Thursday, 29 November 2012
Once deemed "unfilmable" by three directors (M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet) who came and exited the big-screen adaptation of Yann Martel's award-winning novel, LIFE OF PI, Taiwanese director Ang Lee takes up the challenge and he succeeds beautifully. LIFE OF PI is one of the year's most cinematic motion pictures ever seen -- it's visually stunning, emotionally gripping and thematically inspiring adventure drama that pushes (almost) all the right buttons.
Monday, 26 November 2012
A well-made, coming-of-age drama that explores friendship, romance, sexuality and politics, Yang Ya-Che's GF*BF (alternatively titled as GIRLFRIEND BOYFRIEND) is one of the best Taiwanese movies I've ever come across. No wonder the movie is well-deserved to earn 7 nominations at the 49th Golden Horse Awards (which later won Gwei Lun-Mei a Best Actress award as well as Audience Choice Award).
Sunday, 25 November 2012
In 2010, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes stamped his mark in Hollywood with his unique thriller, BURIED, which was set entirely in a coffin and blessed with a tour de force performance by Ryan Reynolds. Now he's back again with sophomore effort titled as RED LIGHTS. Here lies the biggest question: is Rodrigo Cortes a one-trick pony or he's a capable director after all? The good news is, Cortes has a knack or two about delivering genuine suspense and in RED LIGHTS, he continues to deliver his unique storytelling method. To begin with, RED LIGHTS is blessed with an irresistibly captivating premise -- a supernatural genre that debunked the myth behind the otherworldly phenomena involving ghosts, telekinesis and such. It's like watching MythBusters with a supernatural twist.
The highly-anticipated TAI CHI ZERO -- a classic martial-art movie with a steampunk twist, was supposed to be a turning point in the well-worn genre. Instead it's a huge disappointment in all level. So here we are again -- an immediate sequel titled as TAI CHI HERO which is shot back-to-back with the first movie. The biggest question is: does this second installment improves considerably? Well, the answer is a big "NO". Even though TAI CHI HERO has lowered down its geek culture references and focusing more on character-driven drama, this disappointing sequel remains lackluster from start till the end.
Ten years ago, J (singer Joey Yung) is a nobody. But it is not until she meets a manager Man (Chapman To), who finds her potential enough to be a singing superstar. Cut to the present day, J has becomes the reigning pop queen who often stage sold-out concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Much of her huge success comes from her manager Man, who has been working with her for so long. While J gets to enjoy a glamorous life of fame and fortune, she actually feels like a slave who often being controlled what to do and what not to do. She even has little sense of privacy, and it doesn't takes long before she feels intense amounts of pressure until she is losing her voice at a live show. Knowing that this situation may cause an unwanted scandal by the media, Man immediately sends J over to the Mainland for a fast recovery. There, she meets a blind masseur Hu Ming (Hu Ge) where she eventually falls in love with him. At the beginning, she is glad to find a blissful life with her newfound boyfriend. But Man doesn't agrees with her relationship at all because he knows that dating a blind man will cause her a bad reputation among fans and media. Meanwhile, Man is also grooming a young singing sensation Red (Mag Lam) to be the next big diva like J. While Man is very happy to be discovered that her dream of stardom is about to come true, she is also risked her relationship with her boyfriend Lok (Carlos Chan).
Throughout his illustrious career, veteran director Barry Levinson is primarily known for his small-scale comedic dramas by the likes of his beloved "Baltimore" series (1982's DINER, 1987's TIN MEN, 1990's AVALON and 1999's LIBERTY HEIGHTS) and of course his biggest hit to date, 1988's RAIN MAN, in which the movie won four Academy Awards. He tackled other genres as well with varying degree of success, such as 1984's THE NATURAL (baseball drama), 1991's BUGSY (gangster drama), 1994's DISCLOSURE (techno thriller) and 1998's SPHERE (sci-fi thriller). In his new movie, THE BAY marks Levinson's first foray into found-footage horror genre. It's a radical change of pace, and it's also interesting to see how an old dog like Levinson can brings his directing experience to this current genre craze. Produced by none others than Oren Peli of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fame, THE BAY is a genuinely creepy, if somewhat hollow thriller that exploits the horror of an ecological disaster.
No holiday movies would ever be complete without a special mention to John Hughes' buddy-comedy classic, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. Prior to this movie, Hughes is best known for his defining teen genre in the '80s by the likes of SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES marked his first foray into adult comedy. A radical departure, indeed but Hughes manages to hit (almost) all the right buttons here.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Oh, finally! After four highly-successful blockbuster movies (beginning with 2008's TWILIGHT and right up to 2011's THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1), the lucrative series has come to an end with the fifth and final chapter that sees director Bill Condon back for the second round. In BREAKING DAWN - PART 1, he had a difficult task to adapt what was widely regarded the most controversial book of the series which dramatically alternated from high-school romance to darker subject matters like intimacy issues and unexpected pregnancy. He succeeded some of those elements there, but mostly failed to deliver a compelling whole due to his lackluster direction. So now he returns with THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 2, and I'm eager to see whether he saves the best for the last. For some reasons, there are slight improvements here and there. But overall, given the fact this is the final chapter of a highly-regarded series, it remains as a disappointment.
Monday, 19 November 2012
Home-invasion thriller is nothing new. We have seen them before in movies like STRAW DOGS (1971), right down to FUNNY GAMES (2007) and THE STRANGERS (2008). As formulaic or shopworn that particular subgenre is, home-invasion thriller can still be a gripping cinematic experience if done with the right level of skill and intelligence. Fortunately, first-time feature director Jeremy Power Regimbal's IN THEIR SKIN (formerly known as REPLICAS -- which sounds too sci-fi for me) manages to give this an otherwise same-old genre thriller with a disturbingly edgy undertone and particularly heighten the movie with compelling performances by its leads.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
From his breakthrough screenplay in 2001's TRAINING DAY to his both equally intense directing efforts in 2006's HARSH TIMES and 2008's STREET KINGS, writer-director David Ayer has a seemingly endless fascination with the gritty undertones of LAPD. And his trend of the familiar cop genre continues with his latest directing effort, END OF WATCH. At the first glance, the movie is more of the same gritty L.A.-set cop drama that we have seen many times before. But this time, it's a relief that Ayer doesn't exactly repeating himself too much. In END OF WATCH, he refashions the familiar cop genre with pseudo-documentary, found-footage style. Shooting a gritty cop movie in handheld camera gives you that extra edge of you-are-there kind of feel, and END OF WATCH scores most of that point. Too bad, like any other David Ayer's movie (excluding TRAINING DAY), the movie doesn't capitalize its promising setup into a satisfying whole.
Saturday, 17 November 2012
When I first saw the trailer of KEPONG GANGSTER a few months back, my initial hope for this locally-made production was relatively low. Throughout the trailer, I can't help myself wondering that the filmmakers behind KEPONG GANGSTER is trying to ape the evergreen success of Andrew Lau's YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series or they wanted to come up a Chinese version of the hugely-successful KL GANGSTER (2011). Either way, I was pleasantly surprised that KEPONG GANGSTER turns out to be a worthwhile genre picture. While the movie is full of cliches with a stereotypical plot you can smell a mile away, veteran music video director-turned-first-time feature filmmaker Teng Bee does a considerable job making a formulaic gangster movie somewhat effective, yet entertaining enough for the (local) mainstream audiences.
Friday, 9 November 2012
Touted as "the next INFERNAL AFFAIRS", COLD WAR is a bold, if heavily flawed action thriller that gives a fresh perspective rarely seen in a cop genre by showing an internal conflict between a group of high-ranking police officers struggling to solve a case.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
CHAINED starts off with a bleak moment with a warm-up mayhem involving a frightened kid and a sadistic killer brought a helpless female victim back home for God-knows-what. Then the movie introduces a loving family, where Brad (Jake Weber) drives his beautiful wife, Sarah (Julia Ormond) and 9-year-old son Tim (Evan Bird) to a multiplex matinee. Before Brad leaves, he urges his wife and his son to take a cab back home instead of a bus. After having a fun time watching a movie, they are lucky enough to grab a cab within a short moment and decides to head back home. However, the cab driver named Bob (Vincent D' Onofrio) purposely misses their exit, and instead takes them to the middle of nowhere. Both Sarah and Tim starts to freak out and demands him to stop the cab. Bob ends up taking them back to his isolated ranch, and parks his cab inside the garage. As he locks the kid inside, he drags Sarah out of the cab and begins assaulting her. Once Bob is finished with her, he's back to the garage and drags Tim out. He reveals to him that his mom is already dead and he intends to lock him inside the ranch forever. Soon, he treats him like a slave (in which he now calls him "Rabbit") as he will obey him whatever he tells him to do -- including cooking, cleaning and serving him. Then one day, Tim attempts to escape out of the ranch but Bob is always one step ahead and decides to lock him on a long chain.
SINISTER involves Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a highly-successful true-crime novelist who took the publishing world by storm with "Kentucky Blood". But that was ten years ago. Now he's been laying low for so long that he has exhausted most of his earnings and desperately needs another bestselling hit. In hope to begin his writing on his new book, he moves his family to a rural town in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and children, 12-year-old Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and 8-year-old Ashley (Clare Foley), the house they have currently moved in is actually a subject of Ellison's latest work. Apparently, it is the same location where a family was murdered and found hang from the tree that still stands in the backyard. Except for the only member who was not found -- the youngest daughter named Stephanie (Victoria Leigh), abducted and long presumed to be dead. One day, Ellison stumbles upon a box of Super 8 reels and a projector in the attic. Curious to know what it is, he brings it down to his private office and discovers that each reel is labelled like home movies for the family. When he begins playing each of the reels, he is shocked to discover that the footage contains a different family being first stalked by the Super 8 camera, then ended up being killed. As he tries to piece out the eerie connection together, he slowly discovers that it has something to do with a demonic pagan deity known as Bughuul a.k.a. Mr Boogie (Nicholas King), who seems to appear in every reel Ellison has been playing all along.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
South Korea's answer to TOP GUN (1986) -- SOAR INTO THE SUN (a.k.a. R2B: RETURN TO BASE) is a big-budget blockbuster tries to replicate the Hollywood-style of filmmaking mostly found in any summer movie tentpole. It certainly has that showy and expensive look, particularly for its many impressive aerial stunts (more on that later). But writer-director Kim Dong-Won botches everything up with too many cheesy melodrama and mawkish sentimentality borderlined into self-parody. No wonder the movie ends up underperformed at the domestic box-office.
Friday, 2 November 2012
When SKYFALL made its theatrical debut in U.K. and many international countries on October 26, many have hailed this as "the best Bond movie ever". So, does it really deserves such a high praise? Well, I'm proud to say all the four years' wait was well worth it. This is the follow-up to the excellent CASINO ROYALE (2006) that should have been. That said, SKYFALL is a whole lot better than the disappointingly glum QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008).