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.