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

One sentence reviews (8)

Phần 5
Phần 6
Phần 7

01. The Raid 2 (2014): 4/5

What a film! I valued this film more than its predecessor, despite the fact that it is way sillier and more incoherent in term of plot, less spectacular in term of action choreography, and equally terrible in term of acting. The most important thing about this film is "fun", the silly plot, which seems like a superficial mixture of "SPL", "Infernal Affairs", any Martin Scorsese's crime film (especially "Casino"), actually gives the film a chance to show off a variety of impressive set-pieces, which are also seemingly ripped off from "Casino" (the corn field scene), "Oldboy" (obviously the subway scene), "Infernal Affairs" (the car accident scene at the end), among others. The choreography is less creative and spectacular, but more interesting to me (rather than the repetitive fighting style of the first film) due to the stand-out supporting cast, especially the "Hammer Girl". Still, the film overcomplicated itself by a "sophisticated" plot full of twist-and-turn - way too sophisticated for a pure action film ("SPL" did a much better job with a more focused and intense story). The film was also over-cast - too many potential characters (Ryuhei Matsuda's "the Japanese", Yayan Ruhian's Prakoso) yet too little time for them to shine (despite the 140-plus-minute length of the film, quite long for a pure action film). With this style, surely a third "The Raid" will come out in the near future, hopefully with a more concise and focused plot.

02. Leviathan (2014): 4.5/5

Not as anti-Russia as I thought. An emotionally powerful film, this is the perfect complement to "Winter Sleep", which also depicts the human tragedy. If "Winter Sleep" takes the low key, "Leviathan" takes the exactly opposite key - very high, very brutal, very tragic. Western reviewers can take this film as a direct criticism of Putin's Russia, but to me, this is a film about destiny, about belief, about tragedy that anyone may encounter in their life. The thing that made me sentimental the most is that the characters are so Russian, they are naive, kind, lacklustre, yet utterly humanist, and dearly love their friends, their families. Now I understand why the Russian Government funded this film and nominated it for Oscar, this is an excellent film, that's it. This film is way better, way more powerful than any contestant of the Oscar for Best Picture this year.

03. John Wick (2014): 3.5/5

Very, very cool, but only "B-movie" cool. "Sad Keanu" is still as charismatic as ever, but his acting was quite terrible, lack of passion to the point of lifeless - which actually served very well for his role - a cold-blood contract killer who took on a revenge after losing everything he had in life. That said, this is a surprising comeback role for Keanu, only if he can find other scripts with suitable for his non-acting style aka. the "Sad Keanu" style. The film has many good set-pieces, but also equal number of cheesy plot details and clichés, which often negated the stylish impression of the film. Still, a well-executed and entertaining film for a very traditional subject. This is another example of the lesson learned that if a director wants his action film to appear "cool" and stylish, he should avoid "sophisticated" script and rather stick with minimalist and straight-to-the-point plot, and simple yet symbolic characters.

04. Still Alice (2015): 3/5

How irony is that this film is distributed by Sony Classic (they had a very good year in 2014 by the way) yet watching the film made me feel like watching a 1h39 advertisement of Apple, where Apple products and Apple products alone can save the day (speaking from a MacAir owner). This film is just above average, since everything were just half-done - half-done drama, half-done feel-good story, half-done character development, half-done style, half-done message, etc. The acting, except for Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin, was terrible - Kate Bosworth looked annoying while Kristen "Stoneface" Steward still exhibited her infamous stone-face throughout the film. As a character-driven film, this is also another half-done aspect, since Baldwin did excel in his role as a matter-of-fact husband who loves his wife just barely more than his career as scientist, and Julianne Moore, well, she was just as excellent (yes, excellent!) in this film as in other films. The problem with Julianne Moore is that the ... half-done script really did not help her, some parts she appeared to be a woman of strong will, in other parts her behaviour resembled the behaviour of a loving wife and caring mother, yet those parts were not connected smoothly enough to bring out a complete picture of a woman falling into the abyss of forgetfulness. Julianne Moore has proven time and time again that she is an excellent actress of utmost mental sensitivity and emotional vulnerability. These strengths are both showed in this film, but to see Moore at her best of emotional vulnerability - "Magnolia" is a much better choice, whereas "Boogie Nights" is the best example of her mental sensitivity. That said, she may still get an Oscar for this role, but that would be an undeserved Oscar for a well-deserved career.

05. Wild Tales (2015): 4.5/5

Year by year, I have gradually lost my interest on the Oscars' categories due to their monotone and disappointing predictability, except for one category - Best Film in a Foreign Language. Not that I always agree with the Academy's (collective) decision in this category, far from that - there have been many films that I love dearly but miss out the golden statue to much lesser contestants ("Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" in 2001 or "Farewell My Concubine" in 1993). But I always respect, and love, this category for pointing out many films that without their nomination in this category, I might have never got chance to watch them, from "Okuribito" to "El secreto de sus ojos", to this year's "Relatos salvajes". Despite its anthology form (in which the film is segmented into six disconnected part with only a common theme - the wildness of humanity in extreme situations), the film has a very coherent style - beautiful cinematography, excellent cast, strange yet utterly attractive stories, and crazy script - exactly like the film's title. In fact, the six parts are not equally strong (I love the first part the most - strong, tight, quick, and full of metaphoric images, the third part is another excellent action-packed piece of cinema) but they are all full of surprises, twist-and-turns, and well-meaning stories about humanity. Well, some of those stories are not really "well-meaning" but they are nonetheless powerful and force the audience to think about themselves, think about what would they do if they were in those characters' situation, whether they would be as crazy, as wild, as those characters once being cornered in such emotionally horrible situations. I respect this film even more considering the fact that this comedy is always sincere to its comedic by trying its best to entertain the audience (and give them some slices of wild humanity, when necessary) instead of trying to be something pretentiously "noble", "high-concept". Rarely a film can be all entertaining, surprising, and thought-provoking at the same time like this one. Thank you , AMPAS, for give me another excellent film from Argentina.

06. Gangnam 1970 (Gangnam Blues) (2015): 2/5

The film tried hard, very hard, to appear to be a film noir, or at least a respectable "Korean style" gangster film, but unluckily, it fell miserably far behind this apparent objective. Poor character development, over-complicated yet too obvious plot (of which the ending could be easily predicted after watching the first 10 minutes), poor acting (especially the handsome Lee Min-ho, whose upright and hero-like appearance could not compensate his lack of charisma and subtlety) and sub-par production value (for a "period gangster film" like this). Even the oh-so-hot sex scenes by Lee Yeon-Doo appeared to be pointless and simply "did not make any sense" for the plot in a whole (same with the appearance of the lovely yet useless "flower vase" Seolhyun). Trying too many things at once yet bringing too little things to the audience at last - this is such a film.

07. When Marnie Was There (2015): 4.5/5

At the end of the film, it was really emotional to watch the screen fading to black while hearing Priscilla Ahn whispering "And think of who knows my name. Would you cry if I died? Would you remember my face?", knowing that this is possibly the last "original" production of Studio Ghibli. As if Ghibli had poured all of its strength and creativity for the ultimate "magnum opus" "The Wind Rises" and "Princess Kaguya", it took its "last bow" - this film, with a low yet delightful note. This film has the exact tone of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's previous, and first, film "Arrietty" - a calm coming-of-age story full of loneliness, friendship, family value put into a nostalgically Westernised environment full of bright colours through traditional drawing style. Still, in my opinion, "Marnie" is a much better film due to its emotionality that is heightened towards the ending with a very very touching and satisfying (though a little bit illogical if one pays close attention) revelation at the end. Such emotional link helped "Marnie" keep its tempo at a reasonable pace and not tooo slow as in "Arrietty". The setting of the film, although not creative as in "Arrietty", is still extraordinarily beautiful, especially regarding the seascape, and subtly elegant, which suits well with the nostalgic tone of the film. This is not by any mean a masterpiece, due to its quite ordinary story, which may not stay in the audience's heart for long, still, "Marnie" totally deserves to be "the last bow" of Ghibli, for its humanism, warm-hearted message, and bright images that perfectly represent what Ghibli has brought to the audience during the last three decades. Rest assured, Ghibli, the fans of good cinema will forever remember you, remember the name "Studio Ghibli".

08. Metropolis (2002): 4/5

This is a difficult film to judge, since it definitely delivered the symbolist, aesthetic, and authentic, look of the Osamu Tezuka-style (the futuristic Metropolis and the seemingly post-apocalyptic underground society were superbly drawn and deserve to be ranked among the best settings in anime), and succeeded in preserving the philosophical complexity of the story, which was actually perfected by Tezuka not in "Metropolis" but in his magnum opus "Astro Boy" (thank God it was not a Hollywood production, otherwise the human-robot story of this film would have been surely "dumbed down" to get more money from the American audience and more hatred from manga lovers. The characters and the relationship between them were also depicted with utmost affection from the film-makers, since their appearances, and feelings, were paid equal attention, which made them look real, and feel real (yes, even the robots!). Still, the film to me has an unfortunate sense of emotional detachment, which makes "Metropolis" a film to admire but not a film to feel, and to enjoy. Maybe this was due to the temporal constraint of animation in comparison with the lengthy freedom of manga, which led to the inadequate character development and emotion build-up before the abrupt climax in the end. The tempo of the film is also a little bit troublesome, with some very energetic action sequences alternated by slow yet emotional scenes (often submersed in a wonderful jazzy or old-school music environment) without a real smooth transition. This is the reason why the ending, in my opinion, did not give the audience the necessary feeling of sympathy and regretfulness (the deviation of the plot from Tezuka's manga to Fritz Lang's film maybe also another reason, since Katsuhiro Otomo often has issues with the script due to his sometime-too-strong authorship and creativity). Still, the ever-attached sense of admiration followed the audience throughout the film and this alone is enough a reason to watch, and re-watch, "Metropolis". If only "Astro Boy" were made by this same team instead of those crappy Hollywood studios...

09. Citizenfour (2014): 4/5

Thrilling subject and setting, wonderful, wonderful protagonist - Mr. Snowden, if only the film can have a little bit more "dramatic salt" the way Michael Moore did in his superb "anti US-gov" trilogy "Bowling for Columbine"/"Fahrenheit 9/11"/"Sicko". Not that Moore's over-dramatization style is really a good thing, but making "Citizenfour" a little bit more emotional, a little bit more intriguing, is somehow justifiable since the subject and the protagonist of this documentary are really, really hard to get in the today net-invasive society, where privacy intrusion by the government has become so every-day that no one questions about its legitimacy, its justifiability any more.... Still, given the urgency and constraint of the filming situation, the film-makers' efforts still deserve our appreciation, for the film did succeed in depicting Ed Snowden the way he wants himself to be - a shy, nervous citizen who just feels his inner-urge to stand up to defend what he considers precious, inalienable little things of the citizenry - privacy, freedom, and democracy. To do that, Snowden knows what would happen to him (in fact, I am not sure that he does understand the extent of the suffers that he has had to suffer, and will have to suffer - the smearing campaign that was shown, in part, brilliantly in "The Thick of It" and "In the Loop") and he did appear to regret the freedom and the comfortable life that he once had. Yet, he went ahead with his determination, without (incredibly enough) any trait of arrogance, vanity, or adventurism - he just wants to "do the right thing", simply as such. I am not sure that his efforts will ever be fruitful enough to help change the net-intrusive society to a better way, especially given the super-power of his homeland - the U.S., but I am sure that watching this film alone is already something inspiring to other people who "want to do the right things" like Snowden. And the more people wanting "to do the right thing", the higher chance for the society to evolve in a better way. Too bad I can only give this film four stars (how coincidental that is!) due to its somehow tepid tempo, but Mr. Snowden and the film-makers can rest assure that his following words will still resonate in my mind for a long time:

"...And I'm more willing to risk imprisonment or any other negative outcome personally than I am willing to risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom and that of those around me, whom I care for equally as I do for myself.
And again that's not to say that I'm self sacrificing because it gives me, I feel good, in my human experience to know that I can contribute to the good of others..."

10. Furious 7 (2015): 3.5/5

This film is definitely worse than its prequel (which I gave 4 stars), thus I have to give this one 3.5 stars, although the short and sentimental Paul Walker homage at the end is a blast and is itself worth 1 star already. "Furious 7" is still "bat shit crazy" like its prequel (actually prequels, since from "Fast 5" up to now, each one has always surpassed its prequel in term of craziness) but the confusing choice by James Wan to proceed with two parallel story-lines at the same time (one with Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw, one with Ramsey) is really a bad one, since the lack of focus on both plots led to many illogical details, disrupted sequences, and lacklustre characters despite their profound background stories and character development (thanks to the previous "Fast"s). Of course, "Fast" is undeniably famous (and even respected) for its illogicality, however, whereas physics-wise (and fun) illogicality is more than welcome, and actually is a "must", for an interesting action film, plot-wise illogicality can only bring distraction and disappointment to the audience - since they are distracted from the awesome action sequences and instead sucked into finding one illogical plot after another. Worse, the action sequences of "Furious 7" are, in my opinion, more extravagant yet less creative than "Fast 6" with many "familiar" sequences that remind the audience of games like "Uncharted 2", "Watchdog", or films like "Live Free or Die Hard", and several disappointing sequences with unbelievably lame solutions (for a "Fast"-calibre film) like the "edge sequence" of Vin Diesel's Toretto and his "hacker" Ramsey. The cast was not helpful either with wooden acting all around (!), from billing names like Vin Diesel or Michelle Rodriguez (she was terrible, the worst in this film I think!), "surprise" cameo like Kurt Russell or Iggy Azalea (really?!), to would-have-been-way-better newcomers like Tony Jaa (poor him - began his career in Hollywood with this poorly-constructed character and an embargo from Thai cinema industry) or Game of Thrones' Nathalie Emmanuel (she seemed to be able to do much more with her Ramsey character, IF the script allowed), and annoying juggling-jiggling cheap jokes between Ludacris and the worst-of-worst Tyrese Gibson. This film also reminded me of the fact that Paul's Brian has been relegated to "second-rank" character since so long that it felt heart-breaking but also kind-of nostalgic watching the homage sequence showing how bright, how centre-of-the-world he was in the first film. Criticizing the film in length, but I also admire the film for not exploiting the death of Paul in the revised script, yet focusing on sharing the best of Paul's moments and images with us with a (correct) presumption that everyone love Paul, everyone miss Paul, and everyone will remember Paul. Better yet if the series could conclude with this film, but as far as Hollywood can go, it will continue to squeeze any dollar left from this franchise even though the stories and characters in this film have showed that it is really, really difficult to make anything more creative and more interesting from this franchise. Why cannot one disappear at its height to make people remember forever?

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): 2.5/5

I am truly happy that ... this film is bad enough to (maybe, I hope) slow down this overhyped and overrated "movie universe". Not that I did not find this film entertaining, it was fun enough to keep me slightly awake throughout the bloody two and a half hours of the film, yet I felt much more entertaining finding out that this film is approached in a very "Transformers" style - no wonder why it was opened not in the U.S., but abroad, since the latest "Transformers" already proved that the foreign market is dumb and wealthy enough to pay for such idiotic films to be filmed in their countries, WITH a minor character (but MUST NOT be a villain), and later pay even more money to go to the cinema to watch it despite the universal bad review of the film. China did that for "Transformers", and Korea quickly follows with this film. Too bad for Korea, Claudia Kim's acting is so terrible that the more she appears on screen (I am sure that this Korean version has even more appearance time for her that it feels really ridiculous) the more the Koreans themselves would have to question - why the hell this uncharismatic and "wooden" lady is still there among the top-notch Hollywood stars, and why the hell her character is embarrassingly out-of-place and simply does not make any sense to the plot in general. But, of course, it is not Claudia Kim's fault, it is Joss Whedon's fault, and moreover, it is the fault of Disney's and Marvel's greed (for success, for fame, and for money). This film is totally similar to the simple-but-at-least-enjoyable "Avengers 1", but with a much more incoherent and nonsense plot that simply puts few details from each avenger together in a chaotic and trivial mixture, of which the only flavour is CGI action sequences spread throughout the film. Being overloaded with confused action sequences, in which I really cannot tell one thing from another, I suddenly realized that the boring first half of "Avengers 1" is actually a very good set-up and preparation for the audience to wholly enjoy the action-packed second half - in this sequel, I think that the audience will quickly grow fed up with the action sequence after action sequence, which are intermittently separated only by some sentimental scenes full of cheesy details and terrible acting (the WHOLE cast is bad in this film, except for, maybe, Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch, who did have some awesome scenes but was still a terrible character in overall due to the poor plot). I have always criticized Marvel films for being "Hollywood McDonald", but this time, the Marvel burger is really over-done and it is difficult to envision (yes, this is a pun - and how the hell could they persuade the respectable Paul Bettany to wear the ridiculous and terrible Vision's costume???) that American people can pay another one billion USD to swallow this bad-prepared dish of junk food. However, Disney and Marvel may not be worried, they still have Chinese and Korean eager for their burger (ironically enough, American fast food is not really successful in Korea, and I do not think this film can earn as much money as "Frozen").

12. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): 4/5

THIS is "Kick-Ass Part 2", and not the half-ass "Kick-Ass 2" that was a disgrace to Vaughn's best over-the-top anti-superhero film of all time (arguably) and pinnacle of the Vaughn-ism with people sliced in half, people exploded in pieces, people pummelled into mud, that were all outrageously stripped away in "X-Men: First Class" . THIS anti-spy film is as over-the-top as "Kick-Ass", although a little bit less fun due to its (sometime unnecessary) complicated plot. Actually the plot of "Kingsman" is quite similar to "Kick-Ass", no wonder though, since this film is based on comic book written by the same authors, and is scripted by the same writers, thus one can find the same struggling journey to "enter the real world" of the same troubled kid(s), and his/their revenge for his/their cool father-figure, who did his very best to teach his protégés about the difficulty of reality by .... well, throwing them directly into that reality. The film's mocking tone of everything, from [SPOILER] Obama (blowing his head off is the most unexpected detail of this film, far more than other sudden deaths or such, since those I saw already in "Kick-Ass"), to politicians in general, to environmentalism, and, of course, to classic and modern spy genre. In fact, with a bigger (and more famous) cast, way sparser setting, and more serious theme, "Kingsman" is, in my opinion, more difficult to make than "Kick-Ass", since balancing the seriousness and mockery why keeping the tempo flow smoothly from one complicated, well-choreographed action scene to another light-hearted comedic situation is no easy feat, and Vaughn did that again and again. There are admittedly hiccups here and there with the plot and character development, but in general the film is mindlessly enjoyable and unpretentiously entertaining for its super cool nonsensicalness. Such flavour is really really difficult to create (kudos to Vaughn for being able to create such freshness for the second time, without being spoiled by the Hollywood big-budget symptom of uncreative banality), but it is even harder to retain such flavour. Thus, I think that the sequel (which will surely be made given the huge financial success of this film - quite a feat itself, since the screening schedule of this film was moved back and forth too many times that I thought this film must be a terrible and unsalvageable mistake that Fox did not even want to release it, luckily enough, it was not) of "Kingsman" will just be another "Kick-Ass 2" - financially so-so but artistically horrible. Instead, I rather speculate about Vaughn's next film, should be another crazy, over-the-top action film, but probably will be a Hollywood blockbuster with no artistic creativity. Oh, and "the Church Scene" is indeed spectacular but not really jaw-dropping to me as "the Dealer House Scene" in "Kick-Ass".

13. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): 4.5/5

One of the best action films I have seen in years! I have to give this film four and a half stars despite its full five-star quality due to its simplistic script (one may call it minimalist, but I think that such simplicity is definitely intentional for the sake of the action set-pieces). Simply put, "Fury Road" is a cat-and-mouse race full of awesome heroes and villains, spectacularly choreographed action sequences, but without any character development, in which the roles and characteristics of all the "racers" are set at the very beginning with only slim back-story and some slight "twists" along the race (the premise of this film is really similar to "Children of Men"'s, with an even stronger metaphoric emphasis on the matriarchy and the essential role of woman in human history but less complexed situations or twist-and-turn). But does that matter? No, absolutely not. Firstly, the film succeeded in NOT betraying its incredible trailer, a feat that not many films were able to accomplish in recent years. "Fury Road"'s trailer reminds me of Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" - intense, stylistic, vengeful, and with a unique style of post-apocalyptic fantasy. But whereas "Sucker Punch" did suck in delivering such premise (pun intended), "Fury Road" in full is even more furious than its trailer and admirably appears with its own thirsty ambiance, ruddy environment, post-apocalyptic background without any lengthy voice-over explanations. One can tell that the director was able to achieve such amazement since he had done three such films before (I cannot tell, because I have not watched any of them, or could not remember watching them before - I was only amazed finding out that this is the same director of ... "Happy Feet" and this is the film pure action film that he directed after thirty bloody years!), but nevertheless such unique look and style are really really a treat to the audience's eyes with amazing details after amazing details, from the crazily-primped cars to the metaphoric appearance of the characters (this film definitely deserves to be watched on big screen, IMAX preferably, for thorough appreciation - the 3D effect of this film is not really standing out, though, strange since George Miller actually recommended audience to watch this post-production-3D-converted film in 3D). The simple story-line and heroic awesomeness of the protagonists (which means not much place for contemplation or inner struggle - this film does not need them anyway) are delivered through spectacular high-octane action sequences (I feel sorry not being able to find a better word to describe their beauty), arranged with excellent tempo throughout the film, seamlessly stitched together through short but much-needed silence and peaceful moments. Even better than the choreograph and practical effects of the action sequences themselves is the superb score that successfully puts classical and metal soundtracks into an intense, excellently-timed, and, amazingly enough, touching when needed. Due to its thin plot, it will be a little bit difficult for the audience to "retell" "the film's story" to others, but every single one of those who have watched the film will definitely be able to tell how awesome and dominant Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa was throughout the film (euphorically and figuratively, since this is the first film I have seen that is able to "utilize" Theron's well-known super model build - I just read an interview of George Miller and he did indeed choose Theron partly due to her physical agility originated from her earlier ballet dancing, which is essential for the action exactitude of this film to avoid any dangerous mishap - and of course Theron did play action heroine before in Aeon Flux, but the film is too forgettable to be considered as benchmark for her role in "Mad Max"), even in comparison with the subtler Tom Hardy's Mad Max. As impressive as her own name, Imperator Furiosa might be one of the best action heroines of Hollywood this decade, alongside with Emily Blunt's Rita Vrataski from "Edge of Tomorrow". Not satisfied with that giant and effective pair of protagonists, the director still gave enough space for the minor characters to shine, and shine indeed they did, from the crazy but gradually likeable Nicholas Hoult's Nux, to the "Victoria Secret" Queens, who, despite their limited "true" on-screen time and restraint roles of "being beautiful", still have their own shining moments, especially Riley Keough's Queen Capable (capable indeed she was). In comparison, the antagonists were less built and appeared more generic and even a little bit disappointing (especially the boss-like ones), but they are nonetheless memorable for their fantastic outfits and some strange but iconic sequences. If not for the expensive price of the IMAX ticket, I really want to go back to the cinema to immerse myself in "Fury Road"'s awe-inspiring soundtrack and watch the breathtakingly iconic scenes that are normally reserved for epic historical/war films. Yes, in a way, this is a true epic action film, if I may say, and not those pretentious Marvel films, of which no "super-heroines" (well, they have only one so far) can be compared with the one-and-only true heroine Imperator Furiosa (I doubt that Warner Bros. can retain this effective style for their up-coming DC "movie-verse", given a was-and-always-will-be pretentious Zack Snyder). I can write longer and longer about this beloved film, but really, this is a cinema experience and high-quality entertainment that the audience deserves. Love this film, yes, I love this film.

14. The Legend of the Swordsman (1992): 5/5

Lunchtime for me these days is often surprise time because the classic films are often showed within this very awkward time frame. And yesterday was "Swordsman II" with my ever-favourite Brigitte Lin (and Rosamund Kwan, and Jet Li, and Michelle Reis). Still love every single frame of this film.

15. Ex Machina (2015): 4/5

I watched this film after realizing that this and "Mad Max" are the almost the best-reviewed films in the first half of this year. My first impression is how cinematic and fascinating the female lead Alicia Vikander is, especially the classic beauty of her face with an imperfect yet naturally attractive shape and very very intimidating lips. She played her "half-robotic-half-human" role Ava to perfect, with a "full" range of expressions possible to a humanoid robot - that are both mechanically restraint and tremblingly fresh at the same time (a feat that actually made me worried wondering whether she is able to springs all emotions in a "full human" role to match her stunning beauty). Given the "track record" of the director Alex Garland, which is full of excellent sci-fi scripts for Danny Boyle, and the adapted script of "Never Let Me Go" (!), this film is actually not far from that track - existentially futuristic, simple (in term of setting, characters, and plot), honest, and utterly humanist. Moreover, it seems that Garland tried to exclude any influence of the conventional sci-fi genre by minimizing the budget and visual effect so that he could tell his personal tale, express his personal ideas, and explore his favourite subjects. Luckily enough for the audience, he succeeded in all those aspects with a film that is seemingly simple with a very small but excellent cast of merely two males and two females, a confined and low-lighted setting (except for some exceptional nature scenes), and a straightforward plot that was neatly arranged into seven parts in accordance with seven days of Caleb in the compound (and God's Seven Day of Creation) BUT deeply philosophical with wave after wave of existential questions about humanity, about intelligence, about who we are, who we will become. In that sense, the best scene of this film might be when Caleb had to cut open his own flesh to see the blood spurring out, to verify that he is still a sane human and not a humanoid creation of the God-like programmer/entrepreneur Nathan. But the best thing about this film to me is its frequent spectacular transition of the setting from the claustrophobic and dimly-lit underground compound to the vast green beauty of nature, which really made me feel the existential message of the director about the momentary destiny of human under God and the blurred border of intelligence and sanity once artificial intelligence becomes a real thing (I may not agree with that idea, but I appreciatively understand it). The slow tempo and revelation of the film enhance further its effect on audience, bring them into a psychedelic state between sanity and insanity, between human and machine, between evolution and [God-like] creation. Such state might probably be the permanent state that Nathan lives in his compound, and the reason why he had to use alcohol day in, day out to ignore it, to ignore his own existence. Due to all those great things about this film, the ending, as fascinating and surprising as it is, is kind-of a let-down to me, since it DID finish off the tragic tale about the God's creation of Eva (who is the source of BOTH creation and destruction of human) but felt so conventional and somewhat unnecessarily fulfilling. Nevertheless, this is still a very unconventional and very fascinating sci-fi with strong flavour of the independent cinema (not to mention the excellent soundtrack).

16. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck (2015): 3/5

Not a Nirvana fan, I watched this film with the hope to find an "authentic" portrait of Kurt Cobain (this is the first documentary officially endorsed by Cobain's estate) 21 years after his suicide (this film should have been released last year to commemorate two full decades since "the World lost Kurt"). Disappointingly, I only got exactly what the title is (!) - a "montage of heck" about Kurt's life from a peaceful childhood to an "adolescence-in-crisis", to an early burst in fame, and finally a chaotic family life that was more "Sid and Nancy" than "John and Yoko". The montage was made with beautiful 16mm sequences of a bright, handsome, energetic, and deeply sensitive Kurt, and plenty of psychedelic illustration of his painful scrawls and symbolic drawings. Indeed the film has a huge amount of original footage and first-hand information about Kurt, but they were arranged in an "artsy" way that might look like Kurt's style and thought but in fact did not deliver anything about how he really lived his life, how he really thought about people, about love (well, there were touching moments when Kurt shared about his love for Courtney and Frances, but such precious "moments of truth" were again cut in piece by confusing illustration and out-of-tone soundtrack), how people did did love Kurt, did care for Kurt. Actually, the interview sequences of Krist about Kurt are surprising good - honest, touching - that shows how humble Krist is, how much he understands and cares for Kurt, and through his words, how sensitive Kurt always was, and how naive and unprepared Kurt (and Nirvana) was facing fame. But such honest sequences of interview were often under-used and, when used, misplaced (the interview of Kurt's mother did not look real, and did not provide much information about Kurt's thoughts or characteristics when he was still a child under her care). The soundtrack is not really outstanding either with a confusing arrangement throughout the film that did not provide much "emotional boost" when necessary for the audience. Maybe I am not a Nirvana fan, but Kurt's songs like "Smell Like Teen Spirit", "Come As Your Are", or "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" are really a part of my meager "music knowledge" to the point that I will probably sing them to my child as ... lullaby. That is why I really want a good cinematic portrait of Kurt, but sadly enough, this is not such portrait, what a waste of original footage.

17. The Road (2009): 3/5

The film seems like a "condensed version" of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". Unluckily for its writer and director, the original novel is really all about symbolism and spiritual thoughts rather than a dramatized slide of human life in the post-apocalyptic world. It appears that the director and the writer did try to pick out all the dramatic elements of the novel and slightly rearrange them in a more interesting and cinematic way, a subplot was even included (unnecessarily, though) to build more "meat" for the rather under-developed and spiritual characters of "the Man" and "the Boy". But such dramatization task is really difficult for them due to the very underwhelmed narrative of the novel, which is perfectly fit for readers' appreciation thanks to its many beautiful passages but not "cinematic" enough for a decent film, hell, even the novel's setting of a dark, colourless and ashy world is totally uncinematic and not at all suitable for any style of cinematography, save for, maybe, black-and-white (which was not selected by the film-makers, what a waste, if only the black-and-white-with-a-touch-of-red style of "Schindler's List" had been applied for this film). Virgo Mortensen was fine in his role (Charlize Theron's character was a waste, though, her sequences are beautiful but unnecessary and understandably detached from the film since it was not part of the original novel) but "the Boy" is a really weak character and was portrayed by a rather unimpressive child actor who did his job in depicting the Boy's innocence but could not bring out his otherworldliness, which is crucial to the novel. The rearrangement of the plot (in comparison with the novel) was not helpful either, since it made the film impossible to understand or appreciate except for some nice landscape or close-up scenes. It was not the film-makers' fault, though, the novel is simply too unfriendly for any cinematic adaptation.

18. Chappie (2015): 1.5/5

There are few interesting and creative ideas that remind the audience of how awesome Neill Blomkamp WAS (these might serve very well for a short action film) but the film in a whole is a mess of illogicality, plot-holes, cheesiness (why the hell did Blomkamp approach this film in such nauseating style of superficial existentialism mixed with pretentious biblical lore???) , and crappy film-making. Yep, "Chappie" is crappy and does not deserve my time to review it (watching it is already a misstep that I could not retake).

19. Into the Wild (2007): 3.5/5

A strange film. I adore Sean Penn and his films, which always reflect his anti-social masculinity and crude righteousness. But this film is a little bit too much anti-social for me to stand. I know that a lot of people love this film to death with its purist philosophy of "live simple, follow your heart, enjoy the nature, be survivalist", as represented by the protagonist Chris McCandless aka. Alex Supertramp. Strangely enough, "Mr. Supertramp" may be among the fiction characters (he was indeed a real person but viewed and depicted through the lens of John Krakauer and Sean Penn) that I ... hated most - superficial, reckless, selfish, and totally out-of-touch. Yes, he had a traumatized childhood, but is that enough for him to blame his parents, who DID care for him, DID pay all the expensive tuition at Emory for him, to eternity, and to even haunt them until (probably) their death with his sudden disappearance? Yes, he wanted to be "himself", to follow "the call of nature", then why did he recite again and again and again the works of others, who, by all means, DID call for humanism, for people to care for each other, and NOT for individuals to detach themselves from the society without considering the natural bonds between people, the love and care that others give them? It is not that I do not understand his situation or has never "tried" to live like him, but watching the film, my experiences and my conscience really call me to deplore his naive recklessness, his shallow philosophy, the way he treated other people who cared for him, who loved him... Yes, thankfully enough, the "supporting characters" in the film are very beautiful individuals, who were not at all perfect but all behaved in a very humanist way, and were all perfectly portrayed by talented actors/actresses. It was Hal Holbrook who received an Oscar nomination for his role of "the old man", but I was impressed the most with William Hurt's character with a very very touching, and revelation, scene in the end. As a road film, "Into the Wild" also has many beautiful slides of American nature, some expansively gritty, some breathtakingly imposing, and all wonderfully filmed with not a shade of sorrow or pessimism. But due to its annoying protagonist, maybe I will not watch this film again, one time is enough.

20. CSA: The Confederate States of America (2005): 3.5/5

A fine mockumentary about the American history. Important events and figures in the history of the U.S. are depicted from a very interesting point of view that is partly critical, partly sarcastic, and totally "authentic" thanks to the sophisticated mixture of true historical naming and totally fictional details (so authentic that it becomes a little bit dangerous for foreigners with no knowledge about American history, for the film would be exactly a historical documentary about the U.S. to this type of audience). Still, the mockery is a little bit dragging in the middle and lacks creativity, especially in comparison with true scientific works about "pseudo-history" like "What If". The excessive number of "mock-advertisements" seems to be a little bit distractive, even offensive, despite the surprise revelation at the end that I totally did not expect. Still, history would be way more interesting to be learnt this way, only if the audience can have some patience (to overcome the dragging "boredom" in the middle of the film) and some critical thinking (to NOT find the film offensive and distil from its many fine details good reflection about the history of the U.S., and the oppressive and fanatic regimes in general).

21. The Animatrix (2003): 4/5

The most significant weakness of animation in comparison with live-action films is the inherent reality-detachment of animation, which requires the audience more time to "get familiar" with the characters and find some emotional links with those animated (aka. "not real") characters. Thus it is even more difficult for anthology animation to "absorb" the audience since each segment often has its own distinctive illustration style, which will bring "gaps" to the film, in the eyes of the audience, no matter how strong the common storyline is. This is exactly the problem with "The Animatrix", for its segments have varied quality, from the superbly stylishness of Shinichiro Watanabe (the legendary director of "Cowboy Bebop"), to the traditional "ukiyo-e" of Yutaka Minowa (similar to the style of his beloved animation "Ninja Scroll"), from the abstract art of Takeshi Koike to the "state-of-the-art" (by early 2000s standard, which means a little bit scrappy in comparison with the current technology - how things change in only 10 years!) 3D illustration of Andy Jones. The mismatch in term of illustration style is also apparent in term of storytelling, as Watanabe's (both of his parts!) and Maeda's sections are clearly superior than others' and closely reflect the philosophy and story of "The Matrix". But in overall, this is a very, very good companion piece to "The Matrix", as "The Matrix"'s world was expanded way farther with more detailed background stories and a clearer "modus operandi" that help the audience understand, and appreciate, even more the beauty of "The Matrix". Too bad the Wachowski "siblings" cannot have another good piece like this, maybe not anymore... (the last part by Aeon Flux's Peter Chung is the weakest, despite its close style to Aeon Flux, bizarrely enough).

22. Yi Yi (2000): 5/5

For films like this, it is actually unnecessary to "review" or "analyse", as nothing is more common in the world than the humanist care that people give each other. By that, of course I do not mean that "Yi Yi" is a perfect film, as it is surely less accessible than the great works by Edward Yang's compatriot - Ang Lee, whose view and thoughts are equally humanist but more "global" (some may say "Westernised"). Luckily enough for me, being born in the "Sinosphere", Edward Yang's "Yi Yi" to me is utterly oriental with a deeply Buddhist sense of Prat?tyasamutpada, in simpler words the close and dependent relationship between people, between past and present, between life and death. The way Edward Yang unveiled his interconnected layers of human stories in "Yi Yi" is utterly charming, soothing, yet it still makes the audience delightfully surprised by the subtle reflection of one generation's destiny on its successor's, by numerous abrupt turns or terminations of such stories, often through obscurity and blurriness of details. I was deeply fascinated by the fact that Edward Yang in some cases concealed important details or outcomes of his stories from the audience, or only let them know in a very "hear-say", indirect ways that really reflect the fact that as our back (the physical back that is), there are plenty of things in life that we cannot see, ever, just like the future, just like how people really think about us, just like our ultimate destiny in life, no matter how wise we are, no matter how "far-sight" we try to be. Thus, the best thing we can do is to "cover" the back of our beloved ones by our love, true love, just like the small but ever wise Yang-Yang, who in his simple but dearest way takes pictures of whom he loves, from their back, so that they would never have to die without knowing how their back really looks like. It was a huge lost to the Taiwanese cinema, and the global cinema actually, when Yang died too early from cancer, but he will always be remembered for his humanist films, especially this "Last Bow", the best "bow" possible to the audience that is.

23. A Brighter Summer Day (1991): 5/5

A very, very long film, but worth every damn minute it is. Watching the film without any doing any "pre-view research" in Wikipedia (how lucky I am!), the film's ending almost made me chocked from disbelief. The title, the young and bright faces of those naive and beautiful characters (no wonder why Chang Chen still retain his statue-like handsomeness after all those years, his facial shape and shining eyes were already damn perfect in this film at the age of 15), the youthful and calm flow of stories (yes, despite all the political turmoil and gang conflicts, the film is pretty much "a brighter summer day" for most of its length), all those things made me feel deeply at ease enjoying some reminiscence about my own youth. And suddenly the ending, the heart-breaking ending that torn down all the calmness at the surface, to show the audience all the turbulent flows of adolescent craziness, all the stupidity inside those naive minds that cherish love, first love, first stirring moment of those inexperienced hearts, than anything else in the world. Yes, those young boys could easily sacrifice themselves for friendship, but they can also turn their back to each other "just because of a girl" (which is in fact their own vanity, the shallow vanity that everyone has at such young age). But the most heart-breaking thing is, no one can blame those boys, those girls for their stupidity, for their reckless behaviours, no one, as the only thing these coming-of-age "children" can follow at this stage of life is their own heart. And they suffer, even perish due to such innocent naivety. Really, the film is too beautiful, the characters are too beautiful that I really expected no harm coming upon them, but life is never that easy, especially when you are so fragile, so sensible as we often are, at such age. Emotions aside, "A Brighter Summer Day" is also technically magnificent, with very good pacing, stunning acting from the surely amateur cast, and an apparent flavour of Ozu, through Edward Yang's style of "still" frame, leaving important details out of the audience's view, and a strange calmness from the characters even in their most difficult moments, which only enhances the linkage between the audience and the strong flow of emotions underneath of those characters. Maybe not "a brighter summer day", but a beautiful, and sad, day of their youth, our youth, nonetheless.

24. Run All Night (2015): 3/5

I just realize that all those "Taken"-ish action (kind-of) B films (including the recently revered "John Wick") are actually the fast-food version of Scorsese's legendary crime films like "Goodfellas", "Casino", and even recently "Gangs of New York" and "The Departed". If Scorsese's works are like fine-dining dishes that refine all the essence of the action and crime genres through a filter made by Scorsese's idiosyncratic style and philosophy, then all those "Taken"-ish films try to resemble them with ... way crappier ingredients of clichés, unrealistic twist-and-turn, forceful message, cheap and repetitive settings, and of course, as any fast-food should have, a lot of cheese - cheesy "pseudo-philosophical" script that is. And that is not necessarily a bad thing, since those ingredients make these films easier for the mass audience to digest and enjoy in short term, especially when it can still retain a trademark of Scorsese's crime films - a leading male full of charisma, machismo, righteousness yet still affectional and relatable, by casting again, and again, and again, Liam Neeson (whose characters function in pretty much the same way his role in Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" functioned). However, similar to the well-known fact that fast-food is easier to digest and enjoy but is not at all good for the body in big quantity or regular diet, "Taken"-ish films would easily become boring and tasteless due to their repetitiveness year in, year out as all the profoundly humanistic stories by Scorsese are "dumbed" down to suit their philosophy of "the easier to digest, the better". "Run All Night" is no different. It is admittedly enjoyable but very repetitive, shallow, and cheesy. I give it three stars only for helping me to consummate two hours of nothingness in the air.

25. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015): 3.5/5

Not as good as I expected, and definitely not as entertaining and creative as "Edge of Tomorrow". The first two-third (or first half, one can hardly tell the exact time while watching film in the cinema) is absolutely amazing with every ingredients of a good action film - simple but clearly-defined characters (which mean they are "replaceable" but still impressive enough to leave some shape, some image in the audience's mind), very good pacing with numerous exciting fast-tempo sequences connected by some short but meaningful "rest stops" for the audience to catch their breath, and of course very, very well-choreographed action sequences (the "Turandot" sequence is so awesome! the repeated interpolation of "Nessun Dorma" in the soundtrack is also awesome!), in which not only Tom Cruise excels (as always!) but his "co-lead" Rebecca Ferguson also brightly shines with her "healthy" beauty and admirable self-confidence among the all-male "macho" cast. Even better, the film's sense of humour is absolutely charming reflecting through the witty-as-ever performance by Simon Pegg and his well-developed chemistry between him and Tom Cruise (they will definitely come back together in the next "Mission Impossible", in my opinion). The subdue (or low key) performance of Tom Cruise, as he has often done in his last films, also helps, as it "fixes" his character as the centre, the hero of the film but leaves space, a lot of it, for others to show their chops, to impress the audience, and in some cases to rise equal or even above Tom Cruise (and I do not think that he minds that at all, or else he could have easily asked for changes in script with his star power). This is a clever move by Tom Cruise, as he cannot hold that A-list Hollywood star status forever, even with his daring stunts, and sharing acting spaces, sharing the limelight with others can only make the film better, and give him a chance to gradually transit into a less-shining, less-prominent, but more respected "patriarch-like" actor (a move that some other A-list actors like Harrison Ford or even Johnny Depp did not take , or did not want to take, and how they have performed recently is the obvious result of such misstep). Another positive effect from Tom's low-key appearance is the prominence of his excellent co-stars, as Emily Blunt excellently showed in "Edge of Tomorrow", and as Rebecca Ferguson shows here again with her strong performance (literally and figuratively). It feels like this year is a year of Swedish actresses, from the mesmerizing Alicia Vikander in "Ex Machina", to a beautiful but still "kick-ass" Rebecca Ferguson in "Mission Impossible V", who is charming and attractive next to Tom's Ethan Hunt and wickedly lethal next to her opponents. The least impressive in the whole cast turned out to be (again!) Jeremy Renner with a illogically boring performance (even though his poorly-developed character did not actually leave him much space to act, but from "The Avengers" to this, Jeremy does need to prove more). But the "disaster" of the film is (again!) its final climax and final "boss". As boring as the ending of "Mission Impossible IV" was, "Mission Impossible V" ends with a very poor note with a disappointingly half-done confrontation between Tom's Ethan Hunt and his almost-harmless adversary, who had showed much potential of "being dangerous" until turned out to be just another generic, one-dimensioned, powerless "villain". Really... The ending almost undid all the good things that the first part brought to the audience. Yes, it is witty the "twist" near the end, but why McQuarrie did not "save" at least one or two high-octane, explosive action sequences at the beginning or middle of the film for the last part, where Tom Cruise really did not have much chance to show his now-famous dedication to stunt. The nonsense appearance of Zhang Jingchu is also annoying, yes, the film is partly funded by Chinese companies, but Zhang is in fact a very good actress (I love, love her role in "Protégé"), why not gives her a real role instead of a "product placement" role like this? (Yes, the repeated product placements of BMW and Microsoft are also annoying, as I dislike them both =)) ) Still, I feel happy that Tom did it again - he proved one more time that he still holds his A-list status not only because of his luck and charisma, but also because of his hard works and dedication. Hat off to Tom, in his thirty years of staying on top.

26. Aloha (2015): 2.5/5

Terrible, terrible film making - no character development, convoluted, incoherent and disconnected script to the point of incomprehensibleness, joyful but forceful soundtrack, boring cinematography full of repetitive close-up (where is the eternal beauty of Hawaii???), poor cast chemistry despite their apparent talent and dedication. Yes, I feel bad for the cast, who are ALL in their prime right now, that they put way too much confidence in the hand of Cameron Crowe. As the film's setting is Hawaii, this reminded me of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" - a film with the same theme and tone but way more charming and enjoyable. Funny enough, the rise of Alexander Payne (since 1999's "Election") almost coincided with the fall of Cameron Crowe (since 2000's "Almost Famous" and 2001's "Vanilla Sky" - a film that I absolutely love despite its poor critical reception). The two are both humanist master of the family/comedy/romance genre, but the more mature Payne is with his subjects, the more out-of-touch Crowe is with his later films, which try hard to be charming and enjoyable, but often lack "something" - some cinematic ingredients to impress the audience despite their ever impressive cast. "Aloha" still has some charming dialogues, warm-hearted moments, and touching details (especially the very end with the "gestures instead of words" concept!), but they are absolutely disconnected in a sea of incomprehensible jump-cuts, complicated but poorly developed story-lines, and charming but shallow characters. I known that the film is bad even before watching it (the film was panned by the critics and fared poorly at the box office), but as a devoted Crowe fan ("Almost Famous" is among my all-time favourites) I still watched "Aloha" with the hope that it could be at least better than the boring "We Bought a Zoo". But, despite having more charming moments, this film is even worse, poorly scripted, poorly directed, poorly edited. I gave this one 2 and a half star ONLY for its touching ending, which is very, very "Crowe-esque". It will be very difficult for Crowe to come back to its former height with such poor-quality films, still, I wish him the best, as the days of "Almost Famous" may be long gone, but I can still feel his gentle touch on humanism through the soothing soundtrack and warm-hearted moments.

27. Spy (2015): 4/5

Half an hour longer than necessary, with a dragging middle part that bores the audience with its repetitive gags, which can be found in any other spy-spoof film. The character development is also inconsistent with characters appearing menacing and too serious in some parts and nothing more than a clown in other parts. Still, a very entertaining, enjoyable, and somehow creative film that succeeded to be more than just a simply spy spoof, mostly thanks to the excellent performance by not only McCarthy herself (hope that she can escape from being type-cast like this in the future, though), but also from other cast members. The coherent tone and solid film-making also help "Spy" a better film than the "Jump Street" series, which have the same premise, good cast, and spoof tone but suffer from lazier film-making. Watching this, I think that the reboot of "Ghostbusters" may still have hope with Feig and McCarthy.

28. Attack on Titan Part 1 (2015): 3/5

The setting is right, the mood is right, the environment is right (any Hollywood adaptation will probably change these fundamental aspects, and thus destroy the Japanesque-feeling of the anime/manga), but ... that is it. The acting is terrible, set-pieces are poorly done, characters are annoying in most parts, and the CGI is subpar. After the disastrous adaptation of my beloved "20th Century Boys", I have become pretty tolerant with Japanese adaptations of famous anime/manga, maybe that is why I still enjoy the film, especially without any idea about the original manga/anime. But the terrible acting and directing is quite hard to leave aside. 3 stars only for the right mood that it created.

29. The Wonders (2015): 3.5/5

This film is another proof for the very distinctive taste of the Cannes Film Festival. Recipient of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in the same year when "Winter Sleep" won the Palme d'Or, "The Wonders" shares the same gritty landscape of a faraway land with "Winter Sleep" with souls tempered by the hardship of environment and human lives, yet is a totally different depiction, a way brighter one, of humanity. If "Winter Sleep" is all about the decay of human lives due to ages, due to hopelessness, due to the eternal sleep of people living, trailing along in fact, without any desire to thrive, to bloom, then "The Wonders" is all about people at their most miserable states, poor in money, poor at heart, yet still desperately love each other, love life, desperately try to prove their love in an often strange way. [SPOILER] A father spending all money his family has to buy an useless ... camel for his daughter, who is already a charming young girl no longer caring for her childhood dream of a mythical camel, an auntie (probably?) living as recklessly as she can yet still caring for the adolescent desire to be beautiful, to be famous, of her young niece, they all care for each other, that may be the biggest "wonder" of the film. The second wonder of the film is Gelsomina, the beautiful, beautiful coming-of-age girl who deeply cares for her poor father and the whole family yet innocently dreams of escaping the hardship of the bee-keeping life, escaping the nothingness of her family's farm. The film has its moments of beauty, mostly when Gelsomina was on screen, but its tempo is slow, character development is somewhat unsatisfactory (despite some beautiful and warm-hearted revelation about the main characters). Not as a "wonder" as I expected (especially the often narrow frames of the film did not show me any of the Italian beautiful nature that I had hoped before watching), this is still a small, and nice film, about humanity, about the beauty of the coming-of-age.

30. Tomorrowland (2015): 2.5/5

The first half of the film is actually interesting, very engaging, at least enough for me to spend my idle time on air. The visual is also very solid - stylistic, consistent, very "sci-fi" yet still retaining the distinctive futuristic flavours of the 1950s and 1960s (which is in fact not surprising at all, given the proven talent of Brad Bird and the established theme-park that the film was adapted from - really, an adaptation of a theme-park...). But the acting is terrible - Clooney might be at his worst form since ... "Batman and Robin", whereas Tim McGraw seemed to not know why he was here, and the two young girls were in most parts annoying rather than charming. But the last one third of the film is simply turd - pretentious (thing I hate most in cinema), illogical, easily predictable, cheesy (the "robot knows love" motif really needs to take a break), and simply boring. Too bad for a film with such interesting pretext and opening. The problem seems to come from the script though, and Brad Bird deserves a redemption (he should have stuck with the Mission Impossible franchise or another Pixar animation).

31. Inside Out (2015): 3/5

A brilliant idea that shines for the first few minutes and gradually dies out for the rest of the film due to the lack of animation creativity and deep script, hmmm, this sounds familiar to me. Ah yes, "Up" - a profoundly creative and emotional ... short film of first-ten-minutes coupled with an utterly boring full length animation that follows. They might share the same director, right? Bingo! Indeed "Inside Out" has a very good premise - the simplification of human's feelings and thinkings into some distinctive factors, but its execution is somehow boring, full of clichés, repetitive scripts, few emotional moments that were dwarfed by the same monotonous set-pieces like "Monsters, Inc." (which was directed by, obviously, the same director). A human mind is always something fascinating, but its depiction here in "Inside Out" is disappointing with not much creativity put into its vast boring emptiness of a landscape. Basically the film has no "villain", but the poorly-developed characters themselves are already villains to the audience - why does Joy (should have been "Optimism") always lead instead of Sadness (should have been "Pessimism"), given the psychological fact that sadness is, in most case, the most memorable feelings in our memory? Why does Disgust need to be here, given another psychological fact that it is way less important in our mind than, let's say, imagination, creativity, or especially desire? And why in the world do emotions prevail reasons in controlling our everyday life? The simplification of the mind is acceptable if it brings out a clear, coherent, and fascinating "inside out" portrait of our mind, our emotions. But if such simplification only induces misunderstanding and incoherence, than it is simply a failed effort. I understand that the journey of Joy, Sadness et al. is only an euphemistic depiction of the changes in the mind of a coming-of-age girl in new situation, but her emotional journey is disappointingly uneventful and thus could not bring any weight to her "inside journey". Still, the film is very OK as an entertaining piece, but its lack of creativity and caring execution is unforgivable. It will be very sad if this film wins another Oscar for Peter Docter, such winning only gives way for more unimaginative animations and a poorer taste by the audience.

32. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): 3.5/5

A fan of Fincher since his first "proper" film (discounting "Alien 3", of course) and all the followings, I am always fascinated by his obsession with the illustration of inhumanity in all forms. Almost all of his characters (the leading ones) are either very crazy or kind-of crazy but in a very strange way. As much as I deeply love his different angles of such craziness, I always find the films where he "paints" such inhumanity in a sympathetic way, like "Seven" (one of my all-time favourites), "Fight Club" (Brad Pitt's utmost craziness did not impress me, but Ed Norton's and others' human vulnerability is always refreshing), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", or "Zodiac". Fincher has been revered most and foremost for his technical superiority - perfect colourization, perfect cinematography, perfect editing, perfect soundtrack, but I admire his human depiction of his somewhat inhuman characters more than anything else - he crafts them with care, with kindness, with the profound understanding about their fates, their characteristics, their emotional vulnerabilities. Such care makes me feel relatable, give me a look at the hidden corners of our everyday life (this may be the reason why "Zodiac", despite being shadowed by two very excellent films in the same year - "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Man" - both about inhumanity at the extreme, is still loved as one of Fincher's very best - not because of its mystery or technical perfection, but because of its extremely sensitive touch on the fates of seemingly-strong-but-actually-very-vulnerable characters). This is the reason why I enjoy "The Game", "Gone Girl", or "The Social Network" very very much, I cannot consider them the purest of "Fincherism". The complexity and numerous twist-and-turns of the plots of these films make me feel that I am watching a "gimmick" about the technical prowess of Fincher rather than being presented with his heart, his soul (still, they are excellent films that I enjoy immensely, I just do not feel that they can represent who Fincher is as an "auteur" - even though I am sure that he does not care being an "auteur" or whatnot). "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" falls in this category. The film was perfectly made, with maybe one of the best, if not the best title sequence (the opening minutes) that I have ever seen ("Skyfall" also has an outstanding title sequence, but that film came out later, from the same company - Sony, so maybe there is some influence there) - bleak, confusing, techno, cold, dirty, inhuman - simply everything that the audience will experience watching the film, and even better, with a perfect soundtrack by Trent Reznor. Adapted from a very popular novel, the film's plot was able to distil all the best details from the book and retain the feeling of mysterious emptiness throughout its length with very, very tight editing, cinematography, colourization, set pieces. The weakest link of the film might be its leads - Daniel Craig's wooden face may be suitable for Bond, but not for the energetic journalist Mikael, Rooney Mara's appearance is spot-on, but she seemed to be too devoid of emotions, thus appeared more as a "super-woman" than an intelligent girl with a disturbing past (that Noomi Rapace translated perfectly from the novel's pages to the original Swedish adaptation). The rest of the cast were also very restrained, to the point that they seemed to be unenthusiastic about the prospect of acting in the middle of the North-Pole coldness of Sweden. Maybe that was not their fault, maybe that was because Fincher just wanted to experience with this "foreign" materials (this is the only film so far that Fincher adapted from a foreign novel) - maybe that is why he does not want to adapt the rest two books - one trial is enough for a successful experiment (and thankfully for the audience too, since the last two books are way less impressive than the first one, yes, I read and watched both the novels and the original adaptations). Still a very interesting film, but a lesser Fincher's film maybe.

33. The Martian (2015): 4.5/5

Listening to "I Will Survive" during the end credits, I almost gave this film a full five-star, almost. This film is almost perfect in every sense - a well-balanced script, tight directing and editing with excellent tempo, a superb cast of which every single actor/actress has his/her own chance to shine, and shone brightly they did indeed. This is maybe Ridley Scott's best action film that I have watched since "Gladiator" (the director-cut version of "Kingdom of Heaven" is rather a historical drama/epic) - extremely entertaining, surprisingly funny (and witty), and profoundly emotional. It is very very difficult to reach a balance between such different aspects of human feelings within one single film, even more difficult for a sci-fi action film, but Ridley Scott, finally, after numerous failures recently, was able to marvel such feat, the film feels so humanistic despite its futuristic setting and fast tempo (and definitely the best Chinese propaganda piece since it became to reach out to Hollywood with its limitless pocket). It is really unfair for this film not receiving five-star from me, given the fact that I did give "Gravity" five stars, and "The Martian" seems to be superior in most aspects. Except one, the depth of the story and character development. The film was so well done that most of the audience, in my opinion, will forget that there is almost no character development in the film, its characters stay mostly the same during the course of the film, despite the fact that this type of near-death experience will definitely have transformation impact on human's characteristics. Having an all-nice cast is not a bad idea (I have longed for films with all-nice cast, so that I can have some time to relax with films, rather than scratching my head not knowing what I am watching). But giving their "niceness" only one dimension without further difference is a little bit disappointing, such potential characters totally deserve a bigger playground. Of course an action film can also excel by being "Mad Max: Fury Road", but the emptiness of the universe really need some colours for the characters other than the colour of nicety. Still, this film deserves all the praises it has got so far, and watching this film in IMAX 3D will be another unforgettable experience for me (after "Gravity", which has simpler plot but better cinematography).

34. Youth (2015): 4.5/5

One of the best films I have watched this year, and maybe the most emotional so far. Funnily enough, the moment that really cracked me is when "Maradona" appeared in a body so fat he could hardly breathe, yet still enthusiastic as ever signing for his fans and playing, skilfully, with a tennis ball. The film is as beautiful as a painting, every frame is a work of art, of colour contrasts, of settings and symbolism. And the stories are no less touching (especially for a "fragile watcher" like me) with many small talks yet utterly humanistic about the true beauty of the characters, as almost all of them are endearingly beautiful (and bizarre at the same time). A beautiful, beautiful film.

35. Black Mass (2015): 3/5

Meh... It is hard to believe that such violent film about violent and charismatic characters can be that boring. But "Black Mass" is indeed boring, just like "Crazy Heart" - a better-praised film by Scott Cooper is boring. Fragmented editing with poor tempo and next-to-none character development really wasted all the shocking moments of characters beaten up, characters assassinated, characters murdered. Depp is not bad, but not terrific either, even in comparison with Joel Edgerton, who is much better in his role of the utterly idiotic Connolly. A passable film, no more, no less. (And I have no idea why they paid a lot of efforts in making Depp look alike "Whitey" in real life, only to later select Cumberbatch to be his younger brother even though their appearances are totally different).

36. Beasts of No Nation (2015): 4/5

A very traditional and predictable film, yet very touching and refreshing. The film's script contains no surprise, the character development is a little bit weak (in comparison with the similar film "Cidade de Deus"), but the directing, editing, and colouring are all so good that the film seems to be new and thought-provoking. Fukunaga should continue to stick with this cinema format, the long format of TV series will only kill off his ideas and strong start way before the end of the series/season. Also, Idris Elba is another proof that English actors are superior in every way possible.

37. Ant-Man (2015): 3/5

Another crappy BigMac superhero film. The "macro" sequences with ants are very satisfying, especially with ones who spent their childhood fantasising about the macro world, with gargantuan insects and plants, like me. Sadly enough, those sequences were dwarfed (punt intended) by the copy-and-paste plot of superhero vs. supervillain, which has get more and more boring. Poor those ants, who had to share the limelight with the "man" even in the title. 3 stars only for the ants...

38. Jurassic World (2015): 3.5/5

Hey, the film is not that bad. The plot is illogical and monotonous, the characters are extremely annoying (even Chris Pratt's, who was a jerk and a sexist at the same time), but at least the CGI is convincing and the action sequences are enjoyable. Not too shabby for a 1-billion-plus flick, but surely an indicator that its sequels will be surely crappy ones.

39. Latin Lover (2015): 3.5/5

A ensemble-cast film similar to "8 Femmes" but messier and lack of character development. The "Cinema Paradiso sequence" is superb - touching, inspiring, an excellent homage to the long and proud history of Italian cinema, from neorealism to Spaghetti Western, but that might be the only outstanding part of the film. With a film focusing on revealing histories and twists-and-turns deep down inside its characters, the fact that almost all of them stay the same, untransformed, from the beginning to the end, is indeed disappointing. Still, a very light-hearted film, especially suitable for anyone confined in the small space of an economy seat during a 15-hour-long flight.

40. Pixels (2015): 3/5

Not as bad as I thought. A thoroughly enjoyable film, especially for those who grew up with NES games (Pacman, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders) like me. Given the appearance of Adam Sandler et al., the script actually does not rely on dirty jokes as Sandler's films often are, with a decent amount of "nerd" references and a illogical but not thrown-away storyline (people complaint about Kevin James being US President as unrealistic, but what do they expect from a film about extraterrestrial attack on Earth?). The CGI and action choreography are also very solid. Most of the characters are totally forgettable, but at least none among them is disgusting, even the "pseudo-villain" played by Peter Dinklage. Thus, I think that this film bombed not due to its poor quality, but due to the lack of interest by the mass audience (most of them grew up with Playstation and later consoles). Too bad for them, since the nerd references in this film are actually very relatable and easy to digest even for the unknowing audience. "Ready Player One" - the book, and the upcoming film directed by Steven Spielberg, has way more references, to the point of being pretentious and absurd, of even older games. Let's see how that film will perform.

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