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

dimanche 28 janvier 2018

One sentence reviews (12)

Phần 5
Phần 6
Phần 7
Phần 8
Phần 9
Phần 10
Phần 11

01. Thor: Ragnarok (2017): 3.5/5

A-okay action film with entertaining plot and an impressive cast. Of course the villains are boring as any other Marvel film, and you should not expect any substance out of it, but at least this film is fun as hell, and not in a stupid way. My main complaint, as with any other Marvel film, still is the fact that this one is full of banters and misplaced lighthearted dialogues in the middle of heavy sequences, which really undermined the impactfullness of such sequences and the emotional build-ups throughout the film. Still, one of the better Marvel ones I have watched in recent years.

02. Justice League (2017): 2/5

Such a boring and uninspiring film. The editing is jarring, Snyder's palette of colors really makes my eyes tired now, and the character presentation is extremely disappointing given their potentials. An all-around failure.

03. Downsizing (2017): 2.5/5

I am so disappointed by this film. Made by one of my favorite directors, this film has a really interesting premise, but the execution is just boring, tenuous, and totally lack any sense of humor, which has always been a strong aspect of Alexander Payne's films. Matt Damon did have a poor performance in this film, but his character is just strange with disconnected development throughout the film. Watching this film made me speculate that maybe Payne was so satisfied with his original idea that he totally forgot to actually develop that idea into a full-fledge film. 

04. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017): 3/5

The uplifting ending is great, but otherwise this is pretty average with formulaic characters (Karen Gillan looks really, really great with her six-pack though, I was really caught off guard with her character, having been rather unimpressed with her role in the Guardians of the Galaxy films), mediocre jokes, and subpar settings. Still, the totally unexpected financial success of this film really is a good thing, not only for Sony, but also for the competition in the market given the increasing dominance of Disney with its clean yet uncreative flicks. 

05. Murder on the Orient Express (2017): 4/5

I am really, really surprised by the low Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb scores this film got, as well as the criticisms of the film being not faithful enough to the novel/not innovative enough as a new adaptation of a novel that has been adapted many times. What do they expect? This is 2017, and do people really want a 1934 detective story that almost everyone on Earth already knows the culprits to be faithfully adapted to the big screen with sequence after sequence of deception/deduction/revelation? Yes, this film focuses on Hercule Poirot (and not Kenneth Branagh) a lot, but isn't that the whole point of Agatha Christie when she wrote her novels? The bizarre behaviours and over-the-top way of thinking of Poirot made him the perfect mirror to reflect the true nature of people around him, including the culprits of the crimes that he happened to be involved all the time. Moreover, this film has a lot of heart - a feature that can only be found in the better novels of Agatha Christie (she has many subpar works with only mechanical twist-and-turns and uninteresting characters, especially by the end of her career). Such heart, or the focus on the tragedies of the livings, and not of the death, is extremely important, as that is the only way this film can evoke emotions from watchers like me who already know the novel's plot by heart. For a drama with claustrophobic settings like this film, actors with strong stage experiences/capabilities are essential, and its cast really shone throughout the film, especially in the second half. Of course, here and there you can still find plot-holes or under-developed details, but in general this is a very entertaining, and emotional film (the music really is on point in this regard), especially for fans of Agatha Christie like me.

06. You Were Never Really Here (2017): 4/5

A terrific film that surprised me until the very last moments (which also revealed why this film has such a strange title). I have to admit that I felt kind of embarrassed caught off guard by the level of shocking violence of a film that I presumed its being much "nicer" due to the fact that the director is a lady (yes, shame on me). But she really did an excellent job in making an excellent film that is extremely stylish yet still retains its honesty and did not fall into the trap of pretentiousness like Nicolas Winding Refn did in his more recent films. Maybe because she crafted her characters with utmost care in order to make them humane in a very inhumane environment. Moreover, even though this film dealt with a lot of uncomfortable themes like domestic violence, paedophile, political and moral corruption, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), the director somehow still manages to ensure that her audience would still be able to enjoy the film thoroughly without feeling uneasy thanks to many peaceful moments of reflection and humanity (which, however, made the film a little bit longer than needed near the end). Too bad this film is released right in the first quarter of the year, otherwise it would probably get a shot (at least in the acting categories - as both Joaquin Phoenix and Ekaterina Samsonov were absolutely terrific in their roles) during the award season.

07. Paradox (2017): 2.5/5

A sequel to the famous "SPL" but far inferior in term of choreography (sorry Master Sammo Hung!) and plot. Of course, the simple script of "SPL" is not at all special (as it mostly served as the blurred background for the focus of that film - action sequences), but "Paradox" contains way too many plot discrepancies, illogical details, and poorly-developed characters. Even Louis Koo's role - the very one that brought him the first Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor is not really memorable with no emotional range or character development despite the dramatic flavours that were stuffed into that character. Still, a rather entertaining film (a little bit slow by the end) that is suitable for ones who want to kill two hours.

08. Chasing the Dragon (2017): 3.5/5

A good film with a strong cast but relatively incoherent plot. It seems that the director tried hard to make this a serious crime film à-la-"Infernal Affairs" but also wanted to emphasize all the traditional themes of 80s- and 90s- Hong Kong triad films (of which the director was one of the prominent mass-producer) like bromance, triad righteousness (yeah, it's been a very long time but Wong Jing still loves the idea of glorifying criminal figures like he once did with the "Young and Dangerous" series, but that time has long gone I'm not sure he realizes), and gungfu. Such overlapping tones made this film feel longer than it should be with an apparent lack of focus or central theme, while the choreographers still did not have enough time to lay out impressive sequences of actions. The film is still fun to watch, though, at least with its excellent production value, especially with the impressive long tracking shots and smooth editing. Neither Donnie Yen nor Andy Lau stood out for their performance, but they nonetheless meshed well with the supporting cast. 

09. Avengers: Infinity War (2018): 3.5/5

The first two-third is very very entertaining with crazy fighting sequences involving multiple characters yet not disorienting the audience (kudos to the directors and their choreographers, and Michael Bay, please take note if you still want to pump out more Transformers). The last one-third, however, is tiring as the directors tried their best to tie up knot after knot from the previous Marvel films, thus no character has his/her chance to fully develop. It is also disappointing that the deaths in this film almost become gimmicks without providing any emotional impact for the audience, as they already know or can easily figure out which character would live, and which one would die. Thankfully, at least the directors did not destroy the dramatic sequences of this film with unnecessary and endless quips like many other Marvel films, just this one at least appears to have a more serious and thoughtful tone, and thus can stand out from the rest of cheerful yet forgettable Marvel "McDonald of the cinema" films.

10. Black Panther (2018): 3.5/5

The first half is particularly strong with tight script, above-average character development, and very interesting setting (not really unique, though, as it looks very similar to many other futuristic cities in Marvel films). But the second half is just a standard Marvel McDonald film with disappointing villain, weak plot, and tedious climax/ending. The lack of banters in this film is very encouraging and fitting for its more serious tone, but tons of half-hearted (half-assed in fact) pseudo-philosophical dialogues that are very politically correct for a Hollywood film these days but utterly meaningless given the context of the Marvel universe itself (the lack of any emotional impact from any death in this film is totally due to the unavoidable light-hearted nature of the Marvel universe, which will prevent any dramatic theme from overshadowing the "entertaining" aspect of future Marvel films) eventually made this film just above-average (I gave this one three-and-a-half stars for its entertainment value only). If this ordinary film wins any "serious" category in the upcoming Oscar ceremony, I will be very disappointed.

11. 45 Years (2015): 4/5

A very realistic life about the turbulences that any couple has to encounter in their life, at least once. So realistic that it appears to be a little bit cruel despite the tranquil settings and seemingly down-to-earth and matured characters. But such cruelty is the essence of our life, as we often have some unreasonable feelings rooting from the past and hiding in the deep corner of our soul that still wait for a day when from the deep down of our memory some spark rises up and tear a big hole in our calm and experienced facade of "living through everything" so that those feelings can escape and influence our life one more time, in a very negative way. Normally we think that only the good things about the past can stay in our mind, but sometime the painful things are the ones that last until the very end and we only realize that only when it is already too late, when they begin to hurt us again after so many years. Besides my rambling, of course I have to bow before the supreme talent of Charlotte Rampling, who has unassumingly prevailed at the highest level of cinema while still retaining her elegance and never compromising her careful approach to her characters.

12. The Third Murder (2017): 4/5

The last one-third is a little bit draggingly slow but the film as a whole is a fresh take on such a traditional genre like legal thriller. Of course, as this film is directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, ones who are already familiar with his works must already be able to figure out that this would not be a conventional "whodunit" and indeed the basic mystery was already laid out bare right at the beginning of the film, whereas it would not be difficult to guess the major twist of this film after its first half due to the pretty limited cast and settings. But "solution" was never the focus of this film, as instead Kore-eda chose to primarily follow the psychological evolution of his characters through their emotions, their lies, and their moments of hesitancy. Similar to many Japanese films, the cast of this film is not entirely strong and thus the performance of some lesser ones (including the lead Masaharu Fukuyama) did slightly undermine the effect of Kore-eda's meticulous portray of modern Japanese minds, but the excellent Suzu Hirose and Kōji Yakusho were still able to make this film a memorable one with their pivotal roles. Some might say that this film lacks a little bit of script finesse as Kore-eda rushed to deliver his message of exposing the serious prejudicial issues of the current Japanese legal system. Partially I agree with this sentiment, but it seems that Kore-eda never intended to deliver a "wholesome" experience, he just wanted to share his perspectives of the modern Japanese society with a lot of nuances (nothing totally good, nothing absolutely bad, it is all up to everyone's own judgement), many layers of emotional connections from one to another (despite the ever existence of social barriers like "traditions", "morals", "ethics", preconception - the "prisoner" in this film asks himself and his lawyer again and again about whether or not he should have been born), and many seemingly ordinary lives that still deserve care and attention from the society. In that aspect, Kore-eda has once again delivered an amazing experience for the audience.

13. American Made (2017): 3.5/5

Definitely a fun film that does not take itself too seriously. Tom Cruise is again very dependable with his charisma, energy, and ease in approaching the role, the plot is simple yet still provides plenty of thrilling moments, and the editing is simply on point. The subject matter is not really interesting though despite (or because of) the light-hearted tone of the whole film, whereas the socio-political satire of the film is so deep that it may be lost in ones who are not really familiar with the Iran-Contra affair or the two presidencies of Reagan and Bush (senior). Therefore, the film would be even better if the plot is shorter, with fewer characters (segment about JB is, in my opinion, pretty pointless for the whole film) and less complicated plot-points. Still a very interesting film, nonetheless.

14. Possession (2002): 1.5/5

A perfect example of how Hollywood destroys a masterpiece of a novel with a mediocre and totally Americanized adaptation. Once I thought that only the legacy of Japanese manga has been annihilated in the West by Hollywood, it turns out that even winners of the prestigious Booker Prize could not escape that fate. I can't believe that the director, the script writers, and the producers, most of them are American, none is English, had the gut to totally rewrite the whole wonderful plot of the original novel, to even replace a fine English character of modern English literature with an American guy of mediocre characteristics and typically American bravado, and of course to give the two leading roles of this film to two American actors, who are also fine thespians but had to unfortunately go along with the subpart script (including Gwyneth Paltrow, who had to play a character of the finest Englishness and understandably failed to deliver aside from the faked accent and remarkably similar appearance). I do not know how A. S. Byatt must felt while watching this film, I hope that she did not care or got enough money from selling the copyright of her most cherished book to care, as the elegant contents and characters of her marvelous book were unmercifully butchered by an American team who only cared about "selling" this adaptation to the general American audience (they did not buy it either, as the film bombed at the box office) by retaining very few important plot points, introducing several unnecessary and cheesy "melo" elements, and even misinterpreting the focal points and the sense of beauty of the original novel. For ones who have not read the book, this film might be passable with the beautiful scores by Gabriel Yared (his music really evokes a sense of melancholy from the audience about a time that has just passed), or the nice surprise of Jennifer Ehle, whom everyone knows as the "true" Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice" (if only Paltrow could learn a thing or two from Ehle...), and even Lena Headey, who would be much later known for her role in "Game of Thrones". But for ones who already fell in love with the book before embarking on this adaptation, watching this film must be an excruciating experience. Personally, I just feel bad for those who watch this film before reading the book, as they have to endure a horrible adaptation that lacks any beauty of the book, while being spoiled the major plot points of the book, which A. S. Byatt had meticulously constructed throughout the novel in order to delight, and amaze her readers. Such a waste of original materials...

15. Isle of Dogs (2018): 4/5

Despite its being an animation, this delightful film still bears all the trademarks of Wes Anderson from character arc (or lack thereof), plot structure, cinematography style, color palette, and so on. Normally Wes Anderson's films are always full of heart and quirkiness, and his greatest works would occur when he could achieve a perfect balance between his warmhearted approach to the subject matters (even the darkest ones, some of which are heavily implied in this film) and his tendency to mark the subtlety of his film with bizarre characters, sentimental stories, and sometimes hilarious plot devices. This film leans a little bit to the quirky side, partly due to the somewhat limitation of the stop-motion format of this film in depicting human emotions, and also due Wes Anderson's over-reliance on playing with words and languages. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this film thoroughly for its amusing characters and chaotically optimistic plot, but more importantly, I admire Wes Anderson for his smart and surprisingly humanistic sarcasm while dealing with such poignant and relevant themes like racism, discrimination, public manipulation, propaganda, and desensitization of animal cruelty. A serious and frank depiction of tragedies is important, but a lighthearted caricature of the truth that can both entertain and evoke emotions from the audience is even more difficult, and sometimes more useful.

16. Game Night (2018): 3.5/5

Hilarious, full of twists and turns, unpretentious, but a little bit too much some time.

17. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017): 3.5/5

Still a fun and satisfying action comedy although the surprise factor is not there anymore. Despite its comedic, spoofing even, tone, the film is very well scripted directed, especially the opening sequence (if the rest were as good as the amazing run-and-chase, this film could have been even better than the first "Kingsman"). There are numerous too-over-the-top scenes though, even for "Kingsman" standard, whereas the comedic aspect is much less pronounced than the prequel (thus made this film closer to an "ordinary" action comedy than a surprisingly creative spy spoof like the first), and the ending is kind-of disappointing. Still a very entertaining film nonetheless.

18. A Quiet Place (2018): 4.5/5

An excellent film that is amazingly subdued in terms of emotions but full of tensions, actions, and twists at the same time. The post-apocalyptic setting is also very well developed and reminds me of "The Last of Us" - often dubbed the best game of the last generation. The idiotic behaviors of some of the characters irritate me from time to time though, and several illogical details (e.g. if the solution for the alien weakness puzzle is that simple, why wasn't any scientist/engineer able to find that before the annihilation of the whole human society?) do affect the immersion of the film, especially near the end. For those issues I intended to give this film four stars, but the amazing way Krasinski alternates the silent moments without even background music and "noisy" scenes in order to manipulate the audience's emotions convinced me that this film deserves better. One of the most memorable films I have watched this year.

19. Be With You (2018): 3/5

Not a bad remake of the delightful Japanese original, but not an outstanding adaptation of such "time travel" concept either. The film has all the ingredients that can be found in a good Korean melodrama - lighthearted and nostalgic script, beautiful and calm setting, amiable characters, and a balanced mix of romantic, comedic, and dramatic aspects. Such standard approach, though, makes this film not able to stand out from others in this traditional Korean genre, especially when the two leads have a rather uninspiring performance, given their experience with this genre.

20. Dunkirk (2017): 4/5

Amazing war film that makes the audience glued to their sit despite its length and heavy contents. This is the first time Christopher Nolan deals with such theme, yet he is still able to bring all his trademarks into this one while giving it an authentic feeling of an epic about a lesser event of the World War II - Spectacular photography, meticulous editing, memorable soundtrack, non-linear plotline, characters torn between heroism and the desire to survive, manipulation of viewers' emotions with on-the-face dialogues. Yet, this wonderful piece of entertainment might not stay with the audience for long after watching it, since there were way too many more significant events during that war, and most of the main characters appear to be a little bit too heroic, forcefully heroic, for such a tragedy of that scale. If only Nolan could make his characters a little bit more down-to-earth and as engaging as the action sequences that he depicted.

21. Far from the Madding Crowd (2015): 3/5

I once thought that "An Education" is already peak of Carey Mulligan's innocent beauty, I was wrong. Mulligan in this film is simply stunning with a mature elegance that is incomparable among female stars nowadays. Having not only a wonderfully delicate and extremely expressive face, Mulligan also possesses a perfect allure for a character who is seemingly fragile outside but in fact a wholly independent woman with a kind heart. But aside from Mulligan, this film is just another conventional adaptation of a romantic novel without much innovation in terms of character development (most of the characters are able to warm the audience's heart but in fact have no staying power in their mind after finishing watching), adaptation approach, or settings. Yes, the only thing that sets this film apart is not its tale of a strong woman's struggle to stay independent, but its beautiful cinematography surrounding Carey Mulligan and England's landscape. Also, as a side note, the censorship of these in-flight entertainment systems is just hilarious, on this Qatar flight all the kissing scenes are edited out but killing ones such as shooting someone at point blank can totally stay, doesn't make any sense to me.

22. The Crimes That Bind (2018): 3.5/5

A little bit cheesy and over-melodramatic with a strongly manipulative soundtrack, but this film turns out to be surprisingly engaging and enjoyable with a tight detective script, strong set of relatable characters, and warmhearted and satisfying closure for such a simple "whodunnit" plot. Delightfully more entertaining than I expected. Also, this film has the same writer with "The Devotion of Suspect X", no wonder why the two share several similar details like crime set-ups, or emotional build-up. Not at all a bad thing, though, as "The Devotion of Suspect X" is a very good crime/detective film, so is this one.

23. The Last Shot in the Bar (2017): 2.5/5

Mediocre case, poor performance by the main cast, this film could only be salvaged by its unique setting of the snow country that is the Northern islands of Japan and the animated society over there.

24. Mission Impossible - Fallout (2018): 4/5

Extremely satisfying in terms of fast-paced action and character depictions, but still an average film in terms of plot and villains - as its predecessors. Although a big fan of Tom Cruise, I did not expect at all such high Rotten Tomatoes score for this latest installment of the "Mission Impossible" series as I believe that it is indeed an impossible mission to renovate such a formulaic approach to the action genre and deeply traditional action hero like Ethan Hunt. It turned out that I am totally right, as the film has a hilariously confusing script full of plot-holes and over-complicated twist-and-turns that contribute nothing to character development, especially of the villains, which remain the weakest link in any "Mission Impossible" film. For example, Henry Cavill's character was hyped up as a worthy villain of Ethan Hunt, but his capabilities and behaviors just fluctuated throughout the film to the point that the audience could not decide whether he really is a villain of superior intellectual and physical mights or just a henchman with a mediocre skill set. Also, it is necessary to differentiate this film from an action film with intentionally simple plot (in order to solely focus on the actions) like "Mad Max: Fury Road", since Christopher McQuarrie did try to make this film more substantial, plot-wise, with a lengthy sub-plot about Ethan Hunt's private life, which turned out to be too cheesy to be effective, several under-developed sub-plots (about "The Apostles") and characters (like the "White Widow"), and one half-hearted utilization of the "nuclear fallout" motif that is only slightly correct, technology-wise, and mostly useless and illogical, also technology-wise. Of course, at the end of the day, one goes to the watch a "Mission Impossible" film not for its plot but for its actions and for the appearance of an ever running, ever heroic Ethan Hunt. In that aspect, this film is just a perfect choice with non-stop action sequences throughout the film until the very end in exotic and beautiful locations. To sum it up, this is indeed an excellent action film for this Summer, but could not be a new benchmark for the action genre as someone might hope after knowing its ridiculously high Rotten Tomatoes score.

25. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): 4/5

Today I watched this film again, in IMAX, and was still not impressed with its very slow pacing, not-really-smooth editing, lack of functional dialogues, and over-emphasis on symbolism and experimental visual effects, especially during the "Star Gate" sequence near the end, which to me made not much sense. The acting was not standing out either, as this film came out before "Method acting" was able to conquer the whole Hollywood, thus its actors, including the ones in hominids costumes at the beginning, had very theatrical appearance and rigid acting with minimal facial acting. The cinematography and visual effect are impeccable, though, and watching this film in IMAX format really brings out the best of the images that Stanley Kubrick envisioned for his film, to the point that this film may look even better, and more "sci-fi" than "Gravity", which came out almost half a century later and won multiple Oscars for its cinematography and CGI. I know that this film has been frequently considered among the best of all time, and I understand most of its symbolism, as well as how it created numerous technical and aesthetic breakthroughs for the sci-fi genre, but watching it years later (this is my second time watching this film, in the golden jubilee year of this film) with a different perspective and experience with cinema somehow undermined its effect in my mind. On one hand, I will remember the panic moments of HAL 9000 through its mesmerizing voice for a very long time, but on the other hand, I will still be afraid coming to the cinema just to experience again such tedious pacing. At least this time at IMAX I was able to sit through for the first time a "traditional" screening session of American cinema with a 20-minute "intermission" after the first and a half hours of the film, when the lights were turned on again and moviegoers (most of them were understandably old or very old - it must be nostalgic for them to be able to watch this film on the big silver screen again after that many years, and it must also be very difficult for the Facebook/Instagram generation to sit through a film with such slow pacing) simply stood up and went out for a break, I wast totally caught off-guard, such a memorable moment.

26. Deadpool 2 (2018): 3.5/5

Boring and repetitive at first, but much more engaging and entertaining by the end, this film is a very good follow-up to the first one, especially when taking into account the fact that the novelty of the breaking-the-fourth-wall style of the first one wears off very fast and this film needs many other tricks in terms of script (including some very clever "surprises" I must say), characters (the weakest link of this film actually, no one stands out and some look very mechanic with poor acting), and visual effect (the opening sequence is excessively violent, unnecessarily so, especially when comparing with the lackluster "climax" by the end) in order to make the audience invest into this film while not comparing it with the predecessor. Numerous illogical details (unavoidable for such a "time traveling" film) and poorly-developed characters with inconsistent emotions and characteristics held this film back a little bit, though.