01. Snowpiercer (2014): 4/5
Towards the end of the film, it seems that Snowpiercer has gradually become an action version of The Truman Show - a beautiful film about a world-within-a-world in which people live, or try to live, with the hope of the world out there, no matter how mysterious or seemingly dangerous it is. The post-apocalyptic set pieces of Snowpiercer, with the usual dark-humour taste of Bong Joon-ho, are meticulously made in details with fully developed characters, even the minor ones - a really amazing thing given the fact that Bong Joon-ho, who had never made a film with big cast before Snowpiercer, has to work with so many talented actors that any "missed-out" would be a crime. This claustrophobic space is also a wonderful environment for Bong Joon-ho to show off his super capability of surprising the audience with sudden violence, disruptive plot-twists, and of course an everlasting sense of (dark) humour. The only concern about the film might be the storyline, especially the final sequence (which is still very very well made), which somehow indecisively falls between an existentialist fable about life and a satirical portrait of the society. Although not a vital mistake, such confusion still undermines the overall quality of the film. Nevertheless, Bong Joon-ho has clearly succeeded with this "Hollywood debut" - one of the more interesting experiences this disappointing summer season of Hollywood.
02. Behind the Candelabra (2013): 3.5/5
As good as any Soderbergh's film, Behind the Candelabra was made with high level of authenticity and reality. The development of the two main characters were meticulously done, from the outside (their appearance changes significantly during the course of the film, especially after the plastic surgery, in a very realistic way) to the inside (the love-have relation was very well depicted by the two solid main actors Douglas and Damon). STILL, as bad as any other Soderbergh's film (in my own opinion, of course), the feelings, the emotions, the personal and human connections were missed, a fact that would make audience (like me) feel disconnected with the characters and their destiny, no matter how complicated or tragic it is. This film reminds me of Boogie Nights, which has the same period setting and a strong implication of sexuality as well as a "legend of the fall" ending. BUT, PTA's Boogie Nights is much better in cultivating the emotion, the understanding of the audience with the tragic life of the main characters. Also, it is kind of weird watching the masculine Gordon Gerko/"the guy from Basic Instinct" and Jason Bourne taking such gay roles, because their masculinity is so high that it is really difficult for the audience to feel the feminine inner of their characters in this film - a disappointing outcome for such excellent effort (especially Douglas').
03. The World's End (2013): 4/5
The film starts slowly, too slowly even, but predictably turns to a very strong sequence of witty twist-and-turns, funny actions, emotional feelings, and ends up with a very high note of optimism. The concept of this film seems to be less clear than its two predecessors (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), but the chemistry between the cast, especially between Pegg and Frost still stays intact, which makes the film (except for the slow start) both funny and emotional to the audience. Not really an outstanding end for the "Cornetto trilogy" but still a very satisfactory tale about pure friendship, about a positive attitude about life, about the beautiful dreams of the old day that are never realized but still remain in a secret corner of your heart to soothe the pains in real life, to keep you standing still against the harsh truth of living an adult life.
04. The Wind Rises (2014): 5/5
The best thing about Hayao Miyazaki's films is that even when you cannot understand a word from the film (like me, who had to watch a Japanese film with Korean sub without any knowledge on Japanese or Korean), you can still feel it - the breath-taking feeling of the wonderful landscape, the heart-breaking feeling of a beautiful yet tragic love between two people in a chaotic period, the warm-hearted feeling of the optimistic attitude of the main characters despite waves of difficulties and failures trying to break their life, their hope apart. Some question about the "righteousness" of the film in describing the "love for war" of the main character who tries to create the best fighter in the world, but after watching the film, I can only see the determination of a young guy trying to realize his childhood, and lifetime, dream of flying up high, of conquering the space with technology, with knowledge, and with the wings of hope. This may be the first and only totally adult animation by Miyazaki, who has complaint many times about the fact that he could not keep his films innocent (like Totoro) any more. And we, adult, should be proud of this gift by Miyazaki, since never before, our broken dream has been described with such beautiful landscape, poetic story, and magnificent characters. And, of course, Joe Hisaishi music is utterly wonderful. Can't believe that one day I can watch Miyazaki and listen to Joe Hisaishi at cinema house!
05. This Is the End (2013): 3/5
Funny, entertaining, surprising, but not as good as its "fake prequel" Pineapple Express, which was criminally underscored, given its originality.
06. Only God Forgives (2013): 3/5
Style over substance. A lot of people have praised (and will praise) the film for following the stylish traits of "Drive", but the characters here were only thinly made with a pretentious looks (the Thai lead indeed has charisma, but his "stone" acting was simply awful) covered by over-violence (not extreme, but OVER). The obnoxious, dark, and claustrophobic ambience, as well as the thrilling yet too-heavy-to-handle soundtrack of the film cannot raise any emotion from the audience either. This is the main difference with "Drive", which involved a lot of emotion building and had wonderful cast. Normally a strange film will get the attention of the audience, at least to see "what the hell is this all about", but Nicolas Winding Refn a little bit overdid the strangeness of this film, which made the audience way too tired to care about its ending. Even the haunting Ryan Gosling's eyes could not redeem this film.
07. Blind Detective (Man Tam) (2013): 4/5
So many brilliant twists, yet so many nonsense crappy jokes. Still, the bleakness and wittiness still make this film a decent To-Wai product. A little bit too much for the Western audience, though. Still, a good opportunity for them to realize that To is not all about stylish action and dark comedy but also about nonsensicalness and karmic vision. This is Running on Karma meets Mad Detective, if only Sammi Cheng can be ten years younger...
08. The Heat (2013): 2.5/5
The chemistry between the two leads are good, otherwise, the film is only average in every aspects - trivially funny, unsurprisingly neat, tons of plot-holes, sub-part acting from two very good actresses. A film for fun and to forget.
09. Moebius (2014): 2.5/5
Hell's incarnation, literally. A film so twisted, that it is impossible for the audience to follow. All the characters, plot, emotions are twisted to the extreme, just like a Möbius strip, to satisfy the director's passion, and intention. Yes, the director alone might be the only one who can feel at ease to watch this film.
10. Gravity (2013): 5/5
One of my best experiences with IMAX3D, on a par with Life of Pi! The plot is clear and simple, yet the cinematography and visual effect are absolutely breathtaking! The music also fits so well that the audience is glued to their seat from the first to the very last minutes of the film, when the post-credit already faded away. Actually I did not expect such interesting piece of work of Alfonso Cuaron after watching the quite confusing trailer, but it turns out that he does not fail us, the audience who have loved so much his plot-stunning Children of Men and visual stunning Pan's Labyrinth.
11. Revolutionary Road (2008): 5/5
Revolutionary Road? No, a Boulevard of Broken Dreams that is.
12. The Spectacular Now (2013): 4/5
Not as dramatic as the trailer suggested, but still a terrific coming-of-age film - a "Say Anything" of this decade. The beauty of this film is its, strangely enough, unspectacular way of telling the story, depicting the characters, and catching the turbulent yet calm and innocent feelings of the to-be-adult "children". Everything, everyone in this film are so natural, so extraordinarily ordinary that, ironically enough, the coming-of-age audience may find it boring and unattractive. But for those who already experienced such feelings, such spectacular moments, this film is the one-to-watch to bring back the memories of the last moments in life when the spectacularity of a worry-free life still existed.
13. When Harry Met Sally (1989): 5/5
This film is THE definition of charm, kindness, friendship, and love. This film is THE film to watch in the New Year Eve. This film is THE film to make us remember how we should be kind, be gentle, be faithful, and above all, be truthful, to people around us.
14. Don Jon (2013): 4/5
A charming film that is able to bring a smile to audiences' faces at the end of the film with plenty of original and funny ideas. Still, the character treatment is quite shallow given the potentials of such warm-hearted people. Nevertheless, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has done pretty well with his charm, in both appearance and thinking.
15. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): 3.5/5
For a 3-hour film, this bio lacks focus and the grand scale once found in Scorsese's films like Casino (which can be considered the predecessor of this film) or Gangs of New York. The sarcastic dose seems to be enough but the noirish element of the 1990s Scorsese' films is not there, an absence that makes the film looks ordinary despite all the kitsch value and the glamorous settings it has. Leo does not help, either. He is still Leo of the other films, a man of inner struggle who can only exploit by anger, a man of no grandeur that is. From the plot, this film may be expected to be a modern Raging Bull, but finally it turns out to be a "Casino Part II" with less murders and more boobs, alas, Leo is (still) no De Niro (at his height) and Scorsese now seems to lack the genius touch with the cinematic epicness he once had.
16. Dallas Buyers Club (2013): 4/5
A germ of background story for emotion show-up, and indeed all the possible human emotions are superbly brought to the big-screen by the supreme talented duo McConaughey-Leto (Ms. Jen. Garner is a little bit disappointing in comparison with these two guys). McConaughey's acting has been praised throughout the 2013-2014 "award season", but to me it's Leto who made the best out of his character, a transgender guy who tried to suppress all emotions under his happy-go-lucky attitude, and a lot of cocaines too, yet the audience can still understand, and feel, his love for other people, his fears, and above all his desire to live ("I don't want to die", one of his last words, might be the most heart-breaking quote of this film) against not only the deadly disease AIDS, but also the social prejudice to "freaks" like him. Still, the down-to-earth tone of the film, which made it much more "natural" and much less dramatic or depressive, is a little bit dissatisfactory to me because with such settings, characters' emotions should have been developed to the extreme, to show all aspects of the human mind. Like McConaughey's character, a very deep and emotional one, yet I could not feel his rush/desperation in taking back the life he's losing (which I can deeply feel from Julianne Moore's character in Magnolia). Still, hat off to Mr. McConaughey, who spent a larger part of his career acting in shitty films and being mocked by film critics just to earn enough money so that he can now choose the best scripts possible to show off his real talent.
17. Before Midnight (2013): 3/5
Frankly speaking, I could not feel this film, neither do its two prequels. Long, "witty" yet sinister discussions à-la-Woody Allen are simply not my type of film. I hate noises, and over-talks, that's why such tiring discussion scenes like "the battle" at the end of this film only make me want to turn to talk-shows like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon for a friendlier and more optimistic chats. I know that this film, just like its predecessors and almost any film by Woody Allen, has been highly praised by film critics and cinephiles alike, but I cannot feel it at all, really can't - I want some silence, I want their eyes, and not their mouths, to talk, I want to see gentle gestures towards each others, not sinister and utterly abusive comments. Funny enough, the most impressive image of this film to me might be Julie Delpy's bare boobs - watching the scene I suddenly remembered that hers are the first ... "cinema boobs" I saw on my computer - from a poor quality VCD, VCD indeed!, of "An American Werewolf in Paris". At that time she was only 28, even younger than me-of-today, and although the boobs still somehow look the same, in a flash of thought I felt so old in this fast-forward stream of time. That's may be one of the feelings that the film-makers, and the actors, wanted to share with audience like me, but the lengthy and tiring talks really killed off any germ of such emotions, in my opinion.
18. Populaire (2013): 3.5/5
A simple yet charming film, in a very French way. Everything is simple, from the 1950s setting to the plot and the characters, and of course no twist-and-turn whatsoever. Still, the rapid typing "sport" (!) can bring joy to audience through the light-hearted and somehow innocent acting by Duris and François. The costume design is also perfect for this film with simple but very elegant designs that can make any pretentious Hollywood film look miserable. A joy to watch.
19. 12 Years a Slave (2013): 5/5
After all those years, and Hollywood has to wait for a black, yet British, director to make a real epic about the slavery, really?! I normally hate films with great hypes due to their trending ("hot") topic, just like "12 Years a Slave"'s slavery, but watching this film really wiped out any of my sceptical thoughts. Often, a trending subject is also a difficult subject that needs really careful handling by screenwriters and directors so that the film does not become shallow, pretentious (like any of recent Obama's speeches) or over-emotional. 12 Years a Slave overcame all these difficulties thanks to Steve McQueen's push of brutality to the extreme. The brutality here does not lay only in the physical aspects like whipping, torture, but also in the mental aspects reflected through the reddish and terrorized eyes of every single slave character in the film. The audience can feel their terror - a terror so big that the will to help each others, the determination to fight back, and even the will to live gradually fade away and are replaced by the sole survival instinct. Thankfully, Steve McQueen still keeps tiny yet long-lasting humanity for his characters, thus preserves the hope for the film and for the audience. Although a very big fan of Quentin Tarantino, I must say this film is better than Quentin's last year film "Django Unchained" on the subject of slavery. Of course this film is quite conventionally made and the plot is a little bit weak with no real climax but the emotions brought by the film to the audience are more than enough for me to give this film 5 stars. On a side note, the appearance of Brad Pitt's character is almost the same like Daniel Day Lewis's Lincoln last year and his brave action is also somehow the same like Lincoln's fight - is there any chance Pitt invested and produced this film so that he can be, in a way, Lincoln, which was too big a character for him? No worry Mr. Pitt, maybe you will follow Ben Affleck's step to win an Oscar this year, just not for the acting categories.
20. American Hustle (2013): 3.5/5
A wise and entertaining film, but a 10-Oscar-nomination film? No way! Similar to Russell's previous film "Silver Lining Playbook", this film is full of catchy music (its 70s soundtracks made me feel really sentimental) and intelligent acting, especially from Bale, who might be among the top-notch method actors right now in Hollywood. Suddenly this film reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master". Maybe it's due to the same post-war America setting, maybe it's due to the graceful presence of Amy Adams, maybe it's due to the same "game" of fooling people's belief and confidence although with different methods (religion in "The Master" and scam in "American Hustle"). Yet, "The Master" is so much better a film than American Hustle thanks to its grand scale, aka. epicness, in depicting a specific period and specific people in the US history, and also its depth in character development and underlining meanings, which could not be found in "American Hustle". In short, "American Hustle" is a fun film to watch but in no-way a great film to admire. 10 Oscars nominations, seriously?!
21. Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013): 5/5
Have you ever felt cast out? Have you ever felt detached from anything you've acquainted to? Look at Adèle, and you will find that cast-out yourself in her eyes, from her lips, through her gestures. This film is not about love, not about finding your identity, not about feminism or LGBT right. This film is only about the loneliness that one may encounter once in their life, when their innocent inner self clashes with the strange nature of the society - an environment which is not purely toxic but always contains dangerous germs that can hurt you through love, especially love. This film contains plenty of nudes and sex scenes, yet, this is the coming-of-age film of this year, and of any year as a matter of fact (and indeed this film is rated only NC-12 in France! look at that, MPAA!) thanks to the fresh and magnificent Adèle Exarchopoulos.
22. Rush (2013): 4/5
A typical Ron Howard's, which means a very interesting, honest and sentimental film to watch, with very solid storyline and cast, but not really an outstanding film to admire. It is funny to see how Ron Howard can preserve his favourite elements throughout his career of biography films with very different settings, from mathematics (A Beautiful Mind) to boxing (Cinderella Man) and now F1 racing. Always the struggle to get to the top while searching for your true self, always the awkwardness in real life of the guys who so excel in their field that they feel utterly lonely and detached from the other "normal" people except for their very own "enemies", always the eternal value of love-marriage-family, and (my favourite one) always the presence of a devoted, and scene-stealing, wife behind the success of her husband. Indeed it is the lovely Alexandra Maria Lara (the innocent girl in "The Downfall"!) who is, in my opinion, the most impressive character of this film with a pair of "talking eyes" (she in fact had little conversation throughout the film) that can transfer her love for Niki, her fears while Niki was completely deformed after the accident, and her joy while Niki "got it". With a beautiful yet fragile figure, she is spot-in for this role which is the "eye of the storm" - the calmness among the turbulent F1 races and a much-needed peaceful dose to balance the film. Bruhl falls a little bit behind Lara because ... he talked to much, while Hemsworth and Wilde only had conventional performance given the potential of their characters. It is a pity for Hemsworth because Hunt is a very interesting character to squeeze out a breakthrough performance - a daring, passionate guy who lives every day like his last - a total opposite of Niki, but has he ever felt lonely, left-out, pessimistic when losing or even when winning (maybe it is not even Hemsworth's faults but simply because Howard and his writer did not go deep enough)? Still, a very solid film that is not only interesting to watch but also give you some moments of calmness in life (strangely enough for a film about racing!). In the funny side, this is the first time I saw boobs (and lots of boobs, actually) in a Howard's film, 2013 is a year of boobs or what, Scorsese exploited his Wolf of Wall Street with boobs, and now Howard? And an open question with no answer - Niki abandoned his last and most important race against Hunt simply because of the excessive risk while driving under torrential rain or because he found that his family, his love for Marlene are more important than a World Champion? I hope for the latter, because it will make the film much more meaningful (but in real life, truths are sadly often hard truths).
23. Blackfish (2013): 3.5/5
A fine documentary but with the solely one-side commentary, it seems like the director tried a little bit too hard to insist his opinion upon the audience. The ending is also confusing due to its dual-focus on the confined orcas and the risky life of the orca trainers. Not as good as I expected although the subject is quite tepid to make a good documentary.
24. Short Term 12 (2013): 3.5/5
The down-to-earth tone of this film may be (and already has been) praised by many people but to me, the richness of the setting and dramatic characters could be, and should be, handled with more emotions and less restraints. The director probably wanted to treat his would-be very dramatic subject (child abuse, abandonment, loss) in a calm-at-the-surface-but-turbulent-inside way, but why he chose such fertile settings for a highly dramatic film for this one? The varied potential of his characters, leading and supporting alike, deserves a deeper look and better depiction. That's why I felt a little bit disappointed given the hype and praise for the film. Also, Brie Larson, a very distinctive and impressive face that I have known and liked since Scott Pilgrim, deserves more space to prove her talent, because from her peaceful yet energetic eyes, I know that she is capable for much more.
25. Her (2013): 4.5/5
A somewhat difficult film to watch due to its slow pace, cold settings, and hallucinative ambiance. However, once you dwell on Phoenix's sad eyes and understand his awkwardness, you will feel his loneliness and his desperation to get out of that limbo situation. The more you read his touching letters, the more you will understand his heart, which is so big that it has to search for a comparable heart from the artificial world just to later realize that artificiality is not, and could never be reality. This film made me remember of "Synecdoche, New York" - a superb philosophical oeuvre from Jonze's long-time collaborator Charlie Kaufman, maybe due to the same futuristic and surreal settings, maybe due to the same eternal struggle with loneliness, maybe due to the same turbulent quest to find one's true self. Although "Her" is much less multi-layered and philosophically constructed, it is a much more accessible to the audience thanks to many, many poetic conversations and its heart-warming ending, which provides a simple yet moving lesson - when you look for happiness, the happiness-for-real, think of the one who is always there by your side, who may not make you feel exciting but always brings calmness to your heart, that is the one who will break your loneliness, that is the one who will bring you happiness forever. For a side note, this film should win Oscar for best original song with its marvellous Moon Song - a simple yet touching song that deeply reflects the spirit of the film, and Joaquin Phoenix one more time proves that I am right considering him as one of the finest actors these days (Scarlett Johansson, actually her voice, is not really up to this level, however).
26. The Great Beauty (2013): 4.5/5
Some may call this film style-over-substance, but to me, this is a strangely beautiful film that you can love without understand its meaning. Indeed, except for some deeply poetic verses, the subtitles only helped me to understand that this film needs no translation to make the audience to fall in love with it. Different people may have different interpretation of this film, and of the real definition of "the great beauty" according to the fantastic Mr. Jep Gambardella. A Roman "Vanity Fair"? A poem about the eternal beauty of the "eternal city" Roma? A tale about the underlining beauty of life no matter how bizarre it looks? It does not really matter such interpretation, in my opinion, because the audience can feel the love for life, the love for cinema, and the love for the beautiful Roma through every single bizarre character - yes, everything and every characters in The Great Beauty are strangely depicted just like we, the audience, just walk into a literary dream of the socialite Mr. Jep Gambardella, where (among others) a father discussed with his old friend the love for his daughter why she was performing a ... striptease for both. As eternal and elegant as it is, Roma deserves a beautiful cinematic picture - which The Great Beauty exactly is. It was filmed so naturally and so beautifully that simply watching the lighting over the elegant Mr. Jep Gambardella's tiring and daydreaming allure can bring a little peace to your heart (looking at the beautiful and wide settings of The Great Beauty suddenly reminded me of how irritating David O. Russell's films are with his tightly controlled and narrow settings). The open ending of the film also deeply satisfied me, since it leaves some space for the audience to think, to imagine, and above all, to enjoy, instead of stuffing some crude ideas into their brain like many pretentious American films have tried to do. Yes, it is really strange to admire a film that is absolutely sincere and honest while exclusively depicting the pretentious class of Roman socialites. I have been to both Paris and Roma, and sometimes the common elegance of them makes me confusing in distinguish one from the other. But with this film, one can tell right away the subtle difference between the two most beautiful cities in Europe - one represents the "new" elegance while the other represents the "old" and seemingly lost elegance of the past.
27. About Time (2013): 3.5/5
It is a tough decision for me to give this one 3 and a half stars, because it truly deserves 3 stars only, maybe my long-time admiration for Mr. Curtis' charm can add that half a star to the rating. However, after the lousy yet funky and (still) lovely "The Boat That Rocked", Mr. Curtis' tradition of sentimentalism since "Four Weddings" and "Love Actually" comes back, only with a very lesser script than its predecessors. The charming formula of Love Actually is there again, with voice-over, British-ish witty conversations (although much rarer than its predecessors), extraordinarily ordinary-life scenes for opening and ending sequences, loves without turbulences, bonding families, attached couples, mended broken hearts, and joys, many joys and happinesses. Still, the plot lacks consistency, maybe due to its sci-fi time-travelling settings, while the characters, although still charming they are, were inadequately and unimpressively depicted with an alarming lack of details and lifelikeness (which were done very, very well in "Love Actually"). Therefore, the heart-warming ending could not lift the whole film up and only reminds the audience of a typical Hollywood rom-com yet much more impressive time-travelling family film - "Click".
28. Blue Jasmine (2013): 4/5
Except for Midnight in Paris, I have never enjoyed Woody Allen's films, even his finest of 30-40 years ago like Annie Hall or Manhattan. His witty but lengthy and tedious conversations always make me bored to death, the Allen-ish characters are often full of charm but also deeply irritating, and the tireless background jazz is simply obnoxious. Blue Jasmine is no different to me and I really have to try to get through all its inter-connected script and conversations. Still, I have to admit that this is a film to admire thanks to its particular cynic view on vanity - an exceptional cynicism even in comparison with the Woody Allen's standard of cynicism. The profound contrast between the two sisters, between the seemingly marvellous but trying and pretentious Jasmine and the down-to-earth and happy-go-lucky Ginger (very, very good names for your characters, Mr. Allen!) also brings a new dramatic level to the film and, actually, makes the film more accessible to the ordinary audience like me. Of course, Cate Blanchett is a tour-de-force in her role Jasmine while Sally Hawkins also brings out a character of the Happy-Go-Lucky calibre - probably Blanchett will get her second Oscar with this attractive psycho character (favourite type of characters to win Oscar, in fact!) but given the strong presence of 12 Years A Slave's Lupita, the chance for Hawkins is quite small (she should have been nominated for Happy-Go-Lucky, at least!).
29. The Act Of Killing (2013): 5/5
A film that basically made me speechless. It is really, really extraordinary to watch such utmost horrendous story through a purely matter-of-fact storytelling without any cinematic effect like voice-over, flashback images, sentimental interviews, or shocking images. Without its brief wordy introduction, I might have probably mistaken this film for either a mockumentary or a snub film, but this is documentary at its best - an honest film about a forgotten story - a lost part of the Indonesian history that many have tried to erase or forget, which just lays everything down for the audience to observe, to think, and to construct their own opinion and conclusions without any manipulation from the director. Without any direct criticism to anyone or any organization, this film still makes the audience to wide open their blind eyes to the extraordinarily horrible nature of (some) human, who can admire all aesthetic aspects of cinema while being able to proudly, yes proudly indeed, kill innocent people in a blink of eyes. The surreal ambiance of the film, with many amazingly surreal settings in Indonesia, with the gradual mixture of reality and dream also deserves the best praise possible. This is one of the strangest yet strongest documentaries I have watched in quite a while.
30. The Terror Live (2013): 3.5/5
Interesting and clever premise for a top-notch action film and the first half indeed develops that premise into great sequences of rapid tempo, neat yet tense settings and, above all, involving acting from Ha Jung-woo. However, as time goes by, plot-holes gradually increase to a somewhat disturbing level and the ending is quite pointlessly lousy. Some may argue that such ending is to prove the infused nihilist voice of the film, but the accompanying lousy anti-establishment message is really a bad choice.
31. Nebraska (2013): 4/5
A charming and heart-warming yet somehow depressing film. In the same line with "Sideways" and "The Descendants", "Nebraska" is all about finding (back) the true value of family and the meaning of life of the middle-life-crisis characters (in this film, the son - whose changing attitude is actually the focus of the film, not the endless journey of his absent-minded father. Although shot in black-and-white and is full of rough characters put into the desolate setting of Nebraska, this film is still full of humanity, which is often covered by the mother's profanity and especially the father's reluctance to reveal his true feelings and affections towards his dearest. Therefore, the moment when the father unwillingly told his son on how he would spend his 1 million and the way the son reacted are deeply touching and may be among the best moments of my favourite Alexander Payne's genre film (family-road trip). However, to me this film is a little bit soft given the roughness and richness of the materials and settings, and thus is less impressive than the sarcastic and bitter About Schmidt. Maybe the success of The Descendants has prompted Payne to continue warming his audience's heart instead of really dissecting the deep meaning of life and family? Still, this film is worth-watching and is another excellent evidence (after the French The Artist) for the apparent survivability of black-and-white in the age of technology.
32. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012): 4/5
A multi-layered view of the coming-of-age period which is deeply compelling thanks to the well-developed characters, simple yet intriguing settings, and above all, the seemingly straight-forward but deeply emotional and twisted story. The delight ease of the cast also enhances the fresh innocence of the film, which may bring back a lot of lost memories about the beauty of the coming-of-age period for nostalgic audience, like me. The only, and minor, complaint about the film might be its slow pace, especially in the first half, and the slightly confusing structure (also in the first half), but it is unfair to demand perfection from a first-time director like Chbosky. Indeed, he did a wonderful job and we, who want to get back some glimpses of our long-gone coming-of-age days, should be grateful for that.
33. Philomena (2013): 3.5/5
The film has some brilliant moments that can bring tears to the audience's eyes, especially in the first half, but in a whole this "human interest" melodrama does not really satisfy me. Maybe because of the realistic and involving but somehow uninteresting story (the problem that films often encounter if the directors want to stick with the true story as faithful as possible). Maybe because of the unbalanced structure of the film, which contains of utterly emotional and heart-breaking scenes yet cut in pieces by many slow and tedious sequences. Besides the terrific Judi Dench (a very good role of her, but not really an Oscar-caliber role), the rest of the cast does not help to improve the film either with their (too) low-key characters. A much better detective/historical piece of cinema could have been made with the stunning context of the film (the so-called "Magdalene's asylum") but Mr. Frears should be respected for his effort of faithfulness. A dull effort, though.
34. Gam-si-ja-deul (Cold Eyes) (2013): 3.5/5
More sophisticated and slicker than the original Milky Way film but the quirkiness à-la-Milky Way and the sense of urban claustrophobia of "Eye in the Sky" are no where to be found here. Still, a very enjoyable film with tight direction and nice production value. The weakest part of this remake, similar to its original film, is the lousy ending, which is procedural, plenty of plot-holes, and somehow pretentious.
35. Starbuck (2013): 2.5/5
An (surprisingly) honest and kind film about masturbation and alike stuffs that is successful in bringing in a few laughs without using cheap/dirty jokes. But the totally improbable situation of the film, as well as the definite lack of focus and the fragmented structure, which is butchered by too many unnecessary and unimpressive characters, could not raise the quality of the film over the average bar. A below-average comedy.
36. Le Premier jour du reste de ta vie (2008): 5/5
One of the best family films I have ever watched, and one of the very few things that could soothe my mind during its darkest days.
37. Groundhog Day (1993): 5/5
Just like the countless Groundhog Days that Phil lives again and again, this film deserves to be watched again and again for all its charming, witty, humorous, and warm-hearted natures. This is the primary example about a comedy can be attractive, intelligent, and bring smiles, big smiles, to its audience without being cynical and/or obscene. To the memory of Mr. Harold Ramis (1944-2014).
38. New World (2013): 4/5
A mixture of Infernal Affairs and Election with a Korean touch, and a very fine touch that is. Some parts are quite waning, especially in the second half, the fast tempo is not consistent, maybe due to the length of the film, and of course the Korean melodramatic elements still float around. But the film in a whole is a very fine crime film with the distictive Korean identity that can be mistaken for a Hong Kong Triad film. If only Choi Min-sik's Chief Kang could be further developed and involve, this film could be even (much) better.
39. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2013): 4/5
This is the WORST kind of films, the kind of films that does not spare a single glitter of hope for its audience after watching. I watched this film because of its poetic trailer but such poetic, romantic and beautiful moments in the film are so rare that one already wishes the film end after its first part, only to realise that the second part is even far more painful to watch. All the emotions are put to the extreme with the intense acting by the two leads, who seemed so naive and care-free in the first part only to break down all mental borders in the second part to show their destroyed souls and broken hearts. I really did not expect the emotions were put to such extreme, given the likeable characters, the simple and innocent settings, and of course the relaxing bluegrass music at the background - a type of Blue Valentine I had guessed after watching its trailer. But so wrong my thought was - this film is all about heart-brokeness, all about how people collapse once they loose their dearest in life. In a way, such extreme approach makes this film less effective and subtle than films like Blue Valentine. But really, pounding the heart of the audience into pieces is no trivial feat, not trivial at all...
40. The Thieves (2012): 3/5
Simply put: Overdone. If only the film had been less sophisticated and unbelievably twisted, all the funs and well-choreographed actions would have resulted in a much more interesting and involving piece of entertainment. The superior quality of Tazza in comparison with this film is a proof that a talent director and an ok concept may not ensure the success of a project if the film is overloaded with characters and too many ambitious story-lines. If only Johnnie To could be in charge of this film, we could have had (supposedly) a true black comedy/heist film out of this mess.