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Did Superman need a reboot after his last big screen appearance in
Bryan Singer's 'Superman Returns'? Not really in our opinion, but
nonetheless the task of making Superman relevant once again has fallen
to Christopher Nolan, he who successfully rebooted another DC Comics
character with a grim and gritty treatment under the banner of 'The
Though '300' and 'Watchmen' director Zack Synder is at the helm here, Nolan's fingerprints are all over the material, serving not only as producer but also sharing story credit with his 'Dark Knight' scribe David S. Goyer. This is a Clark Kent conflicted with his Superman calling as much as Bruce Wayne was with his Batman persona, and the key struggle for Superman here is that tension between both his Kryptonian and Earthly identities - or to put it simply, though he was raised on Earth, Clark has always wrestled with the fact that he is not of this planet.
Such an existential dilemma has been explored in similar fashion in Marvel's 'X-Men' movies, but Goyer makes it personal, heartfelt and ultimately moving in a way that no other film has done. Employing a flashback structure not unlike that in 'Batman Begins', Goyer paints an intimate portrait of a unique individual whose innate nature and ability to do good is tempered by a genuine need for self-preservation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a stirring sequence where a young Clark pushes an entire school-bus of his classmates to safety after their vehicle plunges into a raging ravine, only to be regarded with trepidation from the ones he saved and their loved ones as well.
"You're not just anyone," Johnathan Kent (Kevin Costner) tells his adopted son. "You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be." So convinced was his father that the world was not ready for Clark that he would make the ultimate sacrifice just to preserve the latter's identity, that singular demonstration of love counting as one of the most powerful emotional wallops in the film. And amidst the bombast you would expect of a summer blockbuster, there are many such heart-tugging moments to be found here, which lend a depth to the character that no other Superman film has been able to.
In building the emotional core of the movie, Synder makes some unlikely yet inspired casting choices. Costner and Diane Lane play Clark's adoptive parents Johnathan and Martha, and both actors bring seemingly effortless warmth to their performances. There's also Russell Crowe, who plays Clark's biological father Jor-El, the Academy Award-winning actor injecting nobility and gravitas as Clark's other fatherly figure motivating him to realise the destiny for which he is capable of. It is indeed rare to find such acting heavyweights willing to take up supporting roles, but no matter how Synder managed to convince them to do so, the dramatic tones they add to the film makes it all the very much better off for it.
One suspects that these actors might have signed up because of the creative liberties that Goyer has taken with the material in a studious attempt to ground mythology in reality. There's no Kryptonite for one, and the Fortress of Solitude gets only a passing mention - but beyond these obvious revisions, Goyer makes bolder moves to find reason for just how Superman ended up with an 'S' on his suit, or for that matter, such a spandex suit in the first place. Just as significantly, he lets Clark and 'Daily Planet' reporter Lois Lane meet and fall in love even before the former joins the very newspaper, taking that familiar dynamic between Clark and Lois in a wholly different but entirely refreshing direction. There is both ingenuity and meticulousness in his revisionist plotting of familiar elements, even to the point of building credibility and reason into what could have easily been designed as a cardboard villain in General Zod.
Clearly inspired by Goyer's reinterpretation as well as Nolan's guiding hand, Synder delivers what in our opinion is his best work to date. With Goyer's character-driven script, Synder establishes a level of heart and profundity that has escaped even his best films thus far. That's not to say that Synder has let up on what he does best; on the contrary, the visuals are simply astounding, especially so in the relentlessly thrilling action sequences. Aside from the messy prologue that sets up the destruction of Krypton, all the rest of the sequences pulse with an urgent rhythm that draws you in with bated breath and keeps you on the edge of your seat. That is particularly true for the second half of the movie that begins with an awesome decimation of Smallville and culminates in an exhilarating finale right in the heart of downtown Metropolis. This is action filmed on a scale never before seen, the mano-a-mano between Superman and General Zod alone enough to rival everything you've seen so far in them Marvel superhero movies.
Yet all that flying and smashing and ass-whooping would not be as stunning without an emotionally satisfying centre, embodied perfectly by British actor Henry Cavill as well as his complement Amy Adams. Cavill plays Superman as quiet, reserved and thoughtful without ever being angsty, while Adams has plenty of sass and spunk to spare as his romantic other half. Their Clark and Lois isn't what we would be well- acquainted with, but hey, if you're going to do a reboot, you might as well be audacious in spinning the oft-familiar elements of the tale.
And that is what director Zack Synder, screenwriter David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan have accomplished so beautifully in their rendition of the caped crusader. This 'Man of Steel' doesn't just take flight - it soars.
Originally scheduled to be released last October but delayed due to
problems with heavy post-production work, not to mention countless
editing by the director, the end result is at best a patchy piece of
work passing off as a Chinese version of Mission Impossible: Ghost
Directed and written by newcomer Jay Sun, Switch is a high octane action espionage thriller filled with globe-trotting locations, an array of gizmos mostly in the form of Nokia smartphones, flashy Audi cars and a star studded cast including HK superstar Andy Lau, Taiwan's top model Lin Chiling (Red Cliff) and Chinese actors Zhang Jingchu (Protégé) and Tong Dawei (Treasure Inn).
You might think this is going to an exciting, jaw-dropping action extravaganza for the next 112 minutes but like me, your jaw is going to drop for the wrong reasons.
After a clumsy prologue which establishes the value of the famous Yuan Dynasty scroll Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, we are introduced to several characters - namely our hero, Xiao Jinhan (Andy Lau), a secret agent who is married to an insurance project director Lin Yuyan (Zhang Jingchu; while the villains include the generically named Yamamoto (Tong Dawei), an ambiguous agent, Lisa (Lin Chiling), a weird underworld leader, Empress (Siqin Gaowa) and a bunch of Caucasian thugs. What is supposedly an easy-to-follow, good versus evil action thriller becomes a hot mess under the hands of Jay Sun.
Obviously, Sun has no idea how to shoot an intense action scene or at least keep you on the edge of your seat. He prefers to jump from one scene to another without much coherence thrown in. Agent Xiao just propels from the ceiling all of a sudden. And why is Yamamoto so mesmerised by the painting? Oh we are supposed to believe Lisa is also carrying a torch for Agent Xiao. This is no music video mind you and it becomes increasingly frustrating to watch the characters as they spout their lines without much emotion and continuity. There's so much on the screen but everything just seems jarringly off. To his credit, Sun doeshave an eye for visuals; the production design is so rich and colourful, you are better off admiring the artistic touches instead of following the story.
This is an absolutely embarrassing gig for Andy Lau - just when you thought the charismatic idol finally has a chance to showcase his acting in productions liked A Simple Life and Detective Dee, Switch only makes him looks nothing more than a walking, fighting mannequin. Tong Dawei equally suffers as the tortured, psychotic villain with a laughingly bad white hairdo while Lin Chiling received the worst treatment of all, she ends up as a irritable moaning, seductive character.
Our palms turned sweaty when we watch Tom Cruise hanging off the skyscraper in Dubai; though we never really feel a thing for Agent Xiao when he fight off a few thugs and crashed his car in the grand Atlantis in Dubai as well. Sun tries to imitate even to a certain extent by engaging Hollywood stunt choreographer and 3D experts for this movie. Everything that worked in the Cruise vehicle fails in epic proportions for Switch however. It never picks up from the get-go and simply splutters all the way to the credits.
If you grew up watching Pretty in Pink (1986) and all those brat pack
era college movies, it's likely a sign of being over-saturated with the
by-products of Western acculturation. Truth be told, it's not often
that we think of what high school life must be like, for the Chinese,
and this film shows their many travails and hopes in the springtime of
In the vein of these coming-of-age college dramas, and portraying the excitements and tribulations of teenage romance in a much better way than the faux-hit that was the Taiwanese Cape No. 7 (2008), Zhao Wei makes her directorial debut with So Young.
More commonly known as the titular feisty, spunky princess of the popular Huan Zhu Ge Ge series, Zhao Wei has her character imprinted deep in this film. Originally approached by Xin Yiwu,the author ofTo Our Youth that is Fading Awayto play the lead role, Zhao Wei eventually turned down the acting role to direct the movie.
The first 30 minutes of So Young is a hilarious joyride as the camera moves through the seedy, hormone-charged hysteria of the Chinese college hallways. As the audience are given a taste of college dorm life in China through numerous campus shenanigans, we are introduced to the different characters, their relationships and dynamics. It's often the interesting and varied people we meet at school that stay on in our memories, and the fresh cast, made up of many first-time actors, brings tons of character into their different roles. The hot- tempered, boyish Xiao Bei (Liu Yase), demure Ruan Guan (Jiang Shuying), and bookish Chen Xiaozheng (Mark Chao) are but a few who make up the colorful cast. The film scores high in this aspect, evident from the heaps of delight and reactions from an ostensibly amused audience.
Yang Zishan, the actress who plays the lead character Zheng Wei, that uncannily sounds like "Zhao Wei," is the star of the movie with her thoroughly loveablespirited, cheeky, girl-next-door demeanour. Her loud, curt airs are uniquely paired with a vulnerable naïveté that steals the show in a moving climax of the film.
Partly-inspired by her experiences living in a Chinese college dorm, Zhao Wei portrays these spaces in the film as hothouses for academic excellence, but also the fertile, experimental grounds for teenage angst, passion and innocence. For the parts which could have potentially tipped into the realm of "cheesy," Zhao ingenuously turns them into slapstick laughs. She proves to be quite the savvy producer as well, adding in interesting bits such as the cameo of a popular mainland singer as a radio DJ with a late-night Aunt Agony talkshow, and a side story with a very cathartic payback scene involving Xiao Bei.
Many years later, with the shift into adulthood, most of the characters will lose the spunk of their youth. When once they wore their hearts on their sleeves, they have now matured, or rather, become jaded with the harsh realities of life and having to be responsible for themselves and others. Poignantly, one of the film's deeper themes revolve around this resignation, and the bitter realisation of what it means to live "successful" lives and the sacrifices it takes to achieve this lie. It is here that the warm, dreamy hues of young adolescence fade into a cold, sombre grey that characterises a subdued adulthood. It is a stark transition, manifest in the mise-en-scène, and critiqued by many for causing a sudden sag in pacing. Yet, this is where I think the film truly excels, in not only being able to spin the audience wild with its characters' carefree insouciance early on, but to also portray the heart-wrenching life-changing moments that they experience growing up.
To add to the free-spirited, whimsical tone of the film, ice queen Faye Wong lends her vocals to the theme song of the film, "To Youth."But be warned, however, watching So Young will have you strongly yearning for your youth.
You've probably heard of or seen one of the many adaptations of the
classic Thai ghost story "Mae Nak Phra Khanong" about a soldier who
returns home from war to his wife and baby not knowing that both are in
fact already dead. What then makes this version by co-writer/ director
Banjong Pisunthanakun so special for it to become no less than the
highest grossing movie ever in Thai cinema history?
Well for starters, it isn't a horror movie in the traditional sense of the genre. Whereas Nonzee Nimibutr's 1999 film "Nang Nak" stuck to the roots of the story, Pisunthanakun approaches the familiar folk tale with the same tongue-in-cheek attitude as his shorts in "4Bia" and "Phobia 2". Yes, it's a comedy-horror more than a straight-out horror, and the fact that we have labelled it a comedy first and a horror second should give you an idea which the film is more of.
Indeed, Pisunthanakun lets you know right from the start that he intends to entertain you, more than scare you. After a brief glance of the pregnant Nak (played by Thai-Belgian actress Davika Hoorne) doubling over in pain as blood trickles down her legs, the scene switches quickly to the inside of a tentage where a soldier is giving an impassioned speech to lament about the cost of war except that he seems to be speaking in Shakespearean English in an attempt to add gravitas.
Just as quickly, his buddy Puak (Pongsatorn Jongwilak), whose hair is styled like a pair of wings above his head, chastises him for speaking in an accentuated manner. As the camera pans around to reveal the rest of the people in the room, you know better than to take the entire scene seriously. Besides Puak, there is Ter (Nattapong Chartpong), Aye (Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk), and Shin (Wiwat Kongrasri), all of whom form the quartet who brought the laughs in Pisunthanakun's earlier "4Bia" and "Phobia 2" shorts.
And then there is Pee Mak (Mario Mauer), who is brought into the room screaming in pain but who has really merely sprained his ankle. One deliberately overdramatic battle scene later, Pee Mak and his buddies are headed back to the former's home village of Phra Khanong for him to be reunited with his family. There, entranced by Nak's beauty, Puak convinces the rest of them to accept Pee Mak's hospitality and stay in the empty house across the river from theirs.
Shin is the first to suspect something is amiss when the entire village avoids Pee Mak like the plague when he goes to the market the next morning. Only the lady owner of the liquor store gives some hint why Nak has been dead for some time and her spirit has been haunting the village since. Though the rest of his buddies dismiss his suspicions initially, Ter begins to realise that there might be some truth to Shin's accusations when he chances upon a body buried in the forest with Nak's wedding ring around its finger while taking a dump.
Pisunthanakun and his fellow screenwriters, Chantavit Dhanasevi and Nontra Kumwong, have great fun in the first half of the movie with Shin and Ter's attempts to convince Aye and Puak of Nak's ghostly nature and then with their combined efforts to let Pee Mak see the truth. In particular, their game of charades as well as their subsequent decision to kidnap Pee Mak when he and Nak are inside a "haunted house" at the village fair is utterly hilarious, qualifying as two of the most inspired comedic sequences we've seen this year.
Just as deftly, the second half of the movie further plays with audience expectations of just how dead or alive the rest of the characters are we all know Nak is probably a ghost, but what about Pee Mak or for that matter the rest of his friends? Equally memorable as the two aforementioned scenes is that of the six of them on a long-tail boat in the middle of the river, the urgency of keeping the boat afloat due to excess weight and determining just who among them is or are ghosts combining for a hysterical but also a hysterically funny time.
Though purists might object to the creative liberties that Pisunthanakun has taken with the tale, he returns to its touching core during the climax set inside a Buddhist temple. Yes, if it isn't yet apparent, the tale of Mae Nak is also meant to be a moving fable about undying love, and Pisunthanakun goes for a melodramatic but still heartfelt conclusion that reiterates the message at the heart of every retelling. Oh but of course, he does reject its tragic overtones, ending off with a postscript that is guaranteed to leave you with a big smile.
Such a revisionist take requires that his cast be absolutely clear about what each scene is meant to accomplish, no small feat considering how Pisunthanakun alternates from comedy to horror to romance within the very same scene. Thankfully, he has four actors with such great timing that you won't sense any jarring change in tone; instead, you'll probably be so enraptured by their seemingly effortless chemistry. Yes, Mauer and Hoorne might play the titular characters, but it is these four goofballs that make the proceedings such an unbridled delight.
There's little wonder, when watching 'Pee Mak', why the movie has surpassed even the most modest of expectations to become the top- grossing hit in its home country. Rather than yet another straight-up telling of the tale, this is a surprisingly lively and inspired interpretation that makes no apologies for being deliberately anachronistic and downright irreverent, with pop-culture references from David Blaine to Ang Lee to Spiderman and even 300. Like we said, this is not your run-of-the-mill Thai horror, but a laugh-out-loud crowdpleaser that is surely one of the most entertaining Thai movies we've seen in a long time.
First things first, despite its marketing, 'Will You Still Love Me
Tomorrow' isn't a rom-com. Sure, there are occasional laughs now and
then thanks to certain scenes that aim to inject a whimsical tone, but
these unfortunately stand out in a movie that otherwise plays as a
thoughtful family drama. And if you somehow missed the synopsis, be
warned - the drama arises from the gay reawakening of a middle-aged man
who has been married for nine years and has a six-year-old son.
We're not sure any Asian film has so boldly explored such a subject, which will undoubtedly cause some unease among more conservative members of the audience. But if you are willing to put aside your preconceptions, you'll find that writer/ director Arvin Chen's follow-up to his charming 'Au Revoir Taipei' is in fact a thoughtfully drawn study on repressed sexuality that could well be the very challenge facing some marriages today.
In what is probably one of his most nuanced performances to date, Ritchie Jen plays the gentle and mild-mannered optician Weichung struggling with his sexual identity. A chance meeting at his sister's engagement party with an openly gay friend from his past, the flamboyant photographer Stephen (Lawrence Ko), forces him to further question if he should embrace his homosexuality. That test comes in the form of a handsome male flight attendant Thomas (Wong Ka-Lok), whom he finds himself drawn to the moment the latter steps into his shop.
Meanwhile, Weichung's wife Feng (Mavis Fan) wants to have another child, but gets suspicious when he continuously brushes aside her advances in bed. There is also some subplot about a workplace crisis that is meant to make her character realise the possibility of starting over in love, but it comes off more convenient than compelling. What rings true though is her nagging sense of fear and insecurity as her once secure life is threatened by potential upheavals both at work and at home. In particular, her outburst when she confronts Weichung about his sexuality is particularly heartfelt - and even as we feel for Weichung who has had to hide his true nature in a society largely disapproving of it, we also empathise with Feng who has to bear the consequences of his deception.
Despite the potential heavy-handedness of the topic, Chen never quite lets it get overly dramatic or in fact melodramatic. Instead, he sustains a light breezy tone that fits in with the wave of new-age rom- coms that Taiwanese cinema has produced in recent years. Much as one would be tempted to bill this a coming-out film, it isn't; rather, Chen reflects on the inherent tensions within modern-day Asian societies, as evolving cultural attitudes towards homosexuality seem to be at odds with its traditional emphasis on marriage and children. This is portrayed both in Feng's set of overbearing parents who consistently pester her to have another child, and also in an otherwise unnecessary side plot that sees Weichung's sister Mandy (Kimi Hsia) re-examining her impending marriage to fiancé San-san (Stone).
Both Weichung and Mandy's troubles are drawn along the lines of romantic fulfilment, the latter's cold feet just before her wedding because of her uncertainty if a life of routine with the dependable but unromantic San-san is indeed what she wants. Neither as meaningful nor as consequential as Weichung's marriage woes, it serves largely two purposes - one, to provide a more mainstream and therefore more palatable romance in line with a conventional rom-com; and two to give more screen time to Stephen and his quartet of gay friends, who assist him in winning her hand back.
And thanks to a delightful performance by Lawrence Ko, you're not likely to object to the arguably weakly plotted romantic travails of San-san and Mandy, made more agreeable too by the endearing performances of Stone and Kimi Hsia, both of whom are making their feature film debuts here. But the movie belongs to Jen and Fan, both pop singers never thought to be serious actors till now. Jen is beautifully subdued in his portrayal of Weichung and in his scenes with Hong Kong actor Wong Ka-lok share an engaging chemistry that effortlessly convinces you of their mutual attraction. Nicely complementing Jen is Fan's exercise in restraint, nicely calibrated to convey her character's growing sense of anxiety.
Yes, the uniformly impressive performances are one reason why Chen's movie proves to be unexpectedly affecting. It is also best regarded as a movie of two halves - the first conforming more to the formula of a standard fluffy rom-com, and the second a touching family drama that works as an honest and refreshing look at sexual repression in a society whose norms and values are transitioning from a conservative past. Like we warned you at the start, this won't be comfortable viewing for some people, so make sure you get your expectations right before you step into this flawed but nonetheless inspired romantic dramedy.
It sure pays to know people in high places. That's the first thing that
came to our mind when we saw how this Charlie Young directed movie was
marketed. Besides the big names that are Aaron Kwok (Conspirators, Cold
War), Gwei Lun Mei (Girlfriend Boyfriend, Flying Swords of Dragon
Gate), Chang Chen (The Grandmaster, Red Cliff) and Xia Yu (Double
Trouble, The Painted Veil), Tsui Hark and Jacob Cheung's names are
slapped on in the most indiscreet way as producers. One should have
noticed by now how the cast members come from Hong Kong, Taiwanand
Mainland China to increase the ease of marketing the movie in all
three territories. This being Young's directorial debut, it won't hurt
to have such big names backing her up.
This courtroom drama has Gwei playing a handicapped girl who accuses Chang's renowned surgeon of sexual harassment. Enter Kwok's prosecutor and Xia's defence attorney for an emotionally charged showdown of what it takes to unveil the truth, and whether it really matters in this day and age where media messes fact, reality and justice up in the most unimaginable ways.
If Tsui and Cheung's involvement in this movie was to guide Young along the treacherous paths of filmmaking, they have done a fairly good job. The 90 minute production is well worth your time, considering how it left us pondering about how the world has morphed into a state where appearances matter more than true emotions, which were once held more dearly when things were simpler. Young's script had gotten substantial funding from the Asia Film Financing Forum, and while the plot could have helped with a little more melodrama, the fairly tight pacing of the storyline manages to keep viewers engaged.
The cast delivers noteworthy performances. While Kwok doesn't turn in any surprises with his portrayal of a emotionally tormented and torn man, he still manages to leave his fans impressed with how he has transformed into a credible actor in recent years. Gwei whispers a lot in this movie, and it proves how we are often conveniently bought by appearances. The award winning actress shows us again how volatile she is, with this character that may just be a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Chang's cool and almost menacing portrayal of a doctor under the media's spotlight is one of his best performances yet, and one cannot help but feel for the immense pressure his character is experiencing. Again, a Mainland Chinese actor effortlessly steals the show from his co stars. Xia's screen presence is undeniably strong, and his scenes with Kwok are memorably powerful.
There is little wham bam action in this drama, and most scenes take place in the courtroom where characters pit their wits against each other. One may diss this as yet another courtroom story with little new surprises to offer, but we'd like to think it serves as a stark reminder how truth isn't of utmost importance these days, as much as we often swear by it, making it a mantra we tell others we live by.
Really, how many franchises can claim to be at their best the sixth
time round? But that is exactly where the 'Fast and Furious' team are
at with this exercise in pure exhilaration. Just when we feared that it
might be difficult to top the jaw-dropping finale in 'Fast Five',
director Justin Lin proves that he has reserved his best one yet for
what has been announced as his final outing at the helm after four
Continuing what began as an invigorating transition from streetcar racing to heist film the last time round, resident scribe Chris Morgan ups the stakes by pitting our favourite anti-heroes against their most dangerous opponent yet. That man is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), an ex-SAS officer turned mercenary who leads a nefarious gang of criminals bent on stealing the components capable of assembling a lethal weapon to be used by terrorists. As Tyrese Gibson's designated comic relief character Roman describes, Shaw's guys are pretty much the evil twins of Toretto's team, hence the return of other familiar supporting characters like Han (Sung Kang), Tej (Chris "Ludicrous" Bridges) and Gisele (Gal Gadot).
Even as Morgan evolves the franchise, he understands that the character dynamics have been one of the highlights of each film, and this sequel to 'Fast Five' preserves and builds on the relationships that its predecessor established. Besides the budding romance between Han and Gisele (in our opinion, exotic and very nicely played) and the deepening of familial ties between O'Conner and Toretto's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) with the birth of their child, there is sensibly the return of Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), which through the last film, transformed from dogged adversary to unlikely ally.
It is Hobbs who reunites Toretto's team together to pursue Shaw - the strategic equivalent of "fighting fire with fire" - with no less than the promise of full pardon if they succeed. Amidst the crowded ensemble, Morgan picks up on a new angle set in motion from the concluding events of the last film. Once presumed dead, Toretto's former squeeze Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has turned up as one of Shaw's known associates, a good part of the quieter moments of the film spent rekindling the romance between the ex-lovers.
Of course, this isn't a movie with many such moments - except for the occasional expositions about family - so you can forgive the lack of character development for new supporting additions Riley (MMA fighter and 'Haywire' star Gina Carano) and Jah ('The Raid's' Joe Taslim); the former Hobbs' new partner and the latter Shaw's kungfu-kicking henchman. Instead, both Carano and Taslim are there to add a different flavour of adrenaline in the form of close-combat fight scenes, and let's just say that they each get their own sequence to show off their respective moves.
But aside from an impressive bit of tag-team ass-kicking from Toretto and Hobbs against one of Shaw's equally hulk-sized crew (Kim Kold), the bulk of the action is meant to unfold against broad open canvases, as opposed to close quarters. Lin neatly - and we might add, beautifully - choreographs three elaborate chase sequences with loads of automobile destruction that the franchise has been known for, even more extraordinary for how he manages to top one after the next.
In chronological order, Lin begins with a grand introduction to Shaw and his gang with an intricately staged chase down the streets of London - although the fact that Shaw's military-styled vehicle looks like the Batmobile from Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' trilogy might provide a hint where Lin could have gotten his inspiration. Yet any doubts about Lin's originality are quickly dispelled once we get to the second setpiece, a boldly imagined art of mass destruction matched equally in its stunning execution. As the trailer has amply teased, this one has Toretto and his crew behind the wheel in pursuit of Shaw and his men inside a tank on a Canaries highway.
The most breathtaking of all he leaves for last, which though utterly ludicrous, represents probably one of the most awesome stunt pieces you will see this year. Since no other film has dared to use cars to take down a Russian cargo plane about to take off, Lin does just that. Not only do Toretto's team face off with Shaw's mob in cars racing at near impossible speeds, they attach their vehicles to the wings of the plane with gleeful abandon to any thought of their own lives - though as a warning, not all will make it through to the already announced sequel next summer. If Lin intends to go out with a 'bang', let's just say he accomplishes it many times over.
The exquisitely staged vehicular mayhem is complemented by a firm sense of camaraderie amongst Toretto's group. Gibson's one-liners are snappy and more amusing than they were in 'Fast Five', and his banter with Kang and Ludicrous not only keep the film's momentum going while the plot pieces are put in place but also establish the kind of teamwork necessary for the subsequent action scenes. And not forgetting the brawny charisma of Diesel and Johnson, which enliven the film as much as they did in the last one.
If you ask us to judge this against then-franchise best 'Fast Five', we'd say that this more than tops the fun and excitement that it offered. There are two qualities which make or break a 'Fast and Furious' film - how enjoyable is it to hang out with Toretto and his crew and how thrilling are the car chases. On both counts, this sixth entry surpasses the heights established by its predecessor, setting an even higher bar for its successor. But if the coda before the end credits is anything to go by, there's plenty of reason to get excited for next summer's follow-up.
To the reviewers who have criticised Baz Luhrmann of being
disrespectful, or worse, sacrilegious to F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic
novel, we have this to say this is not your grandfather's 'Great
Gatsby'. Rather, this is through and through a Baz Luhrmann
interpretation of the novel, which by his previous works most
notably, William Shakespeare's 'Romeo + Juliet' and 'Moulin Rouge'
suggests that this will be a visually pompous post-modern pop-rock
makeover of high art. Now if that sounds disturbing to any of you
purists, then our warning to you is to steer clear of this.
For everyone else open to a less book-bound adaptation, we can reassure you that despite claiming the artistic freedom to interpret the material according to his sensibilities, Luhrmann remains very much in reverence for his source material. Together with his regular collaborator Craig Pearce, he has stuck close to the details of the story, lifting lines of dialogue from the novel's pages even if they come very close to sounding unwieldy. And perhaps most tellingly, he retains the outside-in perspective through a certain Nick Carraway's running first-person narration, which in the novel was a thin veil for Fitzgerald's own voice.
So as with the book, the story kicks off with Nick (Tobey Maguire) moving into a small house he rents next to the lavish mansion of the enigmatic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a millionaire known for the flamboyant parties he throws for the who's who of society. Before Nick makes Gatsby's acquaintance, we are introduced to other key players his distant cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), her husband and Nick's college buddy Tom (Joel Edgerton), and Daisy's good friend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki). At first, Gatsby remains but a mystery to Nick, but a surprise invitation he gets from Gatsby opens his mind to the wholly different world that goes on behind Gatsby's doors every weekend.
There, Luhrmann spares no expense in portraying every manner of Gatsby's extravagance, a kaleidoscopic circus as Nick describes of glitz and glitter set to an anachronistic musical score that includes the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lana Del Rey. With some able assistance from his producer/wife Catherine Martin's lush costume and production design, Luhrmann aims to wow his audience in the same way Nick would have been stepping into this entirely different world of gaudy excess, the endless movement and music photographed with the same sense of restlessness by cinematographer Simon Duggan's swopping and swirling camera movements.
There's no mistaking Luhrmann's indulgence in filming the big party scenes, nowhere more evident than in Gatsby's first full entrance almost a half-hour into the movie complete with a burst of fireworks in the sky and the climax of Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' on the soundtrack. And yet, contrary to the impression you might have gotten from many other reviews, Luhrmann doesn't simply embrace the very hedonism that Fitzgerald's book casts a critical eye to; instead, he uses that to add heft to both Gatsby and Nick's characters, or more specifically to explain how two individuals not from such a world of wealth and pomp would ultimately be deceived by its promise of gratification.
Like the book, that becomes plainly evident in the second half of the movie where Gatsby's true identity and motivations are laid bare in a tragic love story. Similar to Luhrmann's previous works, this is at its core a tale of impossible love; and more so than in the novel, Luhrmann romanticises the proceedings through painting Gatsby as the hopeless romantic who will meet his ruin because of his obsession for a love once lost and his false optimism of reliving an unforgettable past. It is a more sympathetic portrayal of Gatsby than in the novel, but also a more fully formed one that goes beyond mere artifice.
Indeed, Luhrmann's adaptation succeeds because he enhances the emotional core at Fitzgerald's story and makes it deeply heartfelt. That isn't limited to just Gatsby - you'll feel, more than you would reading the book, for the wide-eyed Nick who is powerless to stop a terrible chain of events he eventually feels responsible for as well as for the debutante Daisy who is too afraid to lose the kind of life she has grown up with to love in the way her heart calls her to. Fitzgerald's use of symbolism is also retained and enriched here, in particular the green beacon at the end of Tom and Daisy's dock that signifies how near and yet so far Gatsby is to his object of affection.
And really, who better to play such a Gatsby than DiCaprio, whose reteaming with Luhrmann 17 years after 'Romeo + Juliet' harks back to the kind of swoon-worthy roles the heartthrob was known for. DiCaprio makes what could easily have been a melodramatic love story credible and poignant, perfectly embodying his character's romantic idealism as well as his insecurities, his natural movie-star good looks lending Gatsby both charisma and magnetism. Next to DiCaprio, Mulligan is utterly bewitching, exuding the sort of sass and vulnerability that needs no further explanation why Gatsby, or any other man for that matter, would fall so hopelessly in love with.
You might also wish to take note that Luhrmann doesn't aim for historical accuracy in portraying New York in the Roaring Twenties, yet another one of the creative liberties he takes. Yet it's hard to fault the creative license he adopts, his treatment a curious but always refreshing mix of straight-up reverence and postmodern art. But there is ingenuity in his unorthodox method, and much as other reviews might try to convince you otherwise he doesn't lose the heart and soul of Fitzgerald's novel, so we urge you to keep an open mind and appreciate what we think is a visually bold and original vision of a contemporary American classic literature.
Raunch meets rom-com in the Korean crowdpleaser "My Phone Sex Partner",
which in other territories has been given a perhaps sexier English
title "Whatcha Wearin". Like its Hollywood brethren (that includes the
many Judd Apatow produced and/or directed movies), it doesn't so much
as tinker with the boy-meets-girl formula as add a layer of naughty
but like the best of its genre, there is something winning about the
actors, the characters and the situations the characters find
themselves in that ultimately makes the entire package delightfully
The couple at the heart of this romance is the recently dumped Hyun- seung (Ji Sung) and the attached-but-disenchanted Yun-jung (Kim Ah Joong). Their meet-cute happens over the telephone one evening, when Yun-jung misdials her boyfriend's number and unwittingly gets into an accidental phone sex session with Hyun-seung. Though, as convention dictates, Hyun-sueng and Yun-jung will start off antagonistic especially after the latter is left red-faced when she finds out her mistake it isn't long before they find themselves bonding through sharing in each other's romantic quandaries.
Is it any wonder where they will end up? Well not really, but what matters is the journey to that inevitable destination of happily-ever- after, one which director Byun Seung-hoo (who also co-wrote the script with Kim Min-soo) makes both funny and touching. Between Hyun-seung and Yun-jung, there is definitely something in their respective circumstances you will identify with whether the heartbroken Hyun- seung thinking back at how he could have treasured his ex-girlfriend more or the disillusioned Yun-jung who has been stuck in the same relationship for too long with a boyfriend that has grown too complacent.
And in the midst of their emotional doldrums, it is the sincerity and spark between the pair that is unmistakable, a union of kindred souls that proves disarmingly endearing. Most significantly, Seung-hoo isn't afraid to address the obvious physical attraction between his couple, manifested both in the way they openly share intimate information about each other over the phone at the start as well as their subsequent meet- ups. Rather than shy away from the topic of sex, he tackles it head-on, which gives a refreshing and realistic modern-day spin on urban relationships today.
But rom-coms are often only as good as the chemistry between the actors, and it is in this respect that the movie truly shines. Both are appealing in their own right Ji being a surprising combination of emotional and independent; while Kim exuding both sass and femininity in equal measure and the scenes with them together simply sparkle with verve. There is never a doubt that the two are great for each other, and that assurance not only makes you root for them more but also keeps you waiting with bated breath throughout an extended finale specifically designed to tease.
Yet to be fair, Seung-hoo's dexterity in applying a generic rom-com formula in a less than typical fashion extends beyond the finale. Particularly impressive is how he stitches together one of the first conversations between the pair that evolves seamlessly from an argument they have while Hyun-seung is drunk and despondent along a dark alley to a gentle and intimate exchange with both lying in their respective beds in particular, the cinematography in this sequence deserves special mention, brilliantly conveying the connection that develops between them. Whereas many rom-coms are good only in parts, this one has great parts that make a satisfyingly engaging whole.
And indeed, its achievement is perhaps even more significant as one of the first rom-coms of the Korean film industry to add raunch into the mix. Yet the naughty talk and bare flesh isn't simply a cheap titillating tactic, but a invigorating spin on a genre that could certainly do with more such breaths of fresh air. It's no wonder then that the movie has come out of nowhere to emerge one of the biggest box- office hits of Korea last year - now let's just hope the inevitable copycats don't ruin the raunch-com too soon.
Following in the footsteps of the Academy Award-winning 'The Artist',
'Populaire' pays loving tribute to the motion pictures from a bygone
era. Whereas it was the silent movies of the 1920s in the case of the
former, the latter sets its sights on the crowd-pleasing Hollywood
comedies of the 1950s and 60s, a fact clearly evident right from its
animated opening credits which look like something straight out of a
Billy Wilder movie.
Then, movies were much simpler and sweeter, and indeed one should similarly expect the same of 'Populaire'. A classic rom-com that pits the slightly naïve 21-year-old village girl Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) with her dapper city boss Louis (Romain Duris) to whom she is secretary to, it follows a pretty straightforward trajectory built around the world of competitive speed typing, so if you're looking for any surprises in the storytelling, then you're likely to be disappointed.
But what it lacks in novelty, it certainly makes for up in dollops of charm, so much so that we're willing to guarantee that you'll find much truth in its hyperbolic marketing tagline that proclaims it "the most enchanting romantic comedy since Amelie". There is something magical about the fit between actor and character here, a truly entrancing quality about how Francois plays Rose sweet, shy and klutzy and how Duris cuts a suave, dashing and debonair figure in Louis.
Just as, if not more, importantly, is how Rose and Louis make an exceedingly appealing couple, be it in their prickly initial encounters or their subsequent intimate engagements. Francois and Duris share zingy chemistry in their scenes together, the lively manner in which they trade barbs and words of affection bound to keep a smile on your face. Their spirited repartee is also thanks to a witty and engaging script, which pays close and sharp attention to the evolving dynamic between its characters.
Just as well-observed is the sport of competitive speed-typing, which plays a central role in the evolving relationship between Rose and Louis. Rather than give up on the otherwise dreamy and absent-minded Rose, Louis recognises her single uncanny gift of typing very quickly, prompting him to propose an unusual arrangement in which he trains her for competitions in exchange for keeping her job as his secretary. Needless to say, she improves swiftly under his tutelage, progressing from regionals to nationals and finally to internationals, the title of the film a reference to her newfound popularity as well as the name of the typewriter she does a celebrity endorsement for.
We know you're thinking how a bunch of mostly middle-aged women in thick-rimmed glasses hammering away at ancient typewriters can be anything exciting. Well, that's where you are absolutely wrong. There is pure thrill to be had in each one of these competitions, the combined effect of whirling dolly shots and some sharp editing combining to inject much excitement into the repetition of pounding keystrokes and slamming carriages. Never for once failing to amaze with the intensity and concentration required of participants in such competitions, it suitably jazzes up what one would assume a sedate activity, let alone a sport.
The staging of these contests is but one illustration of how impressive the mise-en-scene of the movie, which is even more amazing for the fact that this is also director Regis Roinsard's feature filmmaking debut. Roinsard, who also co-wrote the script with Daniel Presley and Romain Compingt, combines detailed set and costume design by Sylvie Olive and Charlotte David with a classy score by Rob and Emmanuel d'Orlando and classic French oldies from the likes of Jacqueline Boyer, Jack Ary and Les Chausettes Noires, the effect of all these various elements making for a remarkably rich and authentic period portrait.
Especially as modern-day films revel in greater shades of grey, it is refreshing to see a movie whose pleasures are so elemental and yet deeply enjoyable. "Populaire" harks back to the days of the Doris Day rom-coms even as it also pays homage to other classic films of the same era, most notably Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" offering a delightfully buoyant time brimming with wit, humour and passion. Excuse the pun if you're looking for a movie to lift your spirits, this one strikes all the right keys.
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