some quotes....

I just want to tell you, I'm the one who was supposed to take care of everything. I'm the one who was supposed to make everything okay for everybody. It just didn't work out like that. And I left. I left you... And now, I'm an old broken down piece of meat... and I'm alone. And I deserve to be all alone. I just don't want you to hate me.

-Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, The Wrestler

lundi 28 novembre 2016

Loving (2016)



Năm 1958 đánh dấu bước ngoặt trong cuộc đời của cặp tình nhân trẻ tuổi Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) và Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) khi hai người quyết định tiến tới hôn nhau sau khi Mildred mang thai đứa con đầu lòng của hai người. Sinh ra và lớn lên ở vùng đồng quê yên bình bang Virginia nước Mỹ, được bạn bè, gia đình ủng hộ và động viên, tưởng như chẳng gì có thể ngăn cản anh thợ xây 25 tuổi Richard gây dựng tổ ấm với cô gái của đời anh, ngoại trừ một rắc rối – Richard da trắng còn Mildred da màu. Chỉ cách thủ đô của mảnh đất tự do chưa đầy 200 cây số, nhưng bang Virginia – thành lũy năm xưa của phe Liên minh miền Nam ủng hộ chế độ nô lệ trong cuộc Nội chiến Hoa Kỳ vẫn duy trì đạo luật cấm người da trắng kết hôn với người da màu. Tin rằng đạo luật lỗi thời từ năm 1924 kia thực sự chỉ là một trở ngại “nhỏ“, Richard và Mildred lái xe lên thủ đô Washington, D.C. làm lễ kết hôn rồi quay lại vùng quê xanh ngắt xứ Virginia với mảnh giấy giá thú lồng trang trọng trong khung kính. Nhưng ở nơi chủ nghĩa phân biệt chủng tộc vẫn được coi là “Ý Chúa” như Virginia, tấm giấy giá thú đó chỉ là mảnh giấy lộn. Vợ chồng nhà Loving lập tức bị bắt giữ giữa đêm khuya vì tội “phá hoại sự bình yên và phẩm giá của Virginia” và bị tống vào tù bất chấp việc Mildred đang bụng mang dạ chửa ở cái tuổi 19. Để tránh cảnh tù tội và tiếp tục được sống bên nhau, Richard và Mildred buộc phải “nhận tội” trước tòa và nhận hình phạt cấm quay trở lại quê hương trong vòng 25 năm. Không còn lựa chọn nào khác, vợ chồng nhà Loving buộc phải chuyển tới đô thành Washington, D.C. sống mà trong lòng luôn nặng trĩu nỗi thương nhớ những đồng cỏ xanh, những cánh đồng bông, những trang trại thơ mộng nơi quê nhà. Như nhánh cây xanh chẳng thể sống thiếu đất, gia cảnh êm ấm ở thủ đô chẳng thể khiến Mildred yên lòng, dù thấp cổ bé họng nhưng cô quyết tâm đứng lên phản kháng lại quyết định bất công của tòa án Virginia để giành lại quyền được sống ở quê hương. 


Loving là tác phẩm mới nhất của một trong những tên tuổi đáng chú ý nhất của Hollywood thời điểm hiện tại – đạo diễn 37 tuổi Jeff Nichols. Chỉ trong vòng năm năm trở lại đây, Nichols đã cho ra đời bốn tác phẩm đáng chú ý là Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2012), và hai tác phẩm cùng trong năm 2016 là Midnight SpecialLoving. Cùng lấy bối cảnh chính là đồng quê và thiên nhiên Hoa Kỳ, các tác phẩm đậm chất nhân văn của Nichols thường tập trung mô tả vẻ đẹp tâm hồn và xung đột nội tâm của những người dân thuộc tầng lớp lao động trong xã hội nước Mỹ. Không nằm ngoài khuôn khổ này, nhưng Loving có lẽ là bộ phim mang tinh thần nhập thế hơn cả khi tác phẩm đề cập tới đề tài nóng bỏng nhất của nước Mỹ thời điểm hiện tại – nạn phân biệt chủng tộc. Với những người không am hiểu lịch sử nước Mỹ, có lẽ khó ai có thể tượng tưởng được rằng đến tận giữa thế kỷ 20 ở một nơi được coi là ngoại vi của thủ đô của cường quốc số 1 thế giới, nam nữ lại không thể đến được với nhau chỉ vì khác biệt màu da. Phải chờ đến khi lời oán thán đơn giản nhưng xuất phát từ sâu thẳm tâm can của Richard Loving – “Tôi yêu vợ tôi, và thật bất công khi tôi không được sống cùng cô ấy ở Virginia” được Tòa án Tối cao Hoa Kỳ xem xét năm 1964, tình trạng này mới được chính thức xóa bỏ. 


Với bối cảnh là một trong những thời khắc quan trọng nhất của cuộc đấu tranh đòi quyền bình đẳng cho người da màu tại Hoa Kỳ thế kỷ 20, nhưng trung thành với cái tên của mình – Loving (vừa là họ của vợ chồng nhà Loving, vừa mang nghĩa “Yêu thương” trong tiếng Anh), bộ phim mới nhất của đạo diễn Nichols chủ yếu tập trung khắc họa tình yêu thương của Richard và Mildred dành cho nhau, và dành cho quê hương xứ sở, dành cho giá trị tự do thay vì những xung đột sắc tộc, kịch tính, thậm chí là bạo lực, chết chóc vốn rất phổ biến tại Hoa Kỳ giai đoạn những năm 1950, 1960. Kịch bản chú trọng tính nhân văn, đặt nặng vào tình yêu thương giữa người với người giúp Loving tạo được nét khác biệt so với những bộ phim Hollywood có cùng đề tài trong những năm gần đây như 12 Years a Slave (2013) hay Selma (2014) đồng thời một lần nữa chứng tỏ tài năng của Jeff Nichols trong việc truyền tải vẻ đẹp nội tâm của nhân vật đến với khán giả. Quan trọng hơn thế, chất nhân văn thấm đẫm của Loving còn giúp Jeff Nichols nói lên được một thông điệp hết sức tích cực về niềm tin vào công lý, vào sức mạnh của lý trí, vào phương thức đấu tranh bất bạo động – thứ niềm tin nước Mỹ, người dân Mỹ đang rất cần ở thời điểm hiện tại. 


Trong thành công của Loving, bên cạnh bàn tay đạo diễn của Jeff Nichols, tất nhiên người ta không thể không kể tới tài năng diễn xuất và sự ăn ý của bộ đôi Joel Edgerton và Ruth Negga. Nếu như nam diễn viên người Úc Edgerton đã có được vị trí nhất định tại Hollywood với những vai diễn gai góc trong Animal Kingdom (2010), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), hay Black Mass (2015), thì nữ diễn viên người Ireland gốc Ethiopia Ruth Negga thực sự là một bất ngờ của Loving khi cô thể hiện một cách xuất sắc hình ảnh Mildred Loving đẹp đẽ với tâm hồn phản kháng rực lửa. Một bên là Richard thô mộc, kiệm lời nhưng đặc biệt nhạy cảm, một bên là Mildred mong manh, dịu dàng nhưng không kém phần dứt khoát, Edgerton và Negga là hai mảnh ghép hoàn hảo cho bức tranh “yêu thương” của Loving. Khi so sánh những khung hình mô tả tình yêu ngập tràn của Richard và Mildred dành cho nhau trong bộ phim với bộ ảnh của nhiếp ảnh gia Grey Villet thực hiện cho tạp chí Life năm 1966 về nhà Loving của đời thực (Michael Shannon – diễn viên thân thiết của đạo diễn Jeff Nichols là người thủ vai Villet trong phim), người xem chắc chắn sẽ cảm nhận được sự thành công của Edgerton và Negga trong việc tái hiện sự yêu thương qua nụ cười, ánh mắt, cử chỉ của vợ chồng nhà Loving. Bổ sung cho diễn xuất ăn ý của bộ đôi Edgerton-Negga là phần hình ảnh và nhạc phim mang đậm hơi thở của một nước Mỹ đa dạng những năm giữa thế kỷ 20. Thành công tương đối trọn vẹn về mặt nghệ thuật của Loving cho thấy rằng khán giả hoàn toàn có thể hy vọng vào những bộ phim xuất sắc trong tương lai của bộ tứ đạo diễn Jeff Nichols, biên tập phim Julie Monroe, quay phim Adam Stone, và soạn nhạc David Wingo. 


Tuy là một tác phẩm hết sức xuất sắc về một đề tài khó và hiếm phim hay như nạn phân biệt chủng tộc tại Mỹ, nhưng Loving chưa hẳn là một tác phẩm hoàn hảo. Điểm yếu lớn nhất của Loving có lẽ là việc tác phẩm có nhịp phim chậm, thiếu kịch tính và cao trào. Dù biết rằng lựa chọn nghệ thuật này của đạo diễn Nichols trong việc trung thành với câu truyện “người thật, việc thật” là một lựa chọn đáng trân trọng trong bối cảnh nhiều tác phẩm Hollywood thường xuyên cường điệu, thập chí là bóp méo, xuyên tạc sự thật để tạo dựng kịch tính, thu hút người xem, nhưng kịch bản thiếu vắng điểm nhấn cùng thời lượng phim dài tới 120 phút đã khiến “Loving” mất đi phần nào sự hấp dẫn tương xứng với tầm vóc lịch sử của cuộc đấu tranh đòi quyền được sống của gia đình Loving.


Gần nửa thế kỷ đã trôi qua kể từ ngày Chánh án Tòa án Tối cao Hoa Kỳ Earl Warren trao lại quyền được sống trên quê hương Virginia cho Richard và Mildred với phán quyết lịch sử: “Hôn nhân là một trong những quyền công dân cơ bản của con người, là quyền lợi cơ bản nhất cho sự tồn tại và sống còn của chúng ta”. Nhưng mãi tới năm 2000, bang miền Nam Alabama mới chính thức loại bỏ luật phân biệt chủng tộc trong kết hôn, và cho đến ngày hôm nay những người đồng giới Hoa Kỳ vẫn còn phải tiếp tục chiến đấu để giữ lấy cái quyền vô cùng cơ bản ấy cho họ. Trong bối cảnh này, Loving là một tác phẩm xứng đáng được xem, được suy ngẫm, được trân trọng khi bộ phim không chỉ nhắc nhớ khán giả về một thời khắc lịch sử trong cuộc đấu tranh bình quyền tại nước Mỹ, mà còn truyền tới họ thông điệp rằng chúng ta cần tiếp tục yêu thương lẫn nhau, và tiếp tục làm hết sức mình để bảo vệ cái quyền cơ bản ấy cho tất cả mọi người trong xã hội.


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Bản đã biên tập trên Zing.

One sentence reviews (10)

Phần 5
Phần 6
Phần 7
Phần 8
Phần 9

01. All the President's Men (1976): 4/5

The dry tone of the film may turn off some people, as it does not have any actual action or over-the-top sequence. Other than that, this film is a good example of the excellent quality of the New Hollywood period (from around 1969 to 1979) - a period full of films with perfect cast, thoughtful script, next-to-none fanciful yet useless details, social awareness, and resistance against political correctness. That is also what "All the President's Men" was all about. Having two of the most prominent faces of the New Hollywood generation clearly did not hurt, but the way Redford and Hoffman were selected for two totally opposite yet fully complementary characters really elevated the quality of the film and helped show the everyday dilemma that journalists have to face - be quick (but lack of credible and verified information) or (trying to find the root of the matter and) be dead? Despite the recency of the events depicted in the film, "All the President's Men" is also very commendable for avoiding the unnecessary dramatisation of the fact, and rather following the fact closely by unveiling event by event, character by character to the audience with utmost care, especially regarding the script logics of a journalistic investigation, the authentic ambiance of a biographical cinematic work, and the value of true journalism. Much less dramatic (and with way fewer accolades) than "Spotlight", but "All the President's Men" to me really is a superior film about journalism.

02. Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): 3/5

Not as good as "Marguerite", not too bad though, for a film full of over-the-top actings like this. Meryl Streep is as dependable as ever, but it is Hugh Grant that stole the show with his back-to-form role. Still, the script does not possess the same depth as "Marguerite", and the obvious casualties are the lack of character development (the supporting characters are especially disappointing, in comparison with the very impressive cast of "Marguerite") and a somewhat disappointingly conventional ending. A fine film, but "Marguerite" is preferable.

03. Under The Sun (2016): 3/5

Promising premise thanks to the unprecedented access to North Korea, yet the film failed to impress under the tight control of North Korean officers. The film is way too long with too many repetitions of contexts and activities (when the "double takes" scene was repeated for the third time, I was so bored that I amost quited watching) and few "new" factors. The manipulative shots of the kids are also unsettling, as they somehow distorted the portraiture of the kids, which have already been deformed by the propaganda and censorship machine of North Korea. Some images are pretty powerful (the dark building without elevator of the textile plant, the performing kids with the "5th nuclear test" headbands, the learn-by-heart poems of hatred, etc), but the film in a whole is nothing new in comparison with the depiction of North Korea by Western media throughout the years. A disappointment, given the fact that the negative outcome from this "outreach" attempt by the North Korean authority will surely narrow the chance for other filmmakers to get into this country to make (probably) better films.

04.  Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (2015): 3.5/5

A film with decent cinematography but shallow story and poor ending. Not as good as I expected.

05.  Saint Amour (2016): 3.5/5

The chaotic opening sequence at the agriculture fair made the film very unattractive and hard to follow, but if the audience is patient enough, they would be rewarded with a heart-warming tale of three mismatched "losers", who found themselves, and understood each other, step-by-step through the simplicity and honesty of the beautiful French wine regions and their people. You can hardly find a more "French" film than this, with all the qualities from tradition, from humanity, from nature, from wine, that once made France the global hub of culture and cuisine but have since gradually lost, especially in the urban areas.

06.  A Violent Prosecutor (2016): 2.5/5

Despite its creative opening credit and a somewhat fast-paced introduction, the film is pretty disappointing with its lack of creativity, twist-and-turn, or character development. A decent piece of entertainment but a forgetful film that is.

07. Sherlock: Season 3 (2013-2014): 4.5/5

Clumsy start yet brilliant ending.

08. Sherlock: Season 2 (2012): 4.5/5

"The Hounds of Baskerville" is boring but "A Scandal in Belgravia" is absolutely amazing, the best episode so far (Season 3 including).

09. Sherlock: Season 1 (2010): 4.5/5

A brilliant opening for a terrific series.

10. Hannibal: Season 1 (2013): 2/5

Pretentious, irritating, a total waste of my precious time! Never again, American TV series!

11. True Detective : Season 1 (2014): 4/5

The two leading characters are exceptionally crafted in both physical and mental aspects. They are also put in one hell of an environment, which is terrifying, mythical, abandoned, and savage. Despite the two distinctive stories lines laid out in three different periods, the plot and characters were consistently developed, and beautifully developed they are. This TV series is not about solving the case, but about dwelling upon the psychological states of the moral-yet-childlike detective Martin Hart and his lonesome, seemingly cold-hearted, and deeply pessimistic companion Rust Cohle. These two rough guys, put in a tough environment with a tough case, are depicted so well (and acted so well by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey) that the audience can feel their humanity, their mental and physical fragility when confronting the inhumanity of crime and the cruelty of life, for which they were not really well prepared in term of human-social creatures. This is exactly the message that Davind Fincher brought to the audience almost twenty years ago in his masterpiece Seven (my favourite) - also a tale about two detectives facing their worst enemy - the existential question of being among the inhumanities. Of course Seven is much more biblical and dramatic (given its nature as a cinematic oeuvre - not a lengthy series of 1-hour episodes like this TV series (frankly speaking, I hate this formula - if True Detective had been "compressed" into a 3-, even 4-hour film (instead of a 10-hour TV series), I would have been much more satisfied - but the two detectives of True Detective are, in my opinion, even more richer sources for creation than Seven's, because Harrelson's Hart is somehow similar to Brad Pitt's naive detective but McConaughey's on-a-league-of-its-own Cohle is a better character (and better acted) than Morgan Freeman's sage detective. If only a small dose of love/feeling could be injected to Rust in the course of the series (and not only at the last minutes of the finale), this character would be even more human, and more compelling, but sometime we can not demand everything... The lesser aspect of the series is its two final episodes, which focus too much on solving the crime and thus derail, a little bit, in character development by making them function just like a two normal detectives in any procedural crime TV series these days. Still, the TV series in a whole is a very, very satisfying piece of work (and of art, really), and of course a much better, and more honest series than the pretentious Hannibal (the anthological form of the series is also a plus, because the audience will not have to tiredly follow the fate of their beloved characters persisting from one season to another). Finally, the music composed by T Bone Burnett (I always love him since Cold Mountain) is compellingly brilliant, a top-notch OST which is comparable to any (good) Hollywood film. [I lower my rating of this film to 4-star due to the much-better "Fargo", which I gave a five].

12. The Thick of It: Season 3 (2009): 4.5/5

The first two seasons have their ups and downs with many brilliant sequences but also some shaky moments, especially at the beginning (due to the lack of chemistry among actors, perhaps) , but the third season is simply terrifyingly terrific, especially the final two episodes, which reveal a very different Malcolm Tucker and an equally different Nicola Murray that one can hardly expect. Still, I think the film is superior (although a little bit one-side in depicting Malcolm) due to its "concise" format (still cannot appreciate the lengthy style of sitcoms, no matter how good they are).

13. The Thick of It: Season 4 (2012): 3/5

The weakest season of the series (so far) with a poor chemistry between the cast, complicatedly parallel plot with confusing script and directing. A more cynical Malcolm Tucker cannot help either, naturally.

14. Fargo: Season 1 (2014): 5/5

Holy cow! This series is so good that it makes "True Detective" look like a half-assed one. If "True Detective" started strong but gradually fell short of its prospect, "Fargo" started impressive enough but went even way better afterwards (except for the out-of-place Episode 2) and ended in an extraordinary note. Episodes 6 and 7 might be the best of the bunch, with many wonderful shots that carry the cinematic flavours of "Leon the Professional" or "The Shining", but the whole Series is simply amazing in maintaining the balance between Coen-Brothers-esque quirkiness and the subtle allegory of the Good vs. the Bad, the Human vs. the Evil. Even better, the film delivered such complexity in a very entertaining way, thanks to a top-notch cast with the never-been-better Billy Bob Thornton, the ever-awkward Doctor Watson aka. Bilbo Baggins aka. Martin Freeman, the formidable Allison Tolman, and almost everyone else. The "dragging" issue of the television format is still there, which reflected fully through a boring Episode 2 and some half-developed characters (the deaf assassin or the "second Mrs. Nygaard", for example), but this series really convinces me that a TV series can be almost as good as a cinematic piece, almost.

15. Wolf Hall: Series 1 (2015): 3.5/5

Similar to the novel, the series have a pretty slow start and build-up and even look less glamorous or cinematically colourful than I expected (in order to stay true to the history, probably, as some frames of Cromwell or More look exactly the same like their portraits by Hans Holbein). The series only really take off from Episode 3, and become terrific in the last Episode, an extremely satisfying one. I often dislike the television format for any dramatic works as it almost always makes the "work" feel dragging, less engaging with poor cinematic values (except for superb series like "Sherlock Holmes" or "Fargo"). But only six episodes of "Wolf Hall" really cannot do justice for the two novels as this adaptation has to leave out many subtle and important details, especially related to Cromwell himself. On the other hand, Anne Boleyn is depicted even better in this series, with beauty, depth, and stories. Any cinematic adaptation of Hilary Mantel's "Cromwell trilogy" should learn from this series on this aspect. And I do hope that there will be such cinematic adaptation, as the trilogy is too good to stay only in this television form of an adaptation.

16. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016): 3/5

After an opening that promised so much potential, the episode regressed itself into gimmick after gimmick (aka. "fan services"). The alternate reality was severely under-used despite the fact the Victorian mysterious setting is way more suitable for a "Sherlock" episode than the modern setting, the premise and revelation of "the crime" were disappointing to say the least, detailing of the plot and character development were nowhere to be found, and the cast was unimpressive (even worse, Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson appeared to be a tragically annoying character in this episode). Of course, the episode is still significantly better than any other crime TV series, but by "Sherlock"'s own standard, this is a low point. Not sure Moffat et al. can regain the momentum for the series after another year of hiatus...

17. Loving (2016): 3.5/5

A film with good intention and honest script but detrimentally slow pacing. I was not surprised by Joel Edgerton's performance - he always excels in such "strong outside but weak inside" roles, but the nobody Ruth Negga really caught my attention with her superb depiction of Mildred Loving, who appeared to be a passive and "lady-like" woman but turned out to be a tour-de-force of activism and feminism. I do appreciate the fact that the director did not try to "dramatize" the historical facts, which in many case are more mundane than we can imagine, but the lack of climax throughout the whole two-hour length of the film made watching (and enjoying) it a difficult task.

18. Father and Daughter (2000): 5/5

Almost two decades have passed, and this still is the most heart-breaking short film that I have watched. The funny thing is that probably I have yet been able to catch the underlying message of Michael Dudok De Wit after all those years, but the emotional impact of the film remains the same to me, no matter how different I am now.

19. Michael Moore In TrumpLand (2016): 2/5

Meh, your time has passed, Mr. Moore. The public now is either too politically savvy to be able to enjoy your politically charged works or so politically ignorant that they refuse your message altogether. And even when one can set politics aside, this film was simply poorly, and lazily made. Even in a year of disappointing films like this year, your film still disappointed me, such a waste.

20. The Red Turtle (2016): 3/5

The first one-third is good, "Father and Daughter" good, but the last two-third is just confusing. The film's simplicity may invoke thoughts, but may also make the audience bored to death with the nondescript setting, uneventful plot, and oversimplified characters. Despite its poster and stills, this film does not have a lot of colorful frames either, and thus might easily dampen the mood of ones who seek a bright "Studio Ghibli"-style piece of entertainment. This would have been an excellent short film instead of a strenuous full feature. 

21. Dr. Strange (2016): 2.5/5

Predictably disappointing and a total waste of talents, from the lead to the villains. I didn't expect much, and was still disappointed by the lazy film-making of this blockbuster. Of course the visual is A-okay, but its excellence only magnified the poor quality of the script.

22. The Age of Adaline (2015): 2.5/5

This film proves once again that as a plot device, it is very difficult to tame the beast that is time machine. To resolve the time paradox, this film employed a range of "coincidences" that are way too predictable, while character development was totally neglected (for such character building in the time machine context, "Groundhog Day" is a classic case study). Instead trivial and cheesy "love stories", with forgettable protagonists, unnecessarily occupied the larger part of its length. Of course Blake Lively is as lovely as always, but her beauty alone could not redeem the whole film.

23. Notting Hill (1999): 3.5/5

Lovely film with charming leads. Julia Roberts at her peak was really something different.

24. The Grand Heist (2012): 2.5/5

Funny but forgettable.

25. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013): 3.5/5

The Shakespearean inspiration is strong with this film, but the lack of character development or investment in plot gave the audience a shallow feeling about the allegoric nature of the film. The disruptive plot-line, which was cut into two separate parts near the middle, did not help either, as such disruption also broke any bond that the audience was able to form with the protagonists, whereas the "karmic" connection between the characters of the first and the second parts seems to be conveniently coincidental rather than causal, as it should be. Given the film's extremely interesting premise, such lacklustre film-making really was a missed chance. After finishing this film, I just realised how "The Light Between Oceans" (Cianfrance's next film after this one) could be underwhelmed despite its intense trailer. We shall see.

26. The Intern (2015): 3.5/5

Hey, this film is pretty decent. Despite the endless venture of Robert De Niro into being type-cast in bad comedies and the post-Oscar notoriety of Anne Hathaway, the film turned out to be a fine cooperative effort of the two, with De Niro's subdued father-figure perfectly complimented the bright but arrogant youthfulness of Hathaway. The film did try "to be cool" but its sincere approach to the world of start-ups should be commended, especially given its very progressive but not too provocative touch on feminism and the conflict between career and family. It might get some laughs out of the audience too, albeit cheap laughs. Many things about this film can be considered unrealistic, including its heart-warming ending, but unrealistic optimism is sometimes still in need, especially in such "dark" worlds of young entrepreneurs and old "retirees". One last thing - the costume designer of this film deserves an award, or at least a raise, as not only De Niro and Hathaway, but even small roles of nameless supporting actors/actresses were dressed extremely well.

27. Sherlock: Season 4 - Episode 1: The Six Thatchers (2016): 4/5

Why is the first episode rated so low? I found it intriguing, fast-paced, well layered, albeit a little bit too sentimental. Packed with different stories, and able to somehow detach from the boring theme of Moriarty, this opening sequence promises a season different from the last boring one. Still, we have to wait for the developments of the next two episodes.

28. Trivisa (2016): 4/5
Another terrific product of Milky Way Studio. Although short in length, "Trivisa" represents all the cinematic features that Johnnie To et al. have built up throughout the years for Milky Way, from the extreme yet stylish violence, to characters that are both over-the-top and humanly subtle, and complicated plots full of twist-and-turn, foreshadowing, nuances, and social commentaries. Although longtime fans of Johnnie To's action films might be disappointed with the lack of "true" action sequences in this film, the excellent character development was somehow compensate for that with three well-built "villains" whose "glorious" criminal pasts also served as a melancholic reminisce of the thriving "pre-handover" years of Hong Kong and its cinema, and struggling presence reflects the growingly difficult co-existence of Hong Kong and Mainland, with Hong Kong natives feeling more and more worried about losing their own identity under the economic and cultural pressure from the other side of the Pearl River. Although this film was not directed by Master To himself, its heart-breaking ending reflects extremely well his spirit and philosophy of Buddhist karma, oriental ironies, and nostalgia about a Hong Kong of the past that will never come back. Given the overwhelming financial benefit from the mainland market, it will be very very difficult, if not impossible, for Hong Hong's cinema to regain its creativity and identity that was once unparalleled in Asia, but at least with films like this, it can still linger for a while before disappearing in the horizon of the milky way. Yes, probably the destiny of the "trivisa" would be the future of Hong Kong's cinema, and even of Hong Kong itself, that was the reason why the final and painful sequence of this film must be cherished, for it will repeat in a different form in the near future of the once-prosperous island.



One sentence reviews (9)

Phần 5
Phần 6
Phần 7
Phần 8

01. Noble (2015): 2.5/5

Hey, Vietnamese media, a major film about Vietnam, with Vietnam as principal setting! Anyone? I was surprised finding reading synopsis of this random film in the list of in-flight entertainment list, as I had no idea about the existence of this film or the benevolent lady named Christina Noble (her contribution deserves more attention from Vietnamese media). Her life is indeed extraordinary - a devoted [Catholic] Christian (just as her name) who, despite many, many heart-broken instants in life, still open her heart to the poor children of Vietnam without asking for any official recognition. But the film told her stories with a poorly-written script, full of unnatural moments, amateurish treatment of character development, shallow touch on the critical moments in Ms. Noble's life. The script is so sub-part that even the excellent production value and the decent cast could not prevent the film from being a total disappointment. Too bad for Ms. Noble, her noble life deserves a better film than this.

02. Self/less (2015): 2.5/5

A film with so much potential yet performed so poorly. Decent futuristic pretext, likeable cast, straightforward script, this film has all the ingredients to be at least an interesting sci-fi action like "In Time" (a severely under-reviewed film). But the film turned out to be a totally forgettable film of the B-movie calibre with nothing outstanding, nothing worth being remembered (which is really a pity given its simple yet solid and logic plot-line). The superb visual of Tersem Singh, which was showed off in all of his previous films, is also nowhere to be found - the film is so colourless, so unstylish, so monotone that one can hardly believe that this film is directed by the one who created magnificent works of colours and styles like "The Fall" or "Immortals". This film is actually exactly like the career of Ryan Reynolds - so many potentials, so many chances, yet fail every time (except for "Buried", maybe, as I have not watched that one yet, and I doubt that he can deliver in the much-anticipated "Deadpool").

03. Man Up (2015): 3/5

The ending is a really good one but the whole film is rather a "Meh". Simon Pegg still excelled as Simon Pegg, but the pure rom-com environment of this film, without much hints for creativity, did not give him a chance to shine, especially given his poor chemistry with the equally-unimpressive Lake Bell. Not worst of a film, but a totally forgettable one (85% fresh from RT, seriously?!).

04. Macbeth (2015): 4/5

A visually extraordinary and literarily beautiful film, which is an extremely authentic adaptation of Shakespeare's play. The cinematography is especially awesome, maybe to the level of Roger Deakins or Robert Elswit, with a colour palette so striking, so stylistic it felt more like a "moving classical painting" than a "motion picture". However, the strict adherence to authenticity, especially in term of dialogue, made the film a little bit too unreal, too detached, too "stage-like" to the modern audience, made them wonder what are the real meanings of such tragically epic but somehow dated words? Anyway, a technical marvel able to surpass the "style over substance" issue (like "300" or other Zack Snyder's films) by retaining its script's substance is already a rare film these days (sadly enough).

05. Timbuktu (2015): 4.5/5

The only bad thing I can think of this film is the fact that it is way too sad for a second-time watch. On the other hand, the football-match-without-a-ball sequence may be one of the most beautiful, tragic, and humanist sequences I have watched in recent years. The film might be too simple, and a little bit confused to be considered a "masterpiece". But its layered allegoric meanings and very, very relevant subject of extremism are enough for the audience to appreciate this film more than ever, in the wake of the Sinai bombing and Paris attack.

06. Hakase no aishita sûshiki (The Professor and His Equations) (2006): 4/5

The beauty of this film lies in the faithful adaptation by the director (and the writer) of the wonderful book by Yoko Ogawa. The simple and charming storytelling of the book was entirely transferred into the film, so were the affecting relationship between the characters, and the love between them and mathematics. Mathematics is often regarded as an emotionless and alienated subject, yet, this film proves that mathematics can be loved, and should be loved, since it is the gift from the nature for the sake of our enlightenment.

07. The Little Prince (2016): 1.5/5

THE MOST ANNOYING FILM I HAVE WATCHED THIS YEAR SO FAR. Poor "Le Petit Prince", one of the most iconic novels of the 20th century, one of the most beloved literary works for children was exploited as a background for a half-assed animation - half art-house, half Pixarized. Whereas "Le Petit Prince" has the most adorable characters, "The Little Prince" has the most annoying set of characters with one of the evillest mothers I have ever watched in films. They even dared to relegate the heroic pilot - a literary image of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry himself, into a crazy old man on the verge of life and death, how dare they! I respect the "Pixarized" artistic choice of visual style (the stop-motion sequences are excellent, but they were butchered and dwarfed by those Pixarized 3D scenes), I understand the philosophical implication of contrast between fantastic childhood and repetitive adulthood, between freedom of mind and constraint of reality. But of all the child novels, why do they have to choose "Le Petit Prince", a novel so pure, so enjoyable it really hurt watching it destroyed by poor character development, layers of clichés, and utterly boring script? They even took out the best quotes of the novel and put them in the cheesiest moments of the film! And the half-assed "homage" to French culture through some soundtracks and the original pages of "Le Petit Prince" (they used French for those pages, and made the characters read them out loud in English, what kind of inconsistency is this???) only added to the film's insult to the original novel. I really cannot understand why it had to be "Le Petit Prince" instead of Hans-Christian Andersen, Grimm Brothers, anything else? Why?!

08. Mr. Holmes (2015): 3.5/5

Ian McKellen is excellent as the "Old Holmes" (reminded me of Metal Gear Solid 4's "Old Snake"), but the film in overall is only above average due to the lack of true climax and twist-and-turn as a true "Sherlock Holmes film". The supporting cast is pretty disappointing due to a somewhat lacklustre script (even Laura Linney's talent could not help it, and hey, "the hot girl" from Mission Impossible V was also here, in an even smaller role) and confusing structure of three overlapping stories of presence, flash-back, and dementia-induced fantasy. The revelation of "the investigation" is decent enough, with an excellent scene by McKellen and Hattie Morahan, but the film in a whole felt a little bit boring, despite its effort of over-complicating the storyline. Still, it is very difficult to make a "thrilling" film out of such tepid subject of "being old", thus this film deserves commendation for its effort to shed a new light on the rather one-sided life of the famous detective.

09. Steve Jobs (2015): 4/5

A film with very, very unfortunate destiny. It reminded me of "Carnage", another very solid film with Kate Winslet, but flopped miserably in the box office. "Steve Jobs" is a fascinating film with powerful characters, subtle dialogue that reveals just enough for the audience to grab its meaning but requires them way more time to understand its subtext. The first "act" is kind-of slow, but the rest is simply exploding, especially the last confrontation between Jobs and his daughter (played by no other than the daughter of "Kill Bill"'s The Bride, who has grown up beautifully!). A very well-done film that deserves way more attention.

10. Listen To Me Marlon (2015): 4.5/5

Simply put, fantastic film, with many layers, from an "audible" memoire by Marlon Brando, to an incredible biography about the screen legend, and an in-depth monograph about cinema and the art of acting. The lack of "new" information is a set-back, but too tiny to be noticeable. An essential film for cinephiles.

11. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): 3.5/5

The film has a very interesting premise and opening with quirky but likeable characters, charming environment, and promising set-up. But the last two acts, especially the last one, are so conventionally melodramatic that they almost cancel out the uniqueness of the film. All in all, I prefer this film to "The Fault in Our Stars", but not by a mile. Kind of disappointing that such brilliant ideas were not maximized to make the film stand-out of the rest (teen comedy-drama).

12. Brooklyn (2015): 2.5/5

I have absolutely no idea why this film got 98% (8.6) in Rotten Tomatoes, not a single damn idea. This film is terribly predictable, characters and plots were terribly under-developed, and the message is terribly simple and naive (in short, the equally terrible trailer of this film already spoiled the WHOLE film, not a single surprise left). Even the much-praised role by Saoirse Ronan felt terribly short (in comparison with her sublime presence in "Atonement" almost ten years ago), nothing surprising, nothing breakthrough from the role. Of course, the film's optimism is much appreciated, especially in the context of a new USA where immigrants are no longer "liked" or a new Europe where immigrants are no longer "welcome". Thus, I absolutely do not hate this film. Its simplicity only wasted my time (yes, that is simplicity, not cinematic minimalism or any similar euphemism).

13. Carol (2015): 4.5/5

One of the best and most emotional 2015 films I have watched so far. The contrast between the depressing mood of the film and its (surprisingly enough) overall uplifting tone is really interesting. The acting is simply top-notch with Cate Blanchett delivering maybe her best performance in the career so far, way more humanistic and charming than her dominant role in "Blue Jasmine", whereas Rooney Mara proving again that the discontinuation of the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy (in which she played the lead) is indeed a big mistake. It is really surprise to me that the best romances I have watched these recent years are all about lesbian love, lesbian feelings - with "Blue Is the Warmest Colour" and "Carol" - their depiction of love, one deeply raw, innocent, and touching ("Blue"), one very light (as in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"), full of struggles, and heart-warming. But both are even superior than that, both are "coming-of-age" stories about how people choose their lives and fight for that choice, about how love and happiness, as well as hear-broken moments and sadness, can form our characteristics, can make us stronger. This is the kind of film, and the kind of performances, that should win the Oscars.

14. The Big Short (2015): 4.5/5

Holy hell, one of the best films I have watched this year (actually last year, since it is 2016 already). The story is thrilling, the cast is awesome, even the "cameos" are incredibly fun and involving. Kudos to Brad Pitt, who once again produces a film just so he can be cast in a "God-like" role with plenty of awesomeness yet next-to-none significance. Maybe the second most entertaining film I have watched this year, only behind Mad Max that is.

15. Joy (2015): 3/5

Not as bad as I thought - speaking from whom hates David O. Russell's pretentiousness. At least, it seems that Russell really had fun making this film, a very entertaining one despite its discrepancy and out-of-nowhere deux ex machina. JLaw is also as good as ever, I do not really like her lack of subtlety, but by and by, she is, still, a great actress no matter what.

16. Room (2015): 4.5/5

Terrific film! Oh my... what a wonderful year for cinephiles like me! The best emotion rollercoaster I have seen recently. Normally a film can be either uplifting or heartbroken, not both, but "Room" is both! The film is so nicely made that I felt deeply enlightened watching this despite the confined space of the plane where I had to spend half a day up in the air. Except for a few confusing minutes at the beginning and the low energy of the middle part, the film is through and through excellent - perfect casting, perfect performance to the point that I totally forgave the quasi-pretentious voice-over of the son (who was terrifically played by Jacob Tremblay - he deserves at least an Oscar nomination this year, if not the golden statue itself). What a lovely film!

17. The Revenant (2015): 4/5

This is way more than a "Leonardo DiCaprio's film". This is an allegory about the tragic tale of the proud native people in America, who lived, and perished in their own land fighting to their last breath against the vastly superior Western white people, who care about nothing but the eternal wealth of the land. This is also a tale of the lost and found of the Christian belief in the land of wildness, of inhumanity, of craziness. I hope that people can appreciate this film more for what it is, not for the fact that this is another Leo's gamble for the golden statue. A terrific, and extremely beautiful film.

18. Mustang (2015): 4.5/5

One of the best films this year, a "2015 Timbuktu" that is. An extremely beautiful film that anyone can easily tell from its subtle yet heart-breaking poster. Youth and innocence are often excellent materials for cinema, but to mix these two ingredients with all those terrible subjects like religious inhumanity, sexual abuse, or absurdity of back-ward tradition is never an easy task. And this film is a masterful work that not only achieved such feat, but also deliver all those feelings in a thrilling and unforgettable way. I really hope that this film would win the Oscar to break the prize's monotony and to show people that a film can still be good, even excellent, with all the cultural and ideological restraints - the filmmakers only need to dig deeper, and think harder.

19. Godfather, The, 1902-1959 - The Complete Epic (1981): 5/5

Some people concern about the artistic continuity of this "compilation". I am not one of them, since I was absorbed during the whole 7 hours and 30 minutes of this compilation by the grandeur of the film in a whole, the legendary performance by every single one of the cast (Talia Shire a little less, I suppose), and the melancholic sentiment of the film. If you want to feel the power of cinema, this is definitely a right choice for you. Maybe it will take a very long time, if not never, for another film that can achieve such level of artistic perfection.

20. Anomalisa (2015): 3.5/5

Strange film, difficult to enjoy (as usual). Kaufman really needs a director with down-to-earth philosophy and superior visual like Michel Gondry to simplify his idiosyncratic complexity for the general audience.

21. Spotlight (2015): 3.5/5

Given its interesting context, this is simply a boring film without much contents. Subtlety is definitely there through emotional tensions, but the lack of actual substance and character development is disappointing considering the film has a very solid cast. Let's hope that we will not have one of the most forgettable Oscar for Best Picture with this film.

22. Marguerite (2016): 4/5

An extremely strange film. Very beautiful, very nostalgic, profoundly emotional, but confusing and lack of focus at the same time. One can say that watching this film is similar to having a dream, where the story flows from one setting to a totally different one in a heartbeat, where the protagonist of the first few sequences is relegated to just a tiny role by the end, where the underlying message bounces back and forth to the utmost astonishment of us - the audience (yes, similar to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", in a way). Those form the film's uniqueness, but such confusing script also undermined the emotion build-up that the director and the excellent cast had tried the whole film. Still, a very beautiful and heart-breaking film, an excellent experience to open a new [Lunar] year.

23. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015): 3/5

The film has its moments, but in overall not really an impressive one. It seems that years working in Hollywood have gradually destroyed Guy Ritchie's distinctive vision and humorous sense, as the film felt flat with its jokes, whereas its 1960-ish look did not really stand out. The beautiful cast does not help either with two extremely good looking but utterly uncharismatic male leads and one under-used female protagonist. A forgettable film.

24. Goosebumps (2015): 2/5

Given its above-average review score, this film is a total disappointment to me. Shallow script, weak cast with an under-used Jack Black and over-used young but generic actors, unattractive CGI, cheesy moments. In one of the worst years of Sony/Columbia Pictures, this film seems to be even worse than "Pixels".

25. Sicario (2015): 4/5

The first one-third is incredibly exhilarating with well-paced action sequences and adequate tension build-up thanks to mysterious (and thus interesting) characters, authentic-looked setting, and stylish minimalism in editing. But the rest is simply dwindling in comparison, with a seriously under-used Emily Blunt, an under-developed storyline, and an dissatisfying closure (it seems that such ending serves as "opener" for a sequence, but this film's premise is good enough for an excellent standalone, why did they have to try to grab money from such good film?). Del Toro is still reliable as ever, but both Josh Brolin and especially Emily Blunt do not have any moment to shine with their one-sided characters. As any other film by Denis Villeneuve, the film's technicality is impeccable, but the lacklustre second half really hurts its chance to win major awards. An entertaining film by any mean, but Mexicans' suffering due to the drug war deserves a better cinematic depiction than this.

26. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016): 2/5

Predictably terrible. That's all.

27. Straight Outta Compton (2015): 3/5

Not bad, but not outstanding either. A so-so script with a so-so cast and so-so direction. The disconnection between the evolution of the N.W.A band and the socio-economic climate at that time is disappointing, as the LA riot is a much more significant to the US history than as depicted in this film. With such quality, this film is far from an Oscar contender, let alone winning one (especially for the ordinary screenplay).

28. The Hateful Eight (2015): 4/5

Brilliant film, a much better one than "Django Unchained" with layered script, outstanding set-pieces, excellent performances, and memorable cinematography. Still, the ending seems to be a little bit wacky and over-complexed in comparison with a much more refined conclusion delivered by "Reservoir Dogs". Nevertheless, as Quentin only promises us ten films, each should be cherished, and they are all deserved to be cherished for their excellent quality. The fact that this film won Maestro Morricone his first competitive Oscar is another great thing about "The Hateful Eight". Set aside its lack of appearance at the Oscars, set aside its box office flop, let us celebrate the joy of true film-making and film-loving.

29. Monster Hunt (2016): 2.5/5

The CGI is impressive, for a Chinese film, even though the art style of "the monsters" looks very "Pixar-ish". The plot is silly, but coherent and very suitable as an all-age film (no wonder why it earned so much money in the Chinese market). The acting is terrible, though, and the musical sequences are absolutely out of place and unnecessary. This film reminds me of Stephen Chow's "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons", but with even less originality and fun. A passable film, no more, no less.

30. Ip Man 3 (2016): 3/5

The "neo-wuxia" flavour is a nice touch (family over kungfu, love over pride) but otherwise the film is pretty bland, no character development (the inability to express true emotions of Donnie Yen et al. is to be blamed, but act better they surely cannot), no kungfu spectacle (the fighting scenes in this film look tame and unoriginal in comparison with its two predecessors, especially the first one where Sammo Hung was, and always is, the best kungfu master in bringing out the essence of Donnie Yen's ability). Yet, the film's production value is top-notch, the feeling is authentic, and the storyline, however confusing, is easy enough for the audience to catch up. This is a very friendly film to the Western audience, given its much reduced dose of Eastern wuxia's philosophy, the appearance of Mike Tyson (and "Bruce Lee"), and (amazingly enough, but obviously for a PG-13 rating reason) no blood. In a way that is a good thing, as the Western audience now can have some McDonald-style film to appreciate the beauty of the wuxia genre. At the same time, such dilution of the "Ip Man films" is a sad new to hardcore wuxia fans, since they will have more and more bland film like this. Maybe the series should be stopped now, before it totally detaches from its Eastern root.

31. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016): 3/5

Not great, but not THAT bad (Rotten Tomatoes bad). The first dozens minutes are boring, but the rest is really engaging, entertaining, and different (from every other superhero films these days). Its visual reminds me of "Sucker Punch", but the story is more concise, focused, and meaningful. Of course, the confusing lead is a huge setback, but it cannot negate the efforts of the cast and crew in a whole. I hope that this film will do decently in the box-office, as I need a new breath into the superhero genre, rather than watching again and again and again the McDonalds of superhero genre - "Marvel cinematic universe".

32. The Boy And The Beast (Bakemono No Ko) (2016): 4/5

What a lovely and pleasant film that is! Visually speaking, this film easily sits among the best anime I have ever watched with a photographic beauty that is comparable to any live-action film out there. And typically for a Mamoru Hosoda's film, this film is simply delightful to watch and appreciate with its heart-warming story, humanist characters (despite most of them being "beasts"), and predictable yet cheerful treatment of tensions and climax. This film very much reminds me of Hosoda's own "Summer Wars" - exotic characters' appearance, multiple twist-and-turn, mixture of real world and "virtual" world, and focus on characters' struggle with their own selves. It feels, though, that "The Boy and the Beast" is a little bit campy towards the end. However, the fact that this film is much more cheerful to watch (than "Wolf Children") is already a good news to me, as I really love Hosoda's colourful and positive style, it brightens up my day. With the retirement of both Miyazaki and Takahata and the sudden death of Kon, Hosoda now has to bear the burden to lead Japanese animation moving ahead. It will be a long and winding road, and a true masterpiece is what Hosoda is still developing, but I really hope that his fantastic visual and profound humanism will finally end up with something big, something that makes the whole world appreciate, again, the uniqueness of Japanese animation.

33. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015): 3/5

This film got 92% from Rotten Tomatoes? A wonderful example of how we should not trust RT for how good, or how bad, a film is, period. The film is definitely one hell of a show with strong production value, tremendous soundtrack (kudos to Mr. Williams), [almost] seamless editing, and easy-to-swallow plot. Yet, the film gets campier and campier towards the end, the CGI is mediocre (no wonder why its lost the Oscar for Visual Effects to a much more smaller "Ex Machina"), and worst of all, the acting is terrible. From the old faces like Ford or Fisher to the newbie like Ridley or Boyega, the whole cast appears to have B-level of acting capability, no one standing out, even the usually dependable Oscar Isaac. In summary, this is a decent film to watch, but I have no idea how they can drag this kind of mediocrity to a whole new series, even a cinematic universe, I have no idea.

34. Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016): 3/5

Still cute, but much less innovative, visual-wise and story-wise, than its predecessors. Not a bad film, by any mean, but watching the same storyline about "finding one's true self" for the third time in a row, with the same set of characters, same style of storytelling, less creative and effective visual, is really not a desirable experience.

35. Captain America: Civil War (2016): 3/5

Aside from traditional fight between good and evil, the modern superhero genre has been dominated by three major themes: The struggle against inner self/to find true self (Nolan's "Batman" trilogy, Singer's "X-Men"), anti-hero antagonists ("Spiderman 2"), and the philosophical question "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" - "Who will guard the guards themselves?" ("Watchmen"). It seems that "Civil War" tried very hard in all three aspects, with not much results except for some entertaining fighting sequences and a confusing climax. It really was a pity that the surprisingly deep theme of "Who watches the watchmen" at the beginning of the film was gradually replaced with the ever-boring story of a pseudo struggle against one's self of the superheroes with a Marvel-ish ending that shows the script's lack of depth, or the laziness of the writers, or the disregard of the audience's intelligence, or a combination of all three. Moreover, despite its epic name ("Civil War"), the film did not feel "epic" at all with the fight between twelve superheroes appeared to be lopsided, poorly coordinated, and confusingly edited (the filming and editing were so confusing that "Civil War" reminded me of the infamous fighting sequences in the "Transformers" series where no one can understand "what the hell is happening"). Of course, "Civil War" had sequences that were very well choreographed and executed, but they mostly involved a small group of characters and thus felt pretty disconnected from the "bigger picture" of the "Civil War". In this respect, "Civil War" is even less impressive than the much more criticized "Batman vs. Superman", where the feeling of epicness ("terribilità") prevailed despite the poor control of the storyline.The disconnection was also apparent in the timeslot reserved for each character, with Iron Man and Captain America had so many more emotional and memorable sequences and lines that the rest of the cast seemed to just line up in the far corner of the storyline in the size of an "ant man". And yet, if one tries to stitch those emotional moments together, one will see that there is no connection between them either, thus, by the end, the film with so many memorable scenes seemed to be so unmemorable (or at least it had the audience "try to remember" only to miserably fail to do so - "Try to Remember" is a key song in the film). All in all, an entertaining yet forgettable film - a new pinnacle of the "McMarvel" model. (Spider-man's much-anticipated appearance did not help either, since he was as annoying as his "counterpart" Ant-Man was despite lengthy on-screen time).

36. Deadpool (2016): 3/5

Based on the extreme hype of this film over Reddit, I thought that this would be a very innovative film that exploits its R-rate effectively, with style. And I was wrong. This is just like any other PG-13 Marvel film, with a lot of breaking the fourth wall and an obnoxious dose of Buzzfeed-ish details about pop culture and sexual innuendo. The script is not at all innovative, with boring villains, next-to-none character development even for its titular Deadpool/Wade Wilson, who stayed most the same throughout the film, and ordinary aka. poor treatment of secondary characters - another "idiotic" sidekick, another "damsel-in-distress" girlfriend, really (?!). To some people, Deadpool's idiosyncratic "breaking-the-fourth-wall" style may seem to be appealing and fresh, but to me, its total lack of connection with the plot and tempo in a whole makes such scenes more like a gimmick than a true innovative storytelling device. The R-rate violence and sex in the film are also surprisingly boring and unimpressive, which make the film even less a breakthrough that many claimed it to be. And in fact, for an excellent R-rate superhero film that is both entertaining and innovative, we already have "Kick-Ass" to look upon, rather than this poor attempt by 20th Century Fox. I almost gave this film three and a half stars for its recurring reference of "Careless Whisper" and "Nothing Compare 2 U" (which fascinated me when I was a kid), but then I realized that such reference is another poor attempt to make the film look "cool", without any true connection to the film's theme or ambience. So, three stars and a total oblivion of this film and its possible future sequels/prequels, that were all I could give "Deadpool". Sorry.

37. Ali (2001): 3/5

Not (too) bad, but not really good either. Smith's performance is disappointing, but the script and Mann's "spreading" direction also need to be blamed. A forgetful film about an unforgettable historical figure, what a waste.

38. Zootopia (2016): 4/5

The first half is very strong with solid characters, cheerful plot, creative visual with a bright palette of colours. The excellent "The Godfather" parody and the surprising spirit of "film noir" in a Disney animated work are probably the best highlights of this part, and of the film in a whole (it even reminded me of "L.A. Confidential", incredible enough). However, the last half is pretty formulaic with poorly-developed villains, and inconsistent character development for the protagonists. Nevertheless, the film's tempo is excellently consistent throughout the film, whereas the uplifting spirit and visual remains strong until the very last minutes. That is more than enough for a Hollywood animated blockbuster these days.

39. The Neon Demon (2016): 2/5

Style over substance, that's all I can say about this film. If "Only God Forgive " still gave me interesting characters, the character development is paper-thin with a subpar cast, especially the lead Elle Fanning. This film is more an artsy experience than a fully-developed cinematic work. I can only hope that with this step down, Nicolas Winding Refn will spend more time to nurture a better "skeleton" of script and characters for his "meat" - visual and soundtrack.

40. Kalinka (Au nom de ma fille) (2016): 4/5

A decent dramatization of one of the most dramatic legal affairs in Europe this century. The editing is a little bit questionable, the "villain" was not as strong as the protagonist in term of character development, and the supporting cast is not really outstanding, but the struggle of the father to fulfill his last promise to his daughter was perfectly depicted with superb performance from Daniel Auteil. Even though I know this fascinating story from front to back, the film is still a deeply emotional watch - a feat that not many cinematic works can achieve these days.