We'll tackle any film foreign or otherwise, paying exclusive attention to Arthouse, Indie & Cult features. Selected up to the minute News will also be given prominence.


December 6, 2012

Besieged City









Director - Lawrence Lau

Genre - Drama



Hong Kong movies don't often surprise us. There are numerous times when we are burnt by scripts with no soul starring the most talented actors. 'Besieged City' is directed by Lawrence Lau who also did 'My Name Is Fame' which we rather liked as well starring Lau Ching Wan. This movie here had no stars yet it made a huge impact on us. The story is basically about a kid who got into trouble and drags his older brother into the mess. Suspected of killing the girlfriend of a triad leader he himself is injured badly, ending up in the hospital. His older brother is being sought by the triad in order to retrieve some drugs they claimed was taken from them by his sibling. Intrigue ensues when we try to figure out what actually happened along with the protagonists of the movie. The cast is mostly young unknown actors which is quite refreshing since we grew up with the mugs of every popular Hong Kong actor who ever lived etched into our skulls. The language used here is also vulgar and 'street', enhancing the experience for us because HK scripts can be very safe and predictable. Artsy and without the safe protective banality of the country's commercial aspirations, this movie will help you reconsider what Cantonese cinema means.

4.5 STARS!

All about Besieged City 

November 5, 2012

A Simple Life








Director - Ann Hui

Genre - Drama




Ann Hui's film is quite classy and masterful. It feels like a waft of soothing breeze, a warm embrace of motherly love and a renewed appreciation for life all rolled into one. If that isn't a stroke of classy filmmaking, what is? Another great feature of this picture is the effortless, obvious chemistry between Deannie Yip and Andy Lau. Their closeness in real life is well known with Yip being a godmother of sorts to Lau. This close relationship they share translates very well on the screen and we believe their loves for each other. Yip plays a maid (Tao Jie) to Roger (Lau) who is now old and unable to provide her loyal service to the family. She checks herself into an old folks' home but Roger is still very worried for her, visiting and accompanying her whenever he gets the chance. Tao Jie's stay in the senior's home is not all that rosy and she is taken advantage of sometimes because of her good nature, but she carries on and Roger's visits give her the strength to live. Ann Hui's direction gives so much without showing everything, her restraint in not painting Tao Jie's character as pitiful lets Tao Jie appear gracefully strong-willed, a woman who dedicated her whole life to a family that is not her own yet never had any regrets. From her we learn the true meaning of sacrifice, as we believed Roger understood in the end as well. That is the real meaning of the movie. Sacrifice. We take back what we said in the beginning. Ann Hui's latest isn't just quite masterful, it is an elegant depiction of life on earth as seen through the eyes of someone who treasured life no matter what came her way.

5 STARS!

All about A Simple Life

October 28, 2012

Tai Chi Zero










Director - Stephen Fung

Genre - Action/Drama


Bad Hong Kong movies on a shoestring budget is at least forgivable in part because of its financial constraints. Not a good reason on the whole for we have seen perfectly fine films produced with very little. Now here comes this big, move out of the way action blockbuster with budget bursting out of the seams (apparently this is only the 1st part of a trilogy). Fell flat on its huge-headed piped up dreams as far as we're concerned! Stephen Fung's the director in question and we are swearing off him as we speak. The script has it that a young man with a horn-like growth on his head turns into a mean fighting machine when said growth is pressed----Editors note: Our reviewers have left this review incomplete. Efforts to change their minds had been futile, with them yelling something about dumb arcade style direction and calling for Stephen Fung's exile from filmmaking. Well, at least Stephen was professional. He COMPLETED his bad film!

0 STAR!

All about Tai Chi Zero

October 14, 2012

Nightmare Detective










Director - Shin'ya Tsukamoto

Genre - Fantasy/Horror/Thriller


Eat your shorts 'Death Note'! This picture here trumps the 'Death Note' by a mile. Where 'Death Note' was an exercise in being unnecessarily convoluted and dreary, this manga adapted creation by Shin'ya Tsukamoto shows its class by being one hell of a satisfying detective story. Its uniqueness lies in the protagonist's character who we believe is the most reluctant, unwilling anti hero in the history of cinema. One look at him and you wouldn't think this is the guy who would save the world. In fact, you wouldn't even think he'd be capable of much of anything because all he wants to do throughout the film is to kill himself! Yet, he is blessed (or cursed as he says) with the power to enter other's nightmares. The story involves a spate of suicides which doesn't seem to be as clear cut as it appears. The nightmare detective is roped in to help figure out what actually happened, putting his own life in danger. There are elements of artistic streak here which jump out at you like a shocking nightmare, making you aware without a doubt that this isn't your usual detective picture. Tsukamoto has taken the genre and made a sort of hybrid monster out of putting his artistic, indie filmmaking slant into the mix. Like his 'Tetsuo, The Iron Man', this is highly one of a kind. Can't wait to watch part 2.

4.5 STARS!

All about Nightmare Detective

October 5, 2012

21 Jump Street










Director - Phil Lord & Chris Miller

Genre - Action/Comedy/Crime


Took us by complete and utter dismay this. We thought it would fall flat on its knees but it did not and we're glad we caught it. Most recent remakes of 80s movies are ugly roadkills so you can't actually blame us for thinking so, alright? Remember 'The A Team'? Anyway, the laughs here come hard and fast which is just the way we like our comedy. And our women. Hah. Just a little joke there. Awkward? Okay we'll move right along. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play two police officers who fumble more than they rumble. They are taken off the streets and sent to a high school where they are tasked with infiltrating a drug dealing gang. The humor when these two become students are priceless, with plenty of laugh-out-loud hijinks and slapstick. It helps that the two leads are charming too. The story has very little to do with the 80s TV series and the leads are never as cool here as Johnny Depp was when he did the series. In fact, Tatum and Hill are downright silly which we think probably helped the movie considerably because it is hard to top Depp's coolness in the series (back then he was the bomb. Well at least he wasn't wearing pink like Don Johnson in 'Miami Vice'!). Enjoy.

3.5 STARS!

All about 21 Jump Street

September 26, 2012

My Name Is Fame










Director - Lawrence Lau

Genre - Comedy/Drama


Lau Ching Wan plays a washed up actor in this rare gem from Hong Kong's Lawrence Lau. Bad tempered and opinionated, his character rubs up everyone in the industry the wrong way, resulting in him not being called up for work. He is almost at the point of calling it quits when a young ingenue from the Mainland sees his skills in acting and wants him to teach her the traits. Reluctant at first, he slowly falls for her. Does he become a better man and a better actor? Is Wong Jing bad director? You know the answer. The pleasure in watching this is Lau Ching Wan's acting as a self obsessed arrogant know-it-all actor who believes in his craft no matter what. He is an actor who rises above shitty material and refuses to compromise. We appreciate such an actor and we feel his pain in the dog eat dog world of HK filmmaking where beauty and youth sells.The other plus here is the inside jokes about the industry, the wheeling and dealing of how it actually works. A couple of stars appear too like Ekin Cheng, Lai Yiu Cheung and Ann Hui to name a few. Good HK movies are as hard to find as a decent Jason Statham movie nowadays. Make sure you find the time to discover this.

4 STARS!

All about My Name Is Fame

September 11, 2012

Ted








Director - Seth MacFarlane

Genre - Comedy/Fantasy


Creator of 'Family Guy' Seth MacFarlane directs his first non-animated feature length movie and hits it straight out of the ballpark. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis but the real star here is a talking teddy bear named Ted. Foul-mouthed and with a filthy mind, this soft toy come to life isn't a companion you would want around your kids. Yet, MacFarlane has given him such a cuddly, adorable physique you can't help but fall madly in love with him. Fans of Stewie in 'Family Guy' will know what we mean. The script is fairly simple. A lonely kid without friends wishes for his teddy bear to come to life and gets exactly what he wanted. The problem starts when he becomes an adult (played by Wahlberg) as his over-dependence on the friendship with Ted is viewed as unusual, especially by his girlfriend (Kunis) who feels sidestepped. This is a picture you wouldn't want your children to watch though, as the script is quite profane. So, don't give in to their cries no matter how cute and cuddly they think Ted is.

3.5 STARS!

All about Ted

Link

August 30, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises








Director - Christopher Nolan

Genre - Action/Crime/Drama


The success of a Superhero franchise goes hand in hand with how badass his arch-enemy is. Heath Ledger's portrayal of Joker was unpredictable and dangerously off the charts. Here, Batsy's numero uno nemesis is replaced regrettably with a far less worthy one, with the most mundane name in the history of bad guys to boot - Bane. Why not name the guy Smith or Thompson? Anyhow, we are faced here with the question whether we want to or not of how it would have been had Ledger lived. It is in the back of our minds throughout the movie. For Christ's sake, if Bruce Wayne goes into hiding from the entire world we would expect the person who eventually lures him out to be much meaner than Bane who is nothing but a huge hunk of lumber with the strength of 10 Hulk Hogans. Well then, why not just get 10 Hulk Hogans? At least the Joker had a brain and it wasn't all about pitting triceps against biceps. We applaud Nolan for doing a different take on the Superhero genre with its operatic tone and admittedly moving ending but alas, Ledger was missed sorely. And it was too long.

3 STARS!

All about The Dark Knight Rises

August 22, 2012

That Girl in Yellow Boots








Director - Anurag Kashyap

Genre - Thriller/Drama/Mystery


You know you're witnessing the work of a truly gifted director when every shot feels fresh to your eyes, every turn of the plot feels new. Kalki Koechlin (the lead) wrote the script for this movie with her husband Anurag Kashyap (director). Raw and filled with a kind of playfulness only a filmmaker who loves cinema to death could bring to life, this film is undeniable proof that if the heart is in the right place, the sincerity of the art will not disappoint. A sort of mystery/thriller/drama, the story weaved and curved in ways delighted us as we took in the beauty of Koechlin's naturalistic performance. The director's evident fun in creating a piece of cinema that is unlike any that we've ever seen thrilled us totally too. If Kashyap is the future of Indian cinema it is looking brighter than ever to us.

4.5 STARS!

All about That Girl in Yellow Boots

August 9, 2012

Bob Le Flambeur








Director - Jean-Pierre Melville

Genre - Crime/Drama


Paced at a leisurely, sort of nonchalant rhythm (as most French films are), this picture by Jean-Pierre Melville didn't impress us as much as one of Godard's. Lacking star power and running on a story absent of bite, everything fell on the cinematic signature of Melville. His use of music matched with the memorable scenes he created was enough to make this a favorable experience. A high-roller in the mob tries to conduct a heist at a casino but as with most things in life, a gamble of any kind doesn't guarantee success and everything begins to fall apart. Quite a classy one, this.

3.5 STARS!

All about Bob Le Flambeur

August 2, 2012

Shame





Director - Steve McQueen

Genre - Drama


Michael Fassbender plays an advertising executive with big commitment issues. He is also addicted to pornography and sex, his overpowering need to hump everything in his way hindering his ability to have a serious relationship. There are also indications that he actually lusts after his own sister (Carey Mulligan), which further showcases what a fucked up individual this guy is. All through the movie, we're wondering why we should even care about a chiseled, well paid pervert. We really shouldn't, but Fassbender is such a fine actor of his generation that he made it alright. He made it hard for us to hate him and go, "Come off it now, you look good enough to eat, shagging loads of hot women...and you're depressed?". Ultimately, 'Shame' is about how these blessed people can actually screw up so much, just like the rest of us. Look at how Charlie Sheen had been behaving lately and you'll know what we mean. You won't find the conventional hero who discovers redemption in this film. What you get is the ugliness of a person, warts and all, displayed in all its human fallacy. The fact that he looks good enough to eat doesn't matter. When the soul is rotten, it eats away at everything you've got.

3 STARS!

All about Shame

July 23, 2012

Black Friday








Director - Anurag Kashyap

Genre - Crime/History


Nothing gives us more pleasure than the discovery of a talented director. Anurag Kashyap was only made known to us recently but his impact on what little we know about India and the future of its filmmaking is huge. Kashyap we feel is and will be the game changer who will rejuvenate the sometimes stagnant (for us) path of Indian cinema. He directs in ways which not only leap out of what the rest of his countrymen are doing, his direction is even more accomplished and groundbreaking than many of his more famous peers in other countries. 'Black Friday' is about the Bombay bombings, a very dark and for many, painful day in India's history. The story takes shape when the police are shown using whatever means necessary to bring these heinous criminals to book. We learn later why the Muslims did what they did, how both sides lost their minds and took to arms, amplifying their differences to the edge of unreasonability and of no return. Through it all, Kashyap held a steady hand and gave us the most exhilarating arthouse/action/historical ride. Cinema needs more mavericks like Kashyap. The sanity of the serious moviegoers is at stake.

4.5 STARS!

All about Black Friday

July 12, 2012

Gandu








Director - Kaushik Mukherjee aka Q

Genre - Drama


This small but explosive film from the director known as Q changes everything we've ever deduced about Indian cinema. Blunt, provocative and with a tip of the hat towards arthouse cool, it is a movie which will confound and outrage those who are weened on the soothing confines of Bollywood. Featuring the life of a self-taught rapper with a talent so obvious to the viewer but remained undiscovered by and large throughout the film, the joy of watching this boy's life is in the feeling of being privy to something illicit and without the knowledge of those around us. This is its exclusive gift to us. Take it or leave it. 'Gandu' doesn't compromise. The director even put his own wife in a highly explicit scene here so we gather he is very much like the lead too, someone who suffers a great deal for his art and doesn't take the easy way out. Much of Bollywood subscribe to taking the well-traveled path. We're glad Q is an adventurer in his filmmaking spirit.

4.5 STARS!

All about Gandu

July 3, 2012

Loves of a Blonde








Director - Milos Forman

Genre - Comedy/Romance/Drama


Delightfully sweet and funny movie directed by Milos Forman. The tale is about a naive factory girl named Andula and her dalliances with the opposite sex.The actress who played Andula has one of the sweetest, purest faces we've ever seen on the screen. And if you like her and how she reminds you of a first encounter with love, the film takes on an entirely different feel. You will experience nostalgia, a longing for that girl who got away and a sudden surge of everything sugary and hopeful. That was what we got out of the picture. Without even trying, it managed to bring forth so many reactions in the mind. Made with probably very little money but the end result? Priceless. Not only is this an inspiration to indie filmmakers everywhere, it is a wake up call to makers of bad cinema from 1965.

4 STARS!

All about Loves of a Blonde

June 25, 2012

Hachi: A Dog's Tale








Director - Lasse Hallström

Genre - Drama/Family


This is a lesson in love and we are forever indebted to this canine 'Hachiko' named after the figure eight (8) in Japanese for teaching it to us. Based on a true story which occurred in Japan circa 1920's, this little film starring Richard Gere (an actor who steadfastly refuse to be washed up) crept up on us and took us by complete surprise. We tried to withstand its powerful grip on our emotions but it was futile. Tissues and handkerchiefs weren't even enough to stem the tide of what this did to us. We had to find someone to talk to immediately after. Might even have to start a small support group with those who are similarly affected so we can pull through. Any of you out there? Please? We need HELP.

~In loving memory of Kangoo~

4 STARS!

All about Hachi: A Dog's Tale

June 18, 2012

Moneyball








Director - Bennett Miller

Genre - Biography/Drama/Sport


Based on a real story, Brad Pitt is the 'adapt or you die' General Manager of Oakland Athletics, a baseball team with very little spending money. Going up against teams with deeper pockets and losing badly, he puts all his trust on a math wizard and the rest, as they say, is history. The movie doesn't really tread on unfamiliar grounds. The 'us against them' theme has been a part of American cinema for a long time. Films based on sports, especially those centered on actual events get made regularly because the drama on these exciting games are already so pronounced there isn't really any need to make anything up. Half the battle in creating a credible and fascinating story has already been won. You would think that with such meaty material to work with, the director could have taken more risks though. There weren't any scenes which would put this on an exclusive list of classics like 'The Natural' or 'Field of Dreams'. Philip Seymour Hoffman was completely under-utilized too in a thankless role. Brad Pitt did his job well but we've seen better from him. Still, if you don't think of the missed opportunities, this is quite a winner.

3.5 STARS!

All about Moneyball

June 10, 2012

The Iron Giant








Director - Brad Bird

Genre - Animation/Action/Adventure


It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when animation broke out of its box and became so much more. Japanese anime artists with their wildly inventive ways and Pixar with their technology know how and plain good storytelling have certainly pushed the envelope. 'The Iron Giant' stands proudly with the best of cinema, its grasp of human emotions and courage in direction as good as if not better than most films using real actors and real locations. A strong anti-violence message is prevalent in the script too, showing mankind's tendency for war rather than peace in all its ugliness. Brad Bird didn't just direct an animated feature here. For us, he actually performed a miracle of sorts. He made us old geezers feel hopeful and willing to believe again.

5 STARS!

All about The Iron Giant

June 1, 2012

I Shot Jesse James








Director - Samuel Fuller

Genre - Drama/Western/Romance


Directed by Samuel Fuller, this Western is not cut from the same cloth as those of its era. Robert Ford is portrayed here as a man forever living in the shadow of notorious bank robber Jesse James. After killing his leader and friend, Bob becomes even more haunted by the man, his memory of Jesse's death at his hands and those who saw him as a cowardly swine eating away at him day by day. It is Robert Ford's state of mind which we are offered the front row seats to and it is a tragedy that he himself created, having sealed his own fate with that shooting. Fuller's film was made decades before "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" starring Casey Affleck. We prefer the new update but bear in mind, this was done aeons ago, and Fuller's script still pack a mean punch.

3 STARS!

All about I Shot Jesse James

May 23, 2012

The Tree of Life








Director - Terrence Malick

Genre - Drama


Unreasonably inaccessible movie from notoriously rebellious filmmaker Terrence Malick. Apart from the magically stunning cinematography which has to be seen to be believed, the entire film confounded us and we struggled to understand what the hack Malick was trying to do. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain excelled in their roles playing parents who are in deep pain after the loss of a son, but the insertions of unrelated scenes in the film poisoned the well of their performances considerably. These random scenes would make any unsuspecting person walking into the movie halfway thinking that they were watching a National Geographic special. Sean Penn's dialogue in this was like two words! He must've thought this was the easiest paycheck he'd ever gotten. We don't like our cinema experiences to be so vague we can't even decipher them. '2001: A Space Odyssey' wasn't a walk in the park but you can figure it out eventually. 'The Tree of Life' is the dreaded picture film school students will be asked about during their final exam. "What is Terrence Malick's 'The Tree of Life' about? Give your answer in not less than 2,000 words". Nobody likes to be put on the spot like that. Cinema should inspire and let our dreams sprout wings, not cut our flights of fancy short by bullying us in to submission.

2 STARS!

All about The Tree of Life

May 15, 2012

Sling Blade








Director - Billy Bob Thornton

Genre - Drama


As dirt cheap financed independent movies go, this is as good as it gets. Billy Bob Thornton's turn in the director's chair is a stroke of quiet genius, bidding its time with a story which on the surface looks like nothing but is in fact packed full of multi-layered themes. Thornton plays a well meaning simpleton with a heavy past. When he befriends a kid who sees him only as the sweet and kind man he tries so hard to be, a bond of trust and reliance form between the two. Unable to forgive or turn a blind eye to the injustices in society, the calm and peace he sought in life gives way to a darker force, lunging him ever closer to the same grave mistake he made a long time ago. Thornton's acting here is nothing short of remarkable for his 360° transformation as well as his dedication which was put into, come up with such a one of a kind character. What Tarantino did with 'Reservoir Dogs', Thornton matched that with his passion for acting and of finding the truth in human weaknesses. Whilst Tarantino tantalized us with his spitfire dialogue, Thornton did it with eliciting strong performances from his actors and in particular himself. Without any aid of prosthetic, his carefully constructed morphing into this unrecognizable character will put to shame actors who scrape by with their SAG cards. It may not have cemented Thornton as a turn of the century auteur like what 'Citizen Kane' did for Orson Welles, yet in its own small way, this movie will outlive the sum of its modest parts.

5 STARS!

All about Sling Blade

May 2, 2012

M








Director - Fritz Lang

Genre - Film-Noir/Thriller


'M' is one of those films which gets under your skin. Not in a creepy or unusual way but rather it is so memorable you can't think about anything else except this film for days and days. Fritz Lang made this classy masterpiece about a serial killer who got the whole city up in arms including the mob with such care towards detail and originality it is hard to top. For anything made at that time and recent times as well. The ending will make you sit up and wonder, "What? This was made so far back?". Daring and groundbreaking for its era, this classic is an ageless and important viewing experience for lovers of cinema. Don't wait. Put that crap ('Green Lantern' is it?) away and get 'M' for Masterpiece.

5 STARS!

All about M

April 25, 2012

My Magic








Director - Eric Khoo

Genre - Drama


As indie films go, this here doesn't disappoint. What we didn't really like though is the too sentimental feel which crops up often in the movie. Arguably, Eric Khoo has always had this problem, but in this one, it is somehow more pronounced. If it had gone darker, a more original work would have taken shape. When a downtrodden magician with a demanding beer belly takes on a dangerous job to support his son, events begin to unfold which may bring them both closer than ever before or separate them for eternity. We like the natural acting and real magic (the lead is a magician in real life), but as we've mentioned, it could do with less 'aaawww.....'. Still, the sum of good far outweighs the bad.

3 STARS!

All about My Magic

April 16, 2012

3








Director - Tom Tykwer

Genre - Comedy/Drama/Romance


Directed by 'Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer, this movie lets you in on the lives of three adults who don't adhere to the rules of a conventional relationship. There are repercussions when you don't have a set of values or principles when in love. Anything goes is for the animals. The characters in this engaging story extoll the fun of being open to sexual awakenings regardless of the consequences. For those of you who lead safe and straight lives, it may come as a jolt to your sensibilities. For us, we liked the humor in the unlikeliest of places, the dramatics of love taken out of context so much so it became comical and not at all romantic. In short, it became primal, base and repugnant. So those of you who are still holding hands and locking lips with saccharine affection, stay far away.

4 STARS!

All about 3

April 9, 2012

Oasis








Director - Lee Chang-Dong

Genre - Drama/Romance


A unique and unusual experience awaits anyone who stumbles upon this picture. The unlikeliest of romance occurs when an ex-convict falls for a special needs girl. Frowned on by society, we witness how their enclosed world is so much more purer and untainted by hypocrisy compared to the outside world. Moon So-Ri the lead actress was so spot on in her portrayal we thought at first that she was indeed a special needs person in real life. This performance is just phenomenal. Not many actresses would be as courageous and as unselfconscious about their looks as her. We declare her one of the best actresses we've ever encountered based on this emotionally draining and physically taxing performance. It is the kind of acting which doesn't just move you, it shakes you to your inner core and takes you out of your comfort zone. This is our first introduction to director Lee Chang-Dong. We're confident this master of filmmaking has a lot more to offer and we're sure this student-teacher relationship will continue to bloom beautifully. The memory of this movie has ingrained itself deep in the corners of our minds marked arthouse masterclass.

5 STARS!

All about Oasis

April 1, 2012

All Good Things








Director - Andrew Jarecki

Genre - Crime/Drama/Mystery


Based on a true story, this movie stars Ryan Gosling (as the son of a very wealthy man) who may or may not have a hand in the disappearance of his wife, played by Kirsten Dunst. While it is always compelling to watch Gosling, this just didn't do anything for us. The direction was unimaginative and almost put us to sleep if not for Gosling's turn as a man with a hidden mental condition. Playing the wife who takes the brunt of this winning personality, Dunst doesn't surprise us much with her role. Heck, Jennifer Lopez could've played the part. The battered wife isn't a character most of us come up with when we're bantering about commendable female characters. Anyway, the cliches run deep in this made for TV-like film and we're not shocked at all why it is largely ignored by the critics and public.

2.5 STARS!

All about All Good Things

March 24, 2012

Blue Valentine








Director - Derek Cianfrance

Genre - Drama/Romance


A marriage implodes from within and it's not a pretty sight. No, we're not talking about Mel Gibson's marriage. This here is the complete opposite of a date movie and those plunging into relationships should back the hell away. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a married couple who fight with each other constantly, caught in a heartbreaking reality of their once happy union turning excruciatingly sour. Will they be able to save the matrimony for their sake and their daughter's? Flashbacks of when they were blissfully romantic and unaware of the storm coming fills the movie with a bittersweet nature. Those who think it's easy being in a relationship will think twice when they watch this. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly happened to cause the disintegration of their love. Gosling and Williams hit it out of the ballpark with their truth-seeking, controlled acting. Basically, what you have here is a horror story for fresh couples or those who are thinking of partaking in relationships. It doesn't take much to start falling out of love. Not much at all.

3.5 STARS!

All about Blue Valentine

March 14, 2012

Life Without Principle








Director - Johnnie To

Genre - Crime/Drama


Johnnie To changes gears here, giving us a different sort of picture than what he had been dishing out. The cast are still considerably familiar but his style is not so overpoweringly overwhelming like in his past repertoire, allowing the story to flow with better ease. Featuring a backstory of Hong Kong going through an economic strife, the script is about the average Joes and plain Janes in the competitive city who struggle with financial difficulties in their lives. With the cost of owning a roof over most Hongkies' heads way beyond their means, will they still hold on to their ethical values? Or will they trample over each other to get what they want? The questions which Johnnie To asks in this film are way more interesting than what he had offered before. Fighting to survive here doesn't involve bullets and crossfires as much. Instead, it is the rising cost of staying in a cutthroat city which trip up the characters more than anything else. A welcome change of style from Johnnie To. For his own survival in the world of cinema, we feel he is on the right path.

3.5 STARS!

All about Life Without Principle

March 7, 2012

13 Assassins








Director - Takashi Miike

Genre - Action/Drama


Takashi Miike the non-conforming indie director in a bigger budget, more mainstream mode? A samurai movie is something we never would've imagined Miike doing yet this turned out pretty good. When the brother of a reigning shogun abuses his privilege by torturing and punishing those under him in unbelievably cruel ways, a group of samurais rises up to take his head. The violence here is unmistakably Miike, but compared to his previous work, the gravity of violence is explored here. Lives were as cheap as unwanted cabbages in those days and by watching the picture, we are actually also reliving the savage past of a bygone Japan. Appreciation for our own lives are derived in the end and that is the strength of Miike's film. The action comes at you fast and hard, but with every slash of the blade, every drop of blood shed, violence is not celebrated but shown to be ugly, repulsive. Kind of how it was in 'Audition' too. Not only will this silence his detractors, his relevance in world cinema is also enhanced greatly.

4 STARS!

All about 13 Assassins

March 2, 2012

Midnight in Paris








Director - Woody Allen

Genre - Comedy/Fantasy/Romance


A Woody Allen rom-com is like a cup of really good coffee on a rainy day. Most rom-coms require you to leave your brains at the entrance but with Allen, what you leave behind are your worries and that dreadful boss who smells like he used toilet cleaner in place of deodorant. The enormous extent of Allen's wit continues to flabbergast us with this lighthearted tale of time-traveling. Starring Owen Wilson as a Hollywood screenwriter, the script takes our hero who yearns for a more simple era to a Paris filled with the who's who of past artists and writers. Elated beyond belief, he soon discovers that he has fallen in love not only with a retro version of Paris, a mysterious girl has also captivated his heart. Wilson is surprisingly a very good fit here in Woodyland, and we had a fun time naming the supporting actors in the film like Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates and Carla Bruni. If you're looking for a smashing time filled with intelligently told jokes, this is it. If you're tired of throw-away fares like 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' and 'Meet the Fockers', well, here is the alternative. The cure even.

4.5 STARS!

All about Midnight in Paris

February 26, 2012

The Help








Director - Tate Taylor

Genre - Drama


First impression was that this picture would be in the vein of 'The Color Purple'. You know the drill by heart now. African Americans (colored people then) treated with discrimination and how these people rise above all that. Well, we're not wrong with that perception, but then we're still pleasantly surprised by how well-made it is. The acting by Viola Davis is so truthful, the emotions she displayed on her face so raw it's no wonder why she was selected as a nominee in the Oscars. The other woman, Octavia Spencer (another nominee), was a joy to watch, her sassy talk and easy-going demeanor cutting through the heavy topic like a breath of fresh mint. When an aspiring writer played by Emma Stone decided to write a story on colored maids, her collection of horror stories related by these maids created a storm of anger in the White community. The script doesn't stray too far from movies of this ilk as we've mentioned. The difference though, is in the ensemble cast of women who played their roles well (with Davis being the standout). Who doesn't like an inspirational tale of hope? One more thing - you won't think of pies quite the same way after this. Particularly, chocolate pie.

4 STARS!

All about The Help

February 23, 2012

50/50








Director - Jonathan Levine

Genre - Comedy/Drama


Cancer and comedy? Really? As impossible as it sounds, this actually worked like a dream. If the script was written as an all out comedy, it would've been in bad taste. Giving the illness most of its attention would've killed the affability of the film, turning it into a common tear-jerker. Jonathan Levine the director put in just the right amount of funny and heartfelt elements, which isn't easy at all if you think about the subject. We imagine a lot of filmmakers wouldn't even go near this combination of terminal disease and laughter. Joseph Gordon-Levitt had never really impressed us before. We thought he looked too much like a man-child. All that has changed now. As the leading man here, he has stepped up his game considerably and we believe he will take the world of acting by storm henceforth. Even the music got us humming along so pleasantly we felt as though it was the soundtrack to our own lives.

4.5 STARS!

All about 50/50

February 17, 2012

Contagion








Director - Steven Soderbergh

Genre - Drama/Thriller


Increasingly prolific director Steven Soderbergh has been surprising us at every turn throughout his career. Confidently taking on all kinds of genres, he has shown a fearless ability to take on any challenge. 'Contagion' is a thriller which is built on a very plausible, palpable subject. What happened to the characters (played by a huge collection of stars) could very well happen to any one of us. Soderbergh deftly used this vulnerability, this horror in our minds of being attacked by an unseen enemy to manipulate our emotions. Clever editing and carefully placed flashbacks served hand in hand to produce the desired results. The soundtrack was instrumental too, injecting an especially urgent atmosphere to the whole story. You will come out of this feeling a deep appreciation for medical personnel too, who honorably put their lives in constant danger here. We believe there are those non-fiction ones who are just as noble. God bless them and their angel hearts.

4 STARS!

All about Contagion

February 12, 2012

The Steel Helmet








Director - Samuel Fuller

Genre - Action/Drama/War


Samuel Fuller was one of those old school filmmakers who made movies shot with straightforward, no frills manner. His scripts and content are often altogether unconventional for its times though. Subversive and controversial, they often ensure the director stayed well outside the Hollywood system. This picture's dialogue were so uncompromising it drew the attention of the FBI. Sergeant Zack is a no nonsense, hard as nails soldier with a heavy cross to bear. When he joins a lost infantry outfit of young and green men, an uneasy discomfort begin to form in the air, his scruffy ways of warfare rubbing off on the greenhorns like sandpaper to smooth baby bums. Packed with manly, gruff and puff action scenes, this is a war movie which hold no punches.

3.5 STARS!

All about The Steel Helmet

February 8, 2012

Death of a Cyclist








Director - Juan Antonio Bardem

Genre - Drama/Thriller


Sometimes a movie can be so powerful it has the ability to change society. We believe 'Death of a Cyclist' is such a movie. Essentially, it is a murder thriller but look closer, search yourselves and you will find that it is so much more. A navigator on morality? A call to arms for those who dare to dream and rebel against the old guards? An attack on those who are perched up high up in society's upper classes? A reminder to always have faith and not give in to our darker temptations? Take your pick. We took away so much from this picture it made us believe all over again in the dignity of courageous cinema. What's the difference? Courageous cinema doesn't just reflect our world, we're better people because of it.

5 STARS!

All about Death of a Cyclist

February 1, 2012

The Ides of March








Director - George Clooney

Genre - Drama/Thriller


With this picture and 'Drive', Ryan Gosling has performed a back to back feat of giving us two incredibly memorable roles in current cinema. He is well at the top of his game at this point in time when most of the young actors at his age are still looking for that elusive gem role which would put them on the big league. Credit also has to be given to George Clooney, who directed a hell of a movie here, the story of which is from a play called 'Farragut North'. A political thriller with emphasis on the character evolvement of a junior campaign manager (Gosling), the story takes us on a whirlwind tour of how dirty and unscrupulously without mercy the games played by men in politics can be.

4.5 STARS!

All about The Ides of March

January 27, 2012

A Separation








Director - Asghar Farhadi

Genre - Drama


Everyone and all mothers should watch this movie. Directors, producers,scriptwriters and actors should have the DVD with them at all times as a reminder to be better at what they do. That is how insanely perfect this movie is for us. It is acted with such natural ease the believability factor becomes unquestionable, and directed with such a firm hand it renders most of what Hollywood puts out embarrassing. This is Iranian cinema at its peak looking down on all the poseurs out there. A couple on the verge of divorce encounter a host of problems which test their resolve, sliding their lives into chaotic instability. Before you go 'typical family court drama', let us assure that this is much more than that. It is an investigative thriller structured around a very human drama which will incite you to re-examine your view of what's right and wrong. This sits on the altar of cinema and inspires an almost spiritual adoration of the art form.

5 STARS!

All about A Separation

January 13, 2012

You Are the Apple of My Eye








Director - Giddens Ko

Genre - Drama/Romance


Adapted from a popular novel, this movie directed by the author himself was a big box office hit in its home turf. Alas, we do not think that it deserves such warm reception. Crass and juvenile in its presentation, this coming of age story with aspirations in tackling comedy and romance fails at both. The only saving grace here are the 'not so bad at acting', quite likable leads. We were really put off by the constant mention of sex, distasteful sexual innuendos and far too many masturbation scenes. 'American Pie' wasn't all that sophisticated too, but at least it didn't disguise itself as a love story.

2.5 STARS!

All about You Are the Apple of My Eye

January 8, 2012

Sweet Smell of Success








Director - Alexander Mackendrick

Genre - Drama/Film-Noir


Screenwriters would give their arms and legs for the gift of being able to pen the precision sharp lines in this film. No time or cinema reel were wasted here as barrage after barrage of 'quick on the feet' dialogue takes center stage, spewed almost unceasingly out of the characters' arsenic lips. Tony Curtis plays a press agent named Sidney Falco who has to depend on a spiteful, arrogant columnist (J.J. Hunsecker) played by Burt Lancaster as his meal ticket. When Sidney is asked to do J.J. a favor which compromises Sidney's already thinning view of honor and integrity, what will he choose? They say money is the root of all evil and this movie certainly went out of its way to show how low some of us can stoop to gain a whiff of success. Tony Curtis shrugged off his pretty boy image (this was a different era, mind you) to play a scheming, no good hammerhead and Lancaster exuded an even more despicable great white shark. Together, they represent a hunger for capitalism and a disgust of moral justice. That is actually the crux of the story and the lesson of never giving up our humanity no matter what reverberates even to this day.

5 STARS!

All about Sweet Smell of Success

January 1, 2012

Senna








Director - Asif Kapadia

Genre - Documentary/Biography


An impeccably realized documentary about legendary Brazilian F1 driver, Ayrton Senna. Through the ups and downs of his career, we are shown the strength of his character and the moments which define him as much more than a well paid F1 driver. Loved and worshiped by Brazilians from all walks of life, he was an inspiration to millions at a time when his home country was in poverty and depression. The director Asif Kapadia deftly maneuvered the film with humor and tension-filled shots of races, often emphasizing with dramatic results the rivalry between Senna and Alain Prost, his nemesis on the race track. For those who know next to nothing about cars (including ourselves), this aspect is a relieve because heavy mention of the technical parts of F1 would have gone over our heads completely. All in all, this is the most exhilarating and moving documentary we've ever seen. Senna was truly a remarkable man and the film does justice to his legend.

5 STARS!

All about Senna