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Elysium (2013): A surprisingly serious film with plenty of social and political commentary on issues such as capitalism, overpopulation, affordable healthcare, etc. It definitely left me with some thoughts afterwards. I mainly watched it for Jodie Foster and William Fichtner who steal the scenes they're in.

Mr. Turner (2014): Timothy Spall aka Wormtail from the Harry Potter films stars in this  biographical drama about the life of painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). While it's undoubtedly beautifully shot, it has the least amount of dialogue I've seen in anything short of an action movie and that detracted from Spall's acting as he was barely given much material to work with. The film also doesn't paint a good picture of Turner as a human being; I certainly had no empathy toward him.

Cinematography and atmosphere are important but this film lacked any real substance to it. It felt flat.
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I have mixed feelings about this instalment. It's just not the same without Paul Walker.
lessonsinescapology: (Default)
A Monster Calls (2017): Oh wow. I went to see it mainly for Liam Neeson's role as the monster but the film is definitely a hidden gem! The cast, soundtrack, cinematography, everything combines together to make a masterful whole. It deals with some harsh realities of life that the young protagonist must face as he is growing up amidst the turmoil of his current situation. I certainly recommend it to everyone though I doubt any child would be as affected by this narrative the way an adult would. I feel the film resonates more with adult viewers but many children grow up fast so it might be worth taking them to see it.

Sully (2016): about US Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney. A beautiful drama with great actors that suffers from an opening scene which ruined the plot and tension for the rest of the narrative. *headdesk* It also stalls in the middle but then picks up speed toward the end. A flawed film with bad pacing and predictable use of "flashbacks" but still worth seeing for the strong performance of Hanks and Eckhart.

I, Frankenstein (2014): Australian fantasy horror thriller action film written and directed by Stuart Beattie, based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux. It stars Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, and Jai Courtney. A fun and intriguing twist on the popular figure of Frankenstein and Eckhart delivers a good performance as an anti-hero who is more human than the rest of the characters. Worth watching because it does get a few things right about this tale and there's no righteous preaching at least about the so-called superiority of humans. Yes, I'm getting sick of that tirade being included in every sci-fi/fantasy/horror film.

Jack Reacher (2012): Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher and Rosamund Pike as attorney Helen Rodin. An overall strong cast with an entertaining if average action plot. The villain was unexpected and menacing.
lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
Arrival (2016): I've never seen a film by director Denis Villeneuve so didn't know what to expect when I went today to see this but I was floored. The confident direction by Villeneuve, expert cinematography by Bradford Young, and the haunting soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson all combine seamlessly to create an intelligent and affecting sci-fi film.

I'm not a fan of Amy Adams as most of her roles rely on her beauty rather than her acting ability but she really shines here, almost carrying the entire film by herself with Jeremy Renner providing support and warmth of emotion as her co-star, which is a nice role-reversal for female/male protagonists. She should get an Oscar nomination at least for this role.

This film won't appeal to everyone as it's pace and presentation is so very different than most commercial work, it asks its audience to think and feel outside their comfort zone, but it's definitely rewarding as a viewing experience. The intimate themes of love and grief play against a backdrop of fear and violence as the world reacts to the presence of aliens and the ending is....

For a hint of the film's mood and plot, look up the musical piece "On the Nature of Daylight" by composer Max Richter; it's used to excellent effect here.

PS: can I say how cool it is to see a translator save the world? That doesn't happen often! XD
lessonsinescapology: (Blue)
Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and the sequel London Has Fallen (2016): the first film was directed by Antoine Fuqua and the second by little-known director Babak Najafi. Of the two, the second film has a better director who understands how to balance dialogue, pacing, and action sequences. Fuqua's trademark style is breakneck pacing, super violent action, and lots of cursing and four-letter words, all to an excessive degree.

The plots in both are improbable but it does boast a strong cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, with Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Alon Moni Aboutboul, and Charlotte Riley in supporting roles.

They are typical summer action films but the highlight was the chemistry between Butler and Eckhart who make the scenes come alive every time they are together trading snark, facing life-threatening events, and the occasional emotional outburst^_~
lessonsinescapology: (Blue)
Brooklyn (2015): A beautifully-shot drama starring Saoirse Ronan who gives a masterful yet subtle performance as Eilis Lacey, a young woman from a small town in Ireland who travels to America looking for a job and a future. Along the way, the film shows her struggle and growth in character as she juggles being a daughter, sister, friend, and later on deciding whether she wants to be married and to which man.

The supporting cast is strong, including: Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, the incomparable Julie Walters, and a fun portrayal by Emily Bett Rickards aka Felicity from Arrow. Kudos to director John Crowley and Nick Hornby who adapted the screenplay; there was no feeling of being condescended to just because the film had a female lead or discussed female issues like clothing and marriage. We definitely need more films like this.

Highly recommended!
lessonsinescapology: (Blue)
Watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon because I saw that Leonard Nimoy was voicing one of the bots. Ugh, it's so very, very bad. I fast-forwarded through most of it^^

Transformers: Age of Extinction was slightly better likely due to the smaller number of characters and less obvious CG/mayhem. Plus it's always good to see Titus Welliver playing a bad guy. The whole Transformers series could be summarised by fast cars, women in short dresses, and lots of explosions. Perfect for fanboys.

PS: why are the women always dressed in white? Does it show better against a green screen for effects later on?
lessonsinescapology: (Blue)
The Water Diviner (2014): For a directorial début, Russell Crowe could do worse than this film. The historical context is loosely based around the Battle of Gallipoli after the end of World War One, where an Australian father goes looking for his sons who were part of the ANZAC troops there. The film is helped by beautiful vistas in Australia and Turkey and the acting abilities of Crowe and his Turkish supporting actors (Yılmaz Erdoğan and Cem Yılmaz). It's rare to see a World War film from the point of view of a party other than the UK or US so that was refreshing.

It's strength is the biting script which has a few things to say about the games nations play between them and how ultimately everyone loses in war. Recommended if you're looking for a somewhat different war film.
lessonsinescapology: (Rose)
Gods of Egypt (2016): I think I actually feel sorry for the director and actors; this film is nowhere near as bad as the online reviews and critics have said. It's an action/fantasy film heavily inspired by Egyptian mythology and the setting/background is gorgeous, a beautiful imagining/rendering of what ancient Egypt might have been. The interpretation of Egyptian myths was interesting too, especially in regards to the gods and their appearances and powers.

The plot follows the usual kind-hearted protagonist who goes on a series of adventures to save the world, just add a few gods and god-sized familial disputes along the way that endanger the entire world. It was the usual summer popcorn movie with spectacle and action to match. I enjoyed the film for what it was.

Regarding the controversy about casting, I think it's been blown out of proportion. Take it from someone who works with Egyptians: they come in every shape and skin tone from those with Nubian ancestry in the south of Egypt to a medium skin tone to completely white skin. Yes, those with Turkish and Greek ancestry in their family have white skin and even blue/green/hazel eyes. The cast of actors was all right, except for the very obviously white actors like Waldau and Geoffrey Rush. While diversity is important in media/Hollywood portrayals, it can smack of stereotyping at times. Reminds me of a situation I encountered years ago when someone said I couldn't possibly be Asian because my eyes weren't slanted enough. *sighs*

Overall, it's a fun film and I do recommend it as an exercise in escapism.
lessonsinescapology: (Rose)
This was a beautifully shot film with a constellation's worth of brilliant actors: Albert Finney as Winston Churchill, Vanessa Redgrave as his wife Clementine Churchill, Jim Broadbent as Desmond Morton, Linus Roache (aka a certain king from Vikings!) as Ralph Wigram, Lena Headey as Ava Wigram, and a very young Tom Hiddleston as Randolph Churchill.

It depicts the years before World War II and Churchill's decline in status in politics at the time. I do like the fact that the film didn't attempt to ignore his character flaws or his prejudices which were what one would expect considering the society and age he lived in. Overall, it was a good biographical film with excellent acting by the cast. Recommended!

PS: though there is one musical number that will probably make female viewers grit their teeth^^
lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
Just came back from seeing Warcraft at the cinema. I've never played the video game, though I know it's famous. It's not necessary to be a fan of the game to understand or see the film.

The film is brilliant and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. The story is fairly straight-forward but with enough twists to keep it interesting. The CG is stunning and the visual effects are very well integrated with the human characters so there isn't that feeling of disconnect that often occurs in such cases; the world of Azeroth is a visual feast and it's easy to keep track of thanks to the excellent camera work despite its vastness.

Special kudos should go to the actors who really carried this CG-heavy film. Travis Fimmel is perfect as Anduin Lothar. Ben Foster plays a mesmerising role as Medivh who lends his character an air of mystery, gravitas, and fragility that makes it hard to take one's eyes off him. And forget Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton shows you how a real fierce green-skinned warrior should be^_~ Dominic Cooper gives a surprisingly understated performance as King Llane and it somehow works. And lastly, Ben Schnetzer as the viewer-friendly yet compelling Khadgar. I've got to see if he's done more work elsewhere.

If you are a fan of high fantasy, and want something a little more edgy than the Lord of the Rings yet not drowning in sex and violence like Game of Thrones then Warcraft hits the perfect middle ground. I really enjoyed it, more than X-Men: Apocalypse (more on that later), and am glad I ignored all the negative professional reviews.
lessonsinescapology: (Rose)
A Little Chaos (2014): A beautiful film. Suffers from pacing problems. But the cast more than makes up for it. The gardens as metaphor for married life^^

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013): Oh dear, what a mess. This film couldn't decide if it wanted the wonder of magic à la Harry Potter or to go all grim and morbid like a horror film. Watch this for Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane, who is undoubtedly the best actor in the cast, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern, who seems to really delight in being a villain. Lilly Collins is pretty but she can't act.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): I should have watched this sooner. A masterpiece of film-making that could only be possible with a Swedish director and a star-studded cast of British actors. Gary Oldman is perfect here and Benedict Cumberbatch gives a surprisingly restrained performance as Oldman's partner. I love the director's decision of not revealing the face of Smiley's wife; that was a good dramatic choice.

Bridge of Spies (2015): If Guy Ritchie's Man from UNCLE was a fun-filled look with humour and nostalgia at the Cold War era and its films, then Steven Spielberg presents the harsh truth here. It was a time of war and paranoia, propaganda on both sides, and ordinary people caught in the great game between two super powers. Tom Hanks is in fine form here as a lawyer who endeavours to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. Mark Rylance gives a fine performance as an enigmatic Soviet spy.
lessonsinescapology: (Lamp)
Just came back from seeing Steve Jobs at the cinema and wow but what a performance by Michael Fassbender. It'll be a crime if he doesn't get nominated for an award for this film. His portrayal of Jobs as a multi-faceted character, flawed yet alluring, and quick delivery of lines and intense dramatic moments is breathtaking. By the end of the film, it's easy to believe he really embodied Jobs even if the physical resemblance is slim.

And Kate Winslet deserves applause (I'm not really a fan of her) for her acting. It's her interaction as Joanna Hoffman with Jobs that is the driving energy of the narrative. Seth Rogen does a good job too as the beleaguered old friend.

Speaking of the narrative, Boyle and Sorkin deserve kudos for great directing and screenplay. The story moved at a steady pace with appropriate scenes of ascending tension and drama and the lines given to the characters never felt silly or overwrought. Excellent use of music to complement scenes and the cinematography was outstanding: all sharp lines and angles as if it were framing the film like a stage for a three-act Shakespearean play.

I had no expectations beyond seeing a favourite actor in a lead role but was impressed by the quality and effort that went into this film. It deserves to win a few cinema awards at the very least.
lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
Just came back from seeing The Man From U.N.C.L.E at the cinema. Forget the silly critics. This film is so much fun! XD and the soundtrack is very different from the usual bland fare.

Henry Cavill seems to be having a great time with witty one-liners and making insouciance look pretty in tailored suits. Armie Hammer's Illya Kuryakin is a fanfic writer's dream come true, so innocent yet deadly. And the chemistry between them sizzles in every scene they have together. Best of all, the two female characters are strong and are not any one's love interest.

This is a typical summer film: a bit of action, comedy, and the good guys winning at the end. Guy Ritchie's films may not have a complicated plot, but in terms of sheer style and entertainment they are hard to beat. Recommended! It will lift your mood^_~

I hope it gets a sequel!

PS: the fandom is going to be good for this one...
lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
Just came back from seeing the new Avengers film. Allow me two non-spoiler remarks:

1. "Epic" does not really encompass the scope of this film or its characters. Whatever your opinion is of Joss Whedon, there's no denying he managed the herculean task of directing this film and making it come out in a good form.

2. Major kudos to James Spader for breathing life into Ultron and making a CG creature so life-like and nuanced.

More detailed thoughts coming soon. Maybe after a second viewing...

PS: This is a film that needs to be seen on a big screen, the bigger the better. Don't wait for it to come out on DVD to see it!
lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
This is another case where the critics are wrong. Forget every negative review out there. Go watch this film because: 1) It's not a sequel, thank god 2) It's visually stunning 3) In a way, it's a reverse fairytale and 4) It has "space marine wolf-hybrid with wings and flying rollerskates" to quote [livejournal.com profile] marinarusalka!

I know everyone thinks of The Matrix Trilogy when these directors come up but I saw "Speed Racer" and it wasn't half bad either. The quality that I admire about their work is the visual flair, fannish aspect, and the plain old fun factor. Jupiter Ascending isn't a Nolan film with attempts at cerebral mystery and it's middle "bureaucratic" segment was the weakest part of the plot. That said, JA has the most diverse cast of female characters and ethnicities I've seen recently in Hollywood.

So yes, it was fun and worth spending money to see at the cinema. Liked the (im)perfect ending too as it felt realistic, instead of the usual happily-ever-after.
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I went to see Unbroken today at the cinema and was pleasantly surprised by it. Admittedly, I didn't have any expectations beyond it being a World War Two film. But overall, the film was nearly flawless in terms of directing, script, and accompanying soundtrack. If there is a flaw, it would be the scene transitions which were not smoothly done and should have been more coherent in terms of theme and mood.

Jack O'Connell does a very good job as Louis "Louie" Zamperini and he'll surely get more work after the exposure from this film. Domhnall Gleeson shone in his supporting role of Phil and seems to be as good as his father. The real star of the film though is Japanese rock star Miyavi playing the villain Corporal Watanabe. I didn't know he was in this film! After getting over the shock of seeing him in an English-language film, and a serious film at that, his performance was brilliant. He dominated the screen whenever he was in a scene and portrayed a truly loathsome character yet managed to inject a hint of vulnerability into it. Not bad for someone acting for the first time^_^

This film has an earnest, classical, even old-fashioned directing style reminiscent of an older era of Hollywood. It has no big action scenes, witty dialogue, or faux-cerebral directing. Many will likely say it's boring and simplistic. The film achieves what it sets out to do: show the strength of the human spirit and the cost of war on everyone involved. I enjoyed it but it wasn't an easy viewing experience.
lessonsinescapology: (whispyr) (Moi)
I saw it and it was underwhelming.

Oh, it was entertaining enough. Much in the vein of the old Star Wars trilogy. The plot, dialogue, and story progression were all predictable and suited to little boys around 7-13 years old^^ The humour felt forced in many scenes and the pacing was problematic. There was some confusion over what tone the film should adopt: it yoyo-ed wildly from drama and action to poor comedic timing.

I know there's a problem when the most interesting thing about the film is a CG tree... I enjoyed seeing Thanos, the hint at Peter's father, and why Peter calls himself Starlord. It's safe to say most of the people going to see this film are doing so because it's a Marvel film.

Here's a clip which is the best part of the film^_~

lessonsinescapology: (Winter Soldier)
I watched the Blu-ray version of Tron Legacy and it's gorgeous. The aesthetics of the world and the music form a gorgeous cohesiveness and give the film a unique look. It's hard to believe this was made in 2010. The graphics are better than a lot of the stuff being made today, except maybe for The Hobbit.

Jeff Bridges should play a Jedi; I kept getting that "The force is with you" feel from him. And Olivia Wilde is perfect as Quorra, she looks exotic yet innocent. I was surprised to see Cillian Murphy in the film, looking quite pretty too. Rinzler is cute though, all growls and sleek black armour. The stuntman who played him was perfect. It was a joy to watch him on-screen. I hope there will be a sequel someday.
lessonsinescapology: (Frozen)
My thoughts on the film behind the cut, in case any one still hasn't seen it^^
Read more... )


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