarily buy the stuff Mr Six does/preach throughout the film.  Though then again, I think it addresses more than simply, respect your elders as it is a social commentary about the relationships between young and old. It draws a fine line between being preachy and just idealistic.  I feel you would get more out of this film if you personally understood the whole ‘respect your elders’ mantra cause then you can see the struggle from both the old and the young.  The emotions are real here as it really challenges and supports the mantra at the same time. The use of characters are great as well.  Li Yifeng’s character as Mr. Six’s son seems impartial to the plot but when things get heated, he and  Feng Xiaogang has the most touching scene in the entire film and it just speaks so well of their chemistry. And again it goes into the pacing of the film, their relationship comes rather later in the film and one would have expected the relationship to be examined much sooner.  I actually like this change of pace as it broke your typical 2 hour movie mold of when events must happen.

To be honest, I can’t really separate each thing I just praised without talking about it all together as each worked so well with one another.  I really enjoyed this film.  Though one thing that somewhat irks me is how this film is being marketed.  If you watch the trailer, it seems like a standard revenge/justice flick in lines with say, Taken, in the sense its an old guy taking on a lot of people.  But in actuality, its Taken in real life. It really deals with age and coming to terms of how one’s body aged despite what you may have done during your youth.

So my advice? After watching the trailer, don’t expect action-packed explosive action but rather a great film about the relationship of a dad and his son.  You’ll enjoy it a lot more.

I will definitely be on the look out for this cinematographer’s and director’s future work.

 

Motion Pictures of 2015

The best 40. To my taste. Largely falls under the whole ‘this is impressive’ thought. and this is what I watched in theatres

40. Carol – Directed by Todd Haynes

39. Spotlight – Directed by Tom McCarthy

38. Crimson Peak – Directed by Guillermo Del Toro 

37. Leviathan – Directed by Andrey Zvyaginstsev

36. Trumbo – Directed by Jay Roach

35. The End of the Tour – Directed by James Ponsoldt

34. The Gift – Directed by Joel Edgerton

33. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

32. Straight Outta Compton – Directed by F. Gary Gray 

31. American Ultra – Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

30. Spy – Directed by Paul Feig

29. Mr. Holmes – Directed by Bill Condon

28. The Martian – Directed by Ridley Scott

27. Crumbs – Directed by Miguel Llansó

26. 600 Miles – Directed by  Gabriel Ripstein

25. Clouds of Sils Maria – Directed by Olivier Assayas 

24. Creed – Directed by Ryan Coogler

23. Assassination – Directed by Choi Dong-hoon

22. Cake – Directed by Daniel Barnz

21. Inside Out – Directed by Peter Doctor

20. Dark Star: HR Giger’s World – Directed by Belinda Sallin

19. Alice in Earnestland – Directed by Ahn Gooc-jin

18. While We’re Young – Directed by Noah Baumbach

17. Backcountry – Directed by Adam MacDonald

16. Ex Machina – Directed by Alex Garland

15. Victoria – Directed by Sebastian Schipper

14. Veteran – Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan

13. Inherent Vice – Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

12. Steve Jobs – Directed by Danny Boyle 

11. The Beauty Inside – Directed by Baik

10. Episode 7 – Directed by J.J. Abrams

9. It Follows – David Robert Mitchell

8. Meru – Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

6. Green Room – Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

5. The Similars – Directed by Isaac Ezban

4. The Hateful Eight – Directed by Quentin Tarantino

 

3. The Lobster – Directed by Yorgo Lanthimos

2. Mad Max: Fury Road – Directed by George Miller 

1. Wild Tales – Directed by Damián Szifron