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

samedi 17 juin 2017

One sentence reviews (11)

Phần 5
Phần 6
Phần 7
Phần 8
Phần 9
Phần 10

01. Magnificent Seven (2016): 3/5

A surprisingly okay action film with lazy script but decently-laid-out characters. Of course you can hardly go wrong with the tight structure and archetypical characters of "Seven Samurai", but bringing in a bunch of dependable or at least decent actors ("actors", as the only leading female Haley Bennett was unremarkable in her role, although partly due to the typically Hollywood and disappointing treatment of female characters in this film), and setting the film in the fresh environment of the Wild Wild West really help. The film would have been much better had its director and writers paid more attention to actual character development instead of cheesy and sometime annoying sequences full of banters or nonsense dialogues. The ending of the film also noticeably lacked the underlying message of the original "Seven Samurai", which is the "magnificence" of common people ("the villagers") with simple mind but stronger will than any "hero" of extreme prowess. Nevertheless, still a very enjoyable action film this one definitely is.

02. Silence (2017): 3/5

Supposed to be an inspiring cinematic experience, this film turned out to be very underwhelming with slow pace, uneventful script, and uninspiring acting. Of course the source material being a psychological novel with strong focus on theological thoughts must make it difficult for Martin Scorsese to translate its values into his language of cinema. But  such obstacle should not be considered an excuse for such beacon of world cinema like Scorsese, especially when the film still possesses the best technical characteristics of a Scorsese's work, from the cool palette of cinematography (Rodrigo Prieto really is a dependable DoP), to the smooth editing by none other than Thelma Schoonmaker, but the poor performance by Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and ALL Japanese actors did not provide the audience with any chance to sympathize with the ordeal of the film's protagonists. The acting of the Japanese cast is really atrocious, the often-charismatic Tadanobu Asano included, which can be attributed to either poor casting, or lackluster direction of Scorses, or simply subpar talents, or all of them, but when even Liam Neeson could not impress the viewers (his way smaller role in "Gangs of New York" is much more impressive than his appearance in this film), one should question the quality of film-making here. Cinephiles all over the world can only hope that Scorsese will bounce back in his next film, because this one is really disappointing given his high standard and consistent turn-out.

03. The Brand New Testament (2015): 4/5

A surprisingly refreshing film. Although its script is not really sophisticated with a less-than-satisfactory ending, this film still warmed my heart with its humanistic approach to daily struggles of "normal" people under the religious disguise of a "rewritten Bible" with simple but charming characters, rough settings but full of superb visualizations that reminded me of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro at their peak twenty (!) years ago (with a bonus that is a frame-to-frame replica of the famous "nudes in supermarket" sequence from "Cashback"). Jaco Van Dormael really is a low-key excellent director.

04. The Bodyguard (2016): 1.5/5

The film synopsis reminded me of "Man on Fire" (how I miss Tony Scott!) but the actual film is just a mess, pure mess. Incoherent plot, extremely poor acting, lackluster choreography, such a forgettable flic.  

05. Logan (2017): 4/5

An okay superhero film but not as breakthrough as I thought. The R-rating of this film really is a bless for its choreography, as the film's action looks raw, realistic, and different from other tone-down superhero films. But the plot, which obviously borrows elements from Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and Naughty Dog's "The Last of Us", seemed to be refreshing at first but grew to be repetitive and tiring as the film went on due to the lack of character development/revelation (especially regarding Professor X and Laura) as a sacrifice for the heavy focus on Wolverine, who is still as grumpy and aggressive as in any other X-Men film despite the newly-found resignation. The conventional ending is another disappointment, especially given the underuse of the young mutants during the climax (including the almighty Laura), and a very one-dimensional cast of villains. A 4-star is as generous as I can give for this film. 

06. The Accountant (2016): 3/5

The plot is incoherent at parts but the action is surprisingly solid, whereas the character "The Accountant" himself is well-built (despite all the mumbo jumbo about his past) with cool appearance (post-"Gone Girl" Ben Affleck seems to be much comfortable in his roles), John Wick-like abilities (a new trend these days), and the necessary absence of cliches about a troubled past or cheesy romances (the subplot about Anna Kendrick's Dana is totally unnecessary in this regard). The "revelation" in the end is another disappointment, but otherwise this film laid out the ground work that is promising enough for any decent sequel (and indeed it is under preparation).

07. Okja (2017): 3.5/5

The first half really reminded me of "The Host", only cuter and more focused. But the second half is just meh, except for an exhilarating sequence inside the slaughter house. An okay action film but not more than that.  

08. Proof of Innocence (2016): 2.5/5

An honest but silly attempt in "remaking" "Chinatown" with South Korean setting (slashed nose again, really?). The acting is actually not that bad, but the forced script with a ridiculous "villain" and ending really undermined the film's positive emphasis on human interaction. 

09. The Sense of an Ending (2016): 3.5/5

Way less impressive than the novel as various beautiful passages and the ending's nuance to the extreme were replaced with unimaginative first-person narrative and a closure that is satisfying but at the same time destroys the nostalgic and mystic cover that Julian Barnes put on his characters. Actually the film is okay with a solid cast and smooth direction and editing, but I of course expected much more from a cinematic adaptation of one of my favorite books.

10. Kong: Skull Island (2017): 3/5

Not as bad as I thought with a satisfying dose of monster and a total absence of cheesy romantic subplots (until the very end), which were the weakest link of the otherwise excellent "King Kong" by Peter Jackson. Paying homage to (or borrowing heavily from) "Apocalypse Now", the film really reminds the audience of the Vietnam War, not only because of its beautiful Vietnam-based settings, but also because of various subtle and overt references to the brutal War where the arrogant foreign invaders lost to the hand of the simple native community with much better understanding about and stronger attachment to the place they were born, raised, are living, and will return once their hearts stop beating. It is a pity that the film's script is not really good with poorly-defined characters and shallow treatment of key sequences about the interaction between "the humans" and "the monster". An entertaining film nonetheless. 

11. Cook Up a Storm (2017): 3/5

The "New Year" genre of Hong Kong cinema often pumps out films with mediocre quality but highly profitable. This film is still mediocre in many parts, from a lackluster cast (even Nicholas Tse proved to be a disappointing choice for the leading role), and a cheesy and nonsense plot. Surprisingly enough, this film still entertained me greatly during my 10-hour-plus flight from South Korea to Germany, mostly thanks to the excellent cinematography of food and the cooking process. As far as "New Year" films go, this is one of the better ones.

12. Sword Master (2016): 3/5

The obnoxious emphasis on 3D of this film made me really one to give up watching several times, but its sincere adherence to Gu Long's original characters and writing style helped me to stay until the end. The cheap 3D effects of this film only highlight Derek Yee's disappointing negligence about settings and cinematography. Thankfully, Gu Long's spirit of "jianghu", of Chinese-style unrequited love, of existentialist heroism was kept intact with beautifully-built characters, slow pace of choreography, and simple plot. Of course, this film is far from a decent adaptation of Gu Long's novels, but at least it is watchable - a feat that has become more and more difficult of the modern Hong Kong cinema.

13. Master (2016): 3/5

The extremely convoluted plot really lowered the film's quality despite a very solid cast (especially Lee Byung-hun who outshone his fellow actors by miles). 

14. The French Connection (1971): 4.5/5

The first (build-up) part of the film is pretty slow-paced in comparison with modern standard of action film, but once everything, and everyone are in their places, this film is simply irresistible with an iconic duo that totally deserves their accolades and praises (Gene Hackman was just phenomenal in the role of a desperate and somehow psychopathic policeman), and cunning villains that frustrated not only their hunters but also the audience as well. The exhilarating feeling about the Jimmy Doyle's hopeless quest to catch his suspects and regain his reputation is another major achievement of this film, partly thanks to an excellent script with tight plot and cultivated twist-and-turns, and partly thanks to William Friedkin's innovative direction with long takes, remarkable editing, and thrilling action sequences. The open ending full of nuance between hope and hopelessness really closed the film in a very high note.

15. The Prison (2017): 2.5/5

Except for its promising opening sequence, this film is just a mess, especially with an over-the-top yet disappointing ending. Han Suk-kyu is terrific (and terrifying) in his role, but his supporting cast (including "My Little Bride"'s Kim Rae-won) is uncharismatic and forgettable, partly due to a half-hearted script. 

16. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): 3/5

The film definitely takes off after a ridiculous beginning (with awful, awful acting) with a surprisingly heartfelt ending, but another one-sided supervillain, under-developed subplots, generic characters, and boring CGI make this one again a passable/serviceable but forgettable Disney/Marvel superhero film.

17. The Fate of the Furious (2017): 2.5/5

This series has become a gimmick since the last one, but at least "Furious 7" has the tragic death of Paul Walker as an anchor of emotion for the audience, this one has none. Entertaining with its tricks, but disappointing with everything else, from the plot to the cast (The Rock is on his way to be a "Fast-and-Furious of an actor" - ridiculously entertaining, but also growingly annoying, and ultimately forgettable). The most disappointing of them all, however, is Charlize Theron. she should not capitalize on "Fury Road" with an awful role in a forgettable film like this.

18. Stranger (TV series) (2017): 3/5

The first two episodes are entertaining, the next-to-last two episodes are thrilling, but other than that this series is pretty mediocre with fill-in episodes with lengthy yet meaningless shots and dialogues. Watching such series really cannot help to cure my allergy of television series in general.

19. Good Will Hunting (1997): 4/5

Watching this film again after a very long time, I felt it not really able to hold up as I expected with a kind-of simple and straightforward plot. Still, the dialogues and monologues are extraordinary (kudos to Damon and Affleck!), the treatments of all characters are delightfully heart-warming and humanistic (a specific trait of Gus Van Sant), and the settings just make me miss Boston and Cambridge deeply. 

20. Serendipity (2001): 2.5/5

Charming but ultimately forgettable film due to its formulaic script with too many forced "coincidences" - a major problem of the rom-com genre during the 1990s and early 2000s. 

21. Love in the Time of Cholera (2007): 3/5

Not a bad film by any mean, but its being a cinematic adaptation of such a beloved and excellent novel made the audience very difficult to ignore the apparent mismatch in term of quality between this film and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's marvelous work. Mike Newell should be commended for his faithful approach to the novel, but he should also be questioned for his decision to select Giovanna Mezzogiorno for the pivotal role of Fermina Daza instead of more charismatic and beautiful Latin actresses like Catalina Sandino Moreno (who easily outshone Mezzogiorno as just a supporting character). The decision to keep Mezzogiorno portraying Fermina throughout her life (despite the poor make-up that made the difference between Mezzogiorno's appearance and her character's age very obvious, especially in the "later years" of Fermina) while using Unax Ugalde (in a pretty disappointing performance) instead of the ever-dependable Javier Bardem for the young Florentino Ariza also made the film less engaging to the audience. The fact that "Love in the Time of Cholera" is one of the best-written novels with extremely poetic passages is another high barrier that this cinematic adaptation cannot surpass, as how a hundred pages of detailed character and situation descriptions can be condensed into just five minutes of screening time? For example, each of Florentino's lovers was almost always beautifully described in the novel but in this film they are purely "supporting characters" totally forgettable to the audience. The lack of attention to the settings, except for the surprisingly beautiful recreation of Lorenzo Daza's estate is also disappointing, as "the environment" was always an important "character" in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works. Nevertheless, this is still an enjoyable, and charming, film that at least deserves a big applause for its being faithful to the original novel, one of my all-time favorite books that is (I have absolutely no idea why this film got such low score on Rotten Tomatoes, no idea at all, maybe my taste has been softened, but that is very unlikely).

22. No Reservations (2007): 2.5/5

A film where nothing rememberable happens whatsoever. Attractive cast? Checked! Lovely settings with famous tourist attractions in New York City throughout a year of different sceneries? Checked! Romantic comedy? Checked! Food, good food? Checked! This film has all the ingredients for at least a joyful rom-com, but the lackluster character development (with a very annoying child character played by Abigail Breslin), the absence of any true climax, and the boring treatment of emotional and situational conflicts made it a sub-par cinematic experience for the audience.

23. Inside Job (2010): 4/5

A fantastic documentary that excelled in explaining complicated financial jargons and the maze of connections between the government, the academia, and the financial sector in the United States in an easy-to-understand manner for the general audience. The interview sequences are probably be the best part of this film, where the famous and often cunning interviewees were cornered by the filmmakers into "confessing" their own greed and ignorance (too bad the most pivotal figures of the financial crises were not "brave" enough to appear here). However, the explanations of events that occurred during that period were at times forceful and in some cases shallow for such a complex issue like the financial crisis. The best and worst thing about this film is the fact that it was able to point out that "nothing changes!" even after such horrendous event, and that even its being a Oscar-winning film cannot change such status quo. Therefore, this film is in fact a harbinger of even more serious crises in the near future. Such a horrible future that is...

24. Like Crazy (2011): 3/5

The opening sequence of this film is great and would probably remind the audience of top-notch romantic films like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or "Blue Valentine". Opening with a bang, yet the film slowly develops into a tedious experience of love, marriage, and unfaithfulness with low point after low point, emotionally. Of course a film can depict the ephemeral life of a premature love, or the other side of a marriage, but a certain rhythm, a concrete story with memorable moments of sacrifice, of "burning the whole world just for one person" are really needed in order to keep the focus of the audience. However, this film's two main characters are not only childish in their love for each other, but also extremely selfish in the view that no one to sacrifice anything for the other loved one, what a disappointing love that is. The nuanced ending with a complex sense of remorse, and of love being recalled, recreated is great, but it cannot help subdue the irritate feeling of the audience about the two protagonists (the cast is great though, rest in peace Anton Yelchin...). A good but not great romantic film.

25. The Good Dinosaur (2015): 3/5

Generic script, subpart animation given the high standard of Pixar (the characters are awfully uncreative even though the depiction of American wildness is breathtaking at parts), but totally not as bad as I thought it is. In other words, the animation part might be less impressive, but the plot is just as generic as any other Pixar film, and, surprisingly enough, way less pretentious than the others. The inventive "reverse of roles" between human and animals, and the small circle of characters did make the film repetitive (just as any other Pixar film was in its second half) but also helps the audience keep their focus on the main storyline with an irritating-at-first-but-gradually-enjoyable protagonist with well-developed characters and backing stories. An okay film, especially for the kids and the general audience.

26. Samurai Gourmet (2017): 2/5

A very repetitive series with 12 episodes that are basically the same - repetitive plot, boring characters, limited settings, just different foods. Even the foods, which are supposedly the focus of this series, are not really impressive with some episodes with very impressive presentation of food making but others with forgettable dishes and uninteresting stories in general.

27. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011): 2.5/5

Pretty forgettable film saved for the brilliant cast, especially Steve Carrell, who was able to overcome the mediocre script to deliver a solid performance as a married man in the middle of his middle-age crisis of identity.

28. Young Adult (2011): 2.5/5

This is a fairly successful film in terms of both critical reception (including praises from my beloved critic Roger Ebert) and box office, yet I found it boring with a forgettable cast, including the protagonist. The "finding oneself" plot of this film is pretty formulaic without any true revelation or character development. I understand that such approach is the one the duo Reitman/Cody want to make to create down-to-earth characters in a setting that is familiar to any American so that they can actually portray the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people through witty conversation and subtle character evolution. Still, most of this film's dialogues sounded very uninspiring to me, and the characters were very loosely defined and just could not evoke any emotion from me until the very end.

29. T2 Trainspotting (2017): 4/5

I love this film! Although not as fresh as the original (the structure, motives, character arc, and many sequences of this film either reflected or simply repeated the ones from the original), this film still warmed my heart with its quirky characters of awful "qualities" but still retaining some tiny yet shiny pieces of beauty in the deep down of their souls. The contrast between these characters of their young, desperately poor but optimistically promising years in the original and of the later years (may I even say the autumn of their lives) in this film with nothing left but some hopeless dreams and broken relationships really made my heart sank a little bit thinking about losses along the long and winding road of my own. Thankfully, though, the film is never all about pessimism or just a cynical view of the lives of the "losers" (either due to addiction, cowardliness, or ignorance) and their obsession with the past (that is "glorious" in their mind but was actually just as heart-breaking as their present except for the existence of hope), but it is also a tale of lasting friendship, of the perverse love for "home" and the past (as Veronika answered when being asked "To go home with nothing, what's at home?": "You know, emotional attachment"), of the optimism that is needed even more when you are in an inescapable hole. This film really made me miss the original, in a good way, as the dialogues and monologues are still hilarious and witty at the same time (although not as effective, since many are just a replay with some modern touches of the sequences from the original - the modern touches on the negativity of social networks and such are pretty light-weight and pale in comparison with this film's critical portray of traditional vices like addiction), the cinematography is just marvellous (the reference to "The Shining" - a masterpiece of obsession and hallucination is amazing, and the camera angles were chosen in a really interesting way), and the bombastic soundtrack is just all I can ask for from a sequel of "Trainspotting". This film did okay from the financial perspective, but I feel sad that not many people talked about it despite the film's quality and the legacy of the original film. Still, to me this is a really entertaining film and another reminder of how good Danny Boyle (still) is. The only disappointment is that Kelly Macdonald only appeared in a cameo role even though she could have been entrusted with a much more fleshed-out character like in the original (the lack of a true heist-like plot is also a let-down).

30. The Big Sick (2017): 3.5/5

A charming and light-hearted romcom. The plot is thin, the male protagonist is not really convincing (even though he played himself!), but the female lead and her supporting cast are just terrific. The delicate treatment of the racial and cultural tensions is also very commendable.

31. First They Killed My Father (2017): 3/5

Not as pretentious as I was afraid (in watching a film directed and scripted by Angelina Jolie), but this honest film is nonetheless supremely boring with slow pace, messy editing, and confusing messaging.

32. My Neighbor Totoro (1988): 5/5

Every time I watch this film, I find something new to admire about it. This time it is all about Maestro Miyazaki's attention to details while portraying Mei. Having a pretty tiny niece now, I really appreciate the way Hayao Miyazaki drew and animated Mei, who is in this film not only adorable, pure, and kind-hearted, but also a little bit "annoying" and unpredictable as any little girl of her age should be. As a consequence, I even admire more the way Mei's father and Satsuki embrace Mei and her "imagined" stories, which would be easily ridiculed or ignored by a less attentive father or a distractive sister. This film has many underlying messages, but such lovely and meaningful interaction between the three protagonists really show that this film is above all about family, about "the good old days" when nothing was more precious than a little family full of loves.

33. Wonder Woman (2017): 3.5/5

An okay superheroine film with a much tighter script than any Marvel superhero film recently. The action is really entertaining with some Hong Kong-wuxia choreography at the beginning that has been rarely seen in Hollywood. The two leads are ... solid, the supporting cast is also distinguishable, whereas the villains are still the weakest link due to the lack of screen time and clearly-defined identities. The most disappointing thing about this film, however, is the crappy message "love above all/love prevails", which is not only cheesy but also unconvincing given the gritty war-oriented setting of the film, it seems that the filmmakers did not learn anything from the failure of Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar", where such crappy plot-line almost destroyed the whole film. Also, this film has been praised for its emphasis of feminism and the role of women (its director is also a lady). Yet, the best character of this film is a male (Chris Pine), who helped "guide" the whole legion of clueless Amazonian warrioresses, whereas most of the females in this film are simply stereotypical characters similar to any traditionally male-oriented Hollywood film, including the strong yet absurdly innocent Wonder Woman, or the disappointingly thin Doctor Poison - the sole female villain of this film. In comparison with such strong feminist films like "Leon the Professional", this film appears to be really pale.

34. Baby Driver (2017): 3.5/5

A very cool/stylish film but the characters are a little bit one-dimensional and the plot is somehow too simplified for such a heist-focused film. This downsize of the film might probably come from its stretched-out middle part and some not-so-smooth changes in character development, despite a very strong opening sequence. The film is nevertheless very entertaining, and feels intelligent, but not as memorable as Edgar Wright's famed "Cornetto Trilogy". 

35. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): 3/5

Not a bad film, but I feel really sad watching how such a distinctive franchise was "Marvelized" with nonsensical dialogues, thin-as-paper villains, shallow character development, and repetitive themes like this. "Spider-Man" has always been my favourite superhero franchise, but this McMarvel approach might probably one day force me to stop going to the cinema for the web-shooting guy. Also, I dare to say that the crappy coming-of-age story of this film is way worse than the emotional ones depicted in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", which was widely regarded by many (not me) as one of the worst, if not the worst film of the Spider-Man franchise.

36. Battle of Memories (2017): 2/5

Very, very nice pretext (to the point that I was willing to watch the film right after reading the plot synopsis, without knowing anything else about it). But the film turned out to be mediocre, that's all I can say.

37. Blade of the Immortal (2017): 3.5/5

An extremely entertaining film but with questionable editing with way too many incomprehensible jump-cuts. The story is interesting, abeit convoluted at parts, the characters are pretty memorable (despite some sudden character developments that are probably due the inherent length difference between the original manga series and this cinematic adaptation), the acting is also A-okay, but I can't really get pass that horrible editing. Still an amazing action film, though.

38. Bad Genius (2017): 3/5

Really cool premise with interesting cast, innovative approach to the heist genre, and refreshing environment of a highschool. Yet, the development of such premise is pretty disappointing with a mediocre ending and monotonous characters. Maybe I just had too high of an expectation for this film, but it really does not offer much beyond an above-average coming-of-age comedy.

39. Dark (2017): 3.5/5

The first six episodes were really, really intriguing thanks to their mysterious settings, intertwined characters, and interesting twists. The last four, however, were much less impressive, especially with the sudden turn to a Terminator-like theme in the last episode, which made me endlessly disappointed. I really should not be tricked to watch TV series like this, even Netflix ones, anymore...

40. Blade Runner 2049 (2017): 3.5/5

The film is visually satisfying but its pace is so slow, especially in the middle part, that almost killed the joy of watching, no wonder why the director of the original "Blade Runner" Ridley Scott complained that this film is too long. Nothing really new is offered either, as the film continues the "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" theme of its predecessor with some minor twists and without any breakthrough in script or character development. 


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