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HK Neo Reviews: (500) Days of Summer, 5 April 2010

Coincidence or fate...

Years ago, I remember roaming across an old book shop, inside, there is an antique book titled: "We do not remember the time, but we remember the moments." 500 Days of Summer is exactly that. The movie plays like random moments of recollected memories. In essence, the timing of each event is totally irrelevant. They are simply memories of what we remembered happened. It is rare that a Hollywood romantic drama steer away from the cliché syndrome. It is a kind of movie that makes you love movies. In some stage of our lives, we will all probably have met someone like Summer. A type of girl that likes you, but you know will never be with you. Some call it fate, some call it lust, some call it coincidence, and I call it timing. It is a love story without all the elements of one. 500 Days of Summer succeeds in giving the audience a movie about something tangible, something understandable and something to ponder about.

The movie goes like this: A girl meets boy. Boy falls for girl. Girl likes the boy. The two goes closer. The boy wants a relationship. The girl wants something else. Life is wrecked and it's time to see how the boy deals with it in 500 days of summer...

What is so beautiful about this movie is that the director puts you directly into Tom's character shoes. It is lovely, bittersweet and knowing. Movies like these do not come along too often, but like a failed romantic encounter, it actually plays out like one. Beautiful yet bittersweet are the feelings involved. Whether you like it or not, one just has to learn to accept it. It reminds me of the time when I met a girl on the plane. From there we smashed all the right buttons. Then suddenly one day, the girl decides to pops up the words of wisdom in the lines of "I don't want a boyfriend". Sometime in life, you just have to realise that there will never be an answer to every question. We will just have learn from it, make yourself a better person, enjoy life a little more and just treasure those past beautiful memories and move on. I never asked why. I just walked away and never saw the girl again. It lasted two months.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom into a real character, someone we can all relate to. While his chemistry with Summer seems real enough, there is something about the two, that only the audience or a bystander will realise. They are clearly not compatible. Yet, Tom persists. Perhaps, Summer puts it perfectly by the end of the film: "With you, I just never knew." In essence, love is not meant to reason with or requires an explanation. The moment you are required to explain why and how and what, it becomes an excuse or thinking there is a reason. Summer played perfectly by Zooey Deschanel. Zooey may seem like she knows exactly what she wants. In reality, that is not the case. She is not the pretty type, but there is something about her attitude, the eyes and something about her that makes her a distant yet fascinating character.

All in all, (500) Days of Summer is not your norm Hollywood romance drama. It's like the same feeling as the moment you remember about the last time; you encounter a similar event or situation. It is sad that they don't make more movies like this. While not all romance are bitter. It goes back to a saying: "failures are what we learn from". So it goes back to the interpretation of love. The movie seems to say that there are no such things as miracle, meant to be or even fate. Love is all pure coincidence. Maybe in my view, it sounds a tad more optimistic, in the notion of timing. I once told a girl, "If you don't want to see me again, I will just walk away". Perhaps, like (500) days of Summer, it was just not meant to be...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 9/10


88 Minutes (2007)
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Hollywood Neo Reviews: 88 Minutes, 29 September 2009

Tagline: Even Al Pacino cannot save this dud un-thriller… Review by Neo: Roger Elbert once proclaimed that Al Pacino simply cannot fail when he is playing an enforcement agent, as he has been doing so for a good 30 years. Elbert as much as he is correct for a long time, Al Pacino finally fails to deliver and despite being the best thing in 88 Minutes, he too fails to convince. Blame it on the script, the director, and the editing or poor supporting displays (namely Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski etc), but the film just simply fails to take off and it does not help when the finale seems more like a fairytale written by a primary schooler than professionals. To be honest, there are a couple of moments or two, but the flaws and cons by far overstretched the pros and the result is an unbelievable thriller than is more in line with un-thrilling and quite frankly cheesy in a bad way.

The movie goes like this: Al Pacino plays a FBI forensic researcher and doctor who is in the midst of a phone call telling him that he have only 88 minutes to live. Basically the film goes on and on in five minutes section, reminding the audience that there is still 70 minutes left in the movie. When a member of the audience is simply counting down the minutes he/she has to stay in the cinema, it is probably not a good indication of quality cinema.

For the first time in a long time, Al Pacino looks lost and confused. Do not blame his 69 years of age, as he still manages to surprise and amaze me as recent as Righteous Kill (2008). It seems as though that Al Pacino isn't really playing an FBI doctor or University Professor, but rather himself. I wouldn't go on to claim that Al Pacino simply cannot act as seen in this movie as while he fails to convince, he still manages to be the single highlight in an otherwise terrible flick.

Leelee Sobieski has been around for a good decade and still she is just 26 years of age. It is surprising and probably disappointing that Sobieski has since failed to live up to the potential that she so surely displayed way back in the TV-movie Joan of Arc. Then again, this film is by no means a fair evaluation given the short cuts that the director made and the cameo-like screen time that she manages to be on-screen. Given she still have a good 4 years till she can embrace the 30-year elite mark, there is still hope that Sobieski is given a better script to work with. However, with this and that dud starring alongside Jason Stratham in that fantasy tale, it goes without saying that Sobieski needs to work to better directors.

All in all, 88 minutes is quite frankly and easily a waste of a good 88 minutes of my time. The film never reaches a stage where you actually gets interested or want to follow what is really going on. Even if you did actually manage to follow and invest your time in this thriller, you will probably be left all the more disappointed considering the simplistic and totally unbelievable ending that director Jon Avnet and his writing team came up with. I am still bewildered as to why the hell; an actor with the qualities of Al Pacino can even be associated with such a bad script. May be, Al Pacino is simply trying to appear as a FBI agent as many times as possible before he take is truly up and gone. Basically, 88 minutes comes highly un-recommended with no exceptions noted … (Neo 2009)

I rate it 3/10


HK Neo Reviews: Adventureland, 28 October 2009

Tagline: Back to the 80s in a good way… Review by Neo: Adventureland simply works because it is honest, believable, touching and earnestly frank film that never attempts to be pretentious. These kinds of films are rare and hard to come by, but director of Superbad hits all the right buttons to create something truly an experience to remember despite bringing nothing new on the table. There was once a saying, people do not remember time, but we remember the moments. It is the simple moments of cinematic magic that made the film work and it's been a while coming since Hollywood goes real and quite satisfying it is.

The movie goes like this: Jesse Eisenberg plays a college graduate who is in the midst of a summer job at the local theme park. There Jesse meets a complicated, yet rich young girl (played by the elegant Kristen Steward who is a student from NYU. It is basically a story about two lost souls, bored to death of their summer job, bond together despite two beings from two very different worlds.

Kristen Stewart is definitely a real talent and while she is wasted away from the Twilight series, Stewart is stunning yet complicated here. She is not exactly what one would say outright beautiful, but there is something about her that "it" aspect that will ensure her route to stardom will work. There are moments in which Stewart manages to pull it off, such as the scene where she and Jesse first kisses, her moments with Ryan Reynolds and many others. In a matter of fact, despite being a supporting role to Jesse's character, it is Stewart that made the film interesting and somehow even manages to make the audience feel for her becoming. Most certainly this is a bravo and potential filled display and one to watch for the future.

Jesse Eisenberg is the kind of guy that is rare nowadays, but I am sure there are still people like him. That is why director Greg Mottola made a smart decision to set the movie in the 80s, when life was slow and the rain was mellow. People aren't totally technologically dependent and that is why the film worked. It is the simple things that matters and Jesse smartly underplays his character innocence and also the way he interacts with others is quite simply good acting. Perhaps the music also worked to a degree, but at the end of the day, it all goes down to the believable chemistry between Jesse and Kristen.

All in all, Adventureland is not going to split the world on fire with originality, but what it does is able to spark new life into an already cliché genre. The way director Greg Mottola handled the ending is something to be proud of. The rain drops, the persistence, the dialogue, the timing, the moments, are all reasons as to why the film ultimately leaves the audience on a satisfying note. Love is never straight forward and nothing is ever more intriguing to witness and experience than young love, as it is the times, when one another grow through these experiences, learn as it go and basically a work in progress and quite raw. Adventureland works by being taking the audience back to those tiny moments, those times when we were young and after all John Lennon is probably right when he say: Life is what happens, when you are busy making other plans … (Neo 2009)

I rate it 8/10


Love (2012/I)
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Love 愛 (2012) – Taiwan/China, 7 May 2012

"For every jerk, there lies a broken heart inside…"

Taiwanese cinema has proved to be the next Asian powerhouse. Love (2012) is a feel good romantic comedy about what else, but love. Headed by International star Shu Qi and Mainland superstar Zhao Wei, both carries the film broadly on their shoulders. However it is the love stories that make the movie a romantic affair. What makes Love a good movie is the fact that it doesn't go overboard in the overtly romance notion. It tries to deal with some real issues yet at the same time providing a true Hollywood experience. In along the reins of Love Actually and countless Hollywood Valentines' day events, Love is a good movie and works well within its defined boundaries without being truly special.

Shu Qi being the biggest drawer of International audience is able to create a likable and realistic character despite being mostly materialistic. Although her resulting relationship with Ethan Ruan is quite laughable, she is able to convince the audience in the scene where she packs her clothes and decides to leave. Likewise, Zhao Wei excites the audience and her dance tease is quite a treat. Eddie Pang does well and Ivy Chen shows good potential in a difficult role, while fellow Taiwanese actress Doze Niu is thoroughly cute and endearing.

All in all, Love is not really movies that inspires or deflect from genre conventions, but there is an undeniably good feel about it that makes it impossible to dislike. With good production values, decent semi realistic love stories and attractive actresses to boot, Love will not win any awards, but for a day called Valentine, it could be far worst. A good film for what it is worth…

Neo rates it 7/10


1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Call For Love, 29 June 2008

Tagline: A pure eye-candy coated flick…

Review by Neo: It's not long ago that Mainland comedies are just totally inaccessible. A prime example is Karmic Mahjong, where despite Francis Ng's best effort; the film was unbearable, unfunny and totally irrelevant. Perhaps its about to change, as in 2008 Mainland Cinema, there is not one, but two above average mainland comedies, namely Two Stupid Eggs and the current flick, Call For Love. While, the aforementioned flick used black humor and frequent self-referential techniques and polished by some good acting from leading man Guo Tao, Call For Love goes the route that would cause even the most resistant of male to nose bleed. With 9-10 hot chicks each appearing no longer than in a 10 minute segment, what makes Call For Love a bias selection for Neo is clearly the candy swamping within his eyes. Imagine a mobile phone that looks like Flintstone have the power of giving you 10 chances with 10 different hot chicks. Sounds like utopia, and without forgetting Fan Bing Bing is one of them as well. Just thinking about this leaves the current reviewer drooling and possibly leaving half the site's population in the same mood.

In what is possibly the biggest juxtaposition is the casting of Xu Zheng, a mid-age, non-handsome guy as being the centre of the 10 female attentions. In an unintended allusion to Beauty and the Beast, the movie actually works because of casting a normal looking guy, rather than some top shot, six pack models. In fact, pairing up Xu with hot chicks, adds layers to the fun and luckily this guy can act. Like Two Stupid Eggs, Xu is constantly talking to himself and the self-referential humour is once again appreciated by the audience. More interestingly as the movie goes on, the audience seems to side with Xu and even wants him to get some sort of action.

Without forgetting, Eva Huang from Kung Fu Hustle's fame appears in a scene stealing wild girl. Huang seems to be heading the wrong direction after an eye catching shot to stardom in one of HK's biggest movies in the past decade, but since then she have been reduced to non-existent roles like Dragon Squad and Lethal Ninja. Although it is only for 10 minutes, this is perhaps her most juicy role since Hustle and her performance is hilarious enough to catch the audience attention. Another famous mainlander comes in the form of Neo's favourite muse, Fan Bing Bing. Fan is as hot as always and her 7 minutes of fame is filled with coated levels of eye candy, even if her performance is nothing special. Still, Fan as seen in Lost in Beijing can definitely act and the short stint here is heaps better than the annoying Love Contract. Then again, who can resist Fan in police uniform? Cal For Love isn't exactly an all out good movie, but rather what Neo classify as a good Mainland comedy that is actually funny and enjoyable. Sometimes, it is a pleasure to sit through mindless entertainment and luckily Call for Love manages to entertain, have some sort of meaning of love to it as well as plenty of the all important eye candies. Movies like these can easily flatters, but luckily the director handles his shots with a certain form of comedic timing. Along with some good acting chops from leading man Xu, a scene stealing moment with Eva Huang and the irresistible Fan Bing Bing, Call For Love isn't half bad and clearly what one can claim as pure guilty pleasure. Then again, with 10 deliciously candy coated ice cream cones, Neo's eyes certainly aren't complaining… (Neo 2008)

I rate it 7/10


Alexander (2004)
HK Neo Reviews: Alexander, 30 June 2009

Tagline: Alexander the Great, but Oliver Stone the CRAP! Some people fight for country, some fight for themselves and some don't even know why the hell they are fighting for, even when they are remembered in history as the single greatest commander in the whole of ancient and perhaps even modern world. He was a conquer, a hero in hearts of historians, he was Caesar's superior times a hundred (where Caesar wept at his statue of his great accomplishment at such a young age). Thus, he was a truly a heroic person. However, this movie, and I mean it, from the weird and eerie director – Oliver Stone, Alexander is a confusing and gay and uneven movie. And that's from someone who has always admired Alexander and has done research on him 5 years ago. This movie without the battle scenes is a total waste of 3 bloody long hours and is the movie confusing? I bet you it is! Why the hell did someone like Stone portray Alexander as so bloody gay, why can't he realize that in Ancient Greeks times, it was a norm thing, so why not just leave it out, as he did to many great achievements? Personally I have nothing against gay, but Alexander was a HERO – an inspiration, he was famous for his victories – the way he won the bloody battle not for his relationships with whoever it is. To me personally, Stone directed a bad and uneven movie, and not only that – he is not showing his so-called HERO with any respects.

The movie is full of problems – not just that thing but more than that – there is no female lead, the only one is a mother of Alexander – Jolie, but other than that it is just bi-sexual and gays. No offense, think about it? Who knows about Alexander? Who can be certain of his life? Let alone his achievements? Nothing is certain in Ancient History that is what makes it fascinating. In real evidences, I mean primary sources – which they don't have a lot, I tell you from a historian and non-bias perspective that there is no real evidences to suggest how Alexander really die and whether he was gay or not. So why the hell did Stone do this to his god-damn HERO? Well I guess that he was just confused then.

However the battle scenes are the absolute saving grace and geez it was beautiful and stunning to watch, from the opening scenes against all odds to the terrific artistic finale that draws and copies from Jet Li's Hero and a dramatic and exhilarating slow motion horse run kill. That shows him as a real HERO, but apart from that few scenes and that ½ an hour the movie is almost dead. Comparing him to Achilles an imaginary or fictional character is stupid as firstly this movie is shittier than Troy and secondly Alexander is by far and more human and better than him.

Although Collin Farrell is one of my favorite Hollywood actor, this is a wrong move for him, although his acting is somewhat good for the stupid direction, it is clear that he was confused in playing the role. One moment he seems gay another moment he is not, and tell me if I am wrong – Alexander was not a confusing person, but one with such a mind that none of the greatest commanders can equal – not even Caesar, nor Napoleon! Angelica the so-called husband stealer famed by the media, was wasted in an eye-catching sexy performance playing SM with a snake (well at least that's what I though she is doing).

Seriously, Mr. Oliver Stone, your movie was a total failure and why didn't you just go and donate that amount of production cost to the Tsunami, or just sent it straight to video. Did you know that I tried hard to ignore the critic reviews, because I always admire Alexander? To see this sort of crap about my HERO is not only heartbreaking, but just absolutely disappointing! Ancient History is all about analyzing evidences and forming new opinions, sure Stone tried to do that, but when even the Vangelis music is crap – surely something is wrong. Perhaps it is just Neo, but when a blockbuster like this – ended up with just 30 odd million in US, I guess I am not the only one standing on this. As an ancient history lover, a hero of mine – my heart is shattered and what I really wanna do right now is not to have my money back but I am willing to pay you another movie ticket so that I can forget such a BAD movie.

I rate it 4/10


1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Almost Famous, 16 March 2011

A film that hits more real notes than just being famous…

Almost Famous is a fine film and a perfect example of how to make a movie about a band, a group, a young writer, a young female and people. Ultimately the film is about people, perhaps not who they are, but rather who they believe they are. Director Cameron Crowe hits all the right buttons in creating a movie that does not seem a tad manufactured and in fact more real than it should be. A ground breaking role of sorts from the then upcoming star Kate Hudson. In one scene, she showed almost the sort of potential that made her a star. When William tells her about the rock star true intentions, Hudson turns away with tears in her eyes and putting on a short brave smile. A classic bittersweet moment.

What I liked about Almost Famous is not so such of its coming of age intention, but the way Crowe exposes the kid, William into the adult world of drugs, sex, jealousy, love, friendship and ultimately humanity. Ultimately, Almost Famous works because it is genuine. It is genuinely enjoyable, fascinating, funny, touching, lively and most important of all, a film filled with believable characters. At the end of the day, the film tells us that the truth hurts, but like the legendary veteran rock critic says: 'you need to remain honest and un-merciless". Likewise, as Kate Hudson sums it up well: "the truth just sounds different". In all honestly, Almost Famous is a fine film...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 8/10


HK Neo Reviews: Anna and Anna, 25 June 2008

Tagline: A well meaning failure attempt at exploring the "what ifs" of life… Review by Neo: As with the history of this site, Neo usually proclaim his obvious bias at the beginning of a review and his everlasting love for Karena Lam is an obvious one. Ever since Karena stunning natural and critically acclaimed display in July Rhasody and it's been now 7 years on since that first sighting. So why did Neo bother catching such a little known movie, namely Anna and Anna, it is already pointless to mention. While the flick is extremely well meaning, emphasising on the choices that we make in our lives and the part and parcel of the regrets that comes along with it, Anna and Anna fails in terms of entertainment, sustaining interest and ultimate muddling the audience to the point of being too smart for its own good. Not an outright bad movie by all means, but a failure in terms of story telling and the result is losing the audience and everyone else that is not involved in the film-making. As usual Karena Lam steals the show, but even at times you can picture Lam as more lost than ever and more confuse than you can imagine.

Director Aubrey Lam (who previously directed the uneven yet pleasing 12 Nights and the underrated Hidden Track) tries to define an example to allow the audience to reflect upon their own regrets and how choices are made by us and not anyone else at the very end. Imagine what would happen if you choose to stay in a particular country to be with someone, rather than work in another country, or what if, you took advantage of what have became a missed opportunities. Aubrey smartly explores these notions of relevant themes, but as mentioned before, the flick is extremely well meaning, but it just never connects to the audience, the way it could have been.

There is no doubt that the thought of seeing two Karena Lam(s) excites the current reviewer, but unfortunately two of the same person does not make a good movie. While Lam is always an attractive and talented actress, the script loses not just the audience, but also Lam herself. When it comes to crying sequences, Lam is probably the only one that can match Cecilia Cheung is this arena. Still, Karena is always likable and her smile with dimples is almost irresistible to look at, but a smile or two does not make a film and even Karena herself cannot save this movie from the distance feeling. It must be commended however, that Karena manages to play two opposite characters extremely well and there are moments where it seems to be two different people. The supporting cast of (Lu Yi, Tender Huang Teng-Hao) tries hard to their own respective abilities, but once again, the prodding of the script ruins it all. Perhaps, Aubrey is a better writer than director, putting things to words is one thing, but creating a vision and a dream is totally another. This is probably true considering that Aubrey actually wrote 2005's Peter Chan extravagant love story - Perhaps Love.

All in all, Anna and Anna is very much a flick that wants the audience to relate to the proceedings, but ends up distancing and pushing the audience away rather than accepting them with open arms. It is a shame that an actress of the calibre of Karena Lam isn't given a better character role and it is even more so disappointing that the film never tries to be commercial and yet it drags and feels longer than its 90 minutes running time. Yes, it is good to know that our choices affect our future and regrets are just something that humanity has to learn to deal with. After all, we can't have everything in life and as Neo always proclaim, it is humanity to desire for things that we cannot have and yet never be truly content to the present surroundings. At the end of the day, the more meaning this flick attempt to get out only result in further disappointment and ultimately what appears on-screen just doesn't equals the effort and the initial intention. Then again, when all cases fails, there is still Neo's favourite Karena Lam to maintain the proceedings… (Neo 2008)

I rate it 5/10


Annie Hall (1977)
HK Neo Reviews: Annie Hall, 18 July 2010

Tagline: Woody Allen – you little genius...

Upon watching Woody Allen's Oscar winning 1977 Best Picture – Annie Hall, I just realise how late I was. Being late to a packed classroom is rather embarrassing, but it is still better than the lad who is still at home sleeping, missing out the action all together. That is precisely the feeling I ended up feeling. It is not easy for a romantic drama/comedy to still be relevant in exactly 33 years later. Like many of the gen Y, Woody Allen plus Scarlet Johansson is already what we known him as. It is little wonder why nearly everyone have become disappointed in Allen. He is certainly capable of much more. Annie Hall have all the trademarks of Mr. Allen's witty dialogue, monologue and basically people talking, talking and more talking. He likes to linger a shot longer and let the audience inside the movie, rather than the other way around. Sometimes, I wonder how a movie is going to affect me, but interestingly, it is the lack of musically impact that make Annie Hall more powerful and relating. The characters are quite simply humans. If the movie is about a lot of things, it is essentially a love story. The number of memorable scenes and dialogue is simply unforgettable. Understanding and following Woody and Diane Keaton conservations is like a re-dux of our own lives. It may not seem much, but for once, a film justifiably lusted out Star Wars for Best Picture and rightly so.

The movie goes like this: Woody Allen begins the movie heartbroken and from there the tale of his past relationships are shown in spades of time. However, the focus is really on his love story with Annie Hall. The connection, the meeting, the moments, the sex, the table talks, the cinema lines, the harbour views, the departure, the ending and the cafe are all essentially part of making up who Allen is trying to portray. Essentially a movie about a love lost, the difficult to find that compatibility, but portrayed in the wittiest of manner.

There are moments that you seem as though you are the characters in the movie. Talks like a couple at a restaurant talking about the family table next to them or the couple walking along the way. Small talks are what couples do and Allen conveys exactly that. There is another scene where after his first time sex with Annie, he smartly remarks: "There goes another novel." Other classic scenes that stayed in my memory would be the long cinema line, where the guy behind Woody keeps talking about a certain movie and it got to the point where Woody approached the camera and ranted out his frustration of the guy knowing nothing. The guy in return confronted the camera to explain himself and Woody pulls out the producer of the movie to explain that the guy is wrong. It may sound tedious, but it is these subtle moments that makes the movie work. Being able to keep up with Allen's character and the things he say is a vital part of relationships. Towards the end, when he is picking up lobsters with a new muse, he did a witty remark and the fact that the girl didn't understand him, it compels his instincts that reminds him of the connection he had with Annie is irreplaceable.

Woody Allen is one of the wittiest film-maker around and his performance here seem extremely realistic. Whether or not, the reason for this is because of the way he plays around with the audience, constantly talking to them, looking at the camera, dreaming of events and simply through continuous talking. On surface and appearance along, Diane Keaton does not match with Woody, but as the movie goes on, you know exactly why they were a couple. There is that connection of words and minds between the two. As the movie continues the audience can look back or forward to their relationships and realise it is precisely the flow of conversation that make the relationship unique and work. For me, I cannot comprehend a girl that does not understand the manner, the tone of something I am trying to say and for Woody it seems true. That is why Diane Keaton is so amazing, she speaks her mind, she understands Woody and she knows when to move on. After-all the film does end with something like – "but love fades".

All in all, Annie Hall is a masterpiece. It is a timeless movie on many different levels. The dialogue is top notched. The direction and editing are suitably creative. Comedies hardly ever win Best Picture and for it to win over a blockbuster of a film in Star Wars, it is an unprecedented achievement. Perhaps what Woody did in Annie Hall may never be repeated and nor should it ever be. Full marks for Woody for saying that he will never direct a sequel to this, as some films should have been left as it was. Like Before Sunrise, the film is about people talking, living, eating, talking, sexing and more talking. It is a film that you need to let go of the boundaries of the movie experience and let the joy comes along the way. Movies like these are magical and grow onto you more and more after the credit rolls. What I really enjoyed is the fact that the movie somehow affected me without the usual gimmicks of emotional soundtrack, but rather through witty and relevant dialogues and real human characters that interacts to make Annie Hall, the romantic comedy of the century...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 10/10


2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Any Questions for Ben?, 23 October 2012

From the director of "The Castle" comes a fun, yet important film about a quarter life crisis, the reason for living and how life cannot be measure by how successful you are in your job, the amount of money or your girls scoring record. "Any Questions for Ben?" is one of those well-meaning films that counts and goes the distance in dealing one of the more prominent issues about one's passion, direction and focus in life.

"Any Questions for Ben?" is a film about an universal issue of the reason for our existence, yet it remains extremely and uniquely Australian in its comedy, approach and Melbourne cityscape. What does it truly means to be successful? I am sure, once in your life, whether you are in your twenties, thirties or even sixties, there will be a clear moment in your life where you question yourself, quite simply, why am I doing this? Sometimes, maybe you only need a moment of inspiration and you can sure of what you have been doing for most of your life is well worth it. For others, it may not be quite so simple, as it may take them time to figure out what it is that they are truly passionate about their lives and what essentially drives them. It is exactly the question and dilemma that faces the main character Ben for the entire film, in fact, it took him exactly two hours running time to finally figure it out.

Josh Lawson ("The Wedding Party") is fast becoming one of Australia's hottest up and coming talent, and is perfectly casted as the man that seem to have it all in his hands and destiny. However, Lawson is able to make his character extremely likable and his questions about life seems rather genuine and realistic. There is something about his approach that makes the audience feel as though he truly wants to change and embark on a totally different direction in his life. Likewise, Rachael Taylor ("Transformers") is suitably and contrastingly free-spirited, as Lawson's turning point in life.

Director Rob Sitch is at home in depicting the urban life style of trendy Melbourne. His toying of the corporate world within the midst of the marketing trade can relate to a lot of people going about routine aspect of their own lives. The fact that Lawson got everything anyone would wish for in a great career and is still depressed make it all the more interesting. When he is willing to lose everything to start over again, that is the moment when Lawson is able to finally find himself and in the process making the audience question about their own lives and existence. Perhaps the defining scene of the movie is when Lawson is talking about his life story with a hall full of his old school students and not surprisingly no one has any questions for him.

All in all, "Any Questions for Ben?" is a good example of how to make a trendy and relevant Australian movie. Director Rob Sitch is able to show how important it is for everyone to question once in a while the reasons for our own existence and ask ourselves what it is that we are truly passionate about. In life, there is never a straight forward answer, sometimes, it requires us to dig deeper to find ourselves. Perhaps in the eyes of others, it is a waste of time, a stale in your career, but for one to life without regrets, there are times, when you just have to pursue it. (Neo 2012)

I rated it 8/10

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