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caseymoviemania

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118 reviews in total 
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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013), 8 January 2014
7/10

This profanity-filled family melodrama may have been stretched into overkill, but the powerhouse acting ensemble and some worthwhile moments are irresistible enough to watch for.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Based on the successful 2007 Broadway play by Tracy Letts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY begins with Weston patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard) hires a Native American housekeeper named Johanna (Misty Upham) just before he goes missing. Following the incident, eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) heads back home along with her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their rebellious 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) to look after her cancer-stricken mother Violet (Meryl Streep). Arriving home as well is middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and brother-in-law, Charlie (Chris Cooper), youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) and her handsome beau Steve (Dermot Mulroney), and finally, Charlie's quiet son, Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). Then something happens: Beverly is found dead of an apparent suicide. Soon the Weston clan begins to reveal long-buried family secrets that goes nowhere but downhill.

THE GOOD STUFF

John Wells' direction is fairly efficient, while Tracy Letts' own adapted screenplay is reasonably sharp with snappy dialogue all around. No doubt he knows how to play around with words.

Acting-wise, this is where the movie shines the most: Meryl Streep, as usual, gives an excellent performance as Violet. The way she acts all angry and crazy due to her excessive medication is riveting to watch for. Speaking of riveting, Julia Roberts gives one of her finest dramatic performances since ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) and CLOSER (2004). Here, she is simply electric and even more so when she engages in verbal abuses against Meryl Streep during some of the movie's key moments. The rest of the cast is equally captivating, with special mention goes to Julianne Nicholson's breakthrough performance as the quietly affecting Ivy.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The heated family dinner scene which ends up Barbara loses her temper and strangles her mother, Violet. The other memorable scene is of course, the "eat your fish" moment between Barbara, Violet and Ivy. Here's that particular clip below for your "enjoyment":

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE(S)

Barbara: I'm running things now!

Barbara: Eat your fish, b***h.

THE BAD STUFF

Some of the scenes are unnecessarily over-the-top, at which a little restraint would have been appreciated.

FINAL WORDS

It's far from great, but if there's one movie you love to see top-notch actors insulting and screaming against each other, you can't go wrong with AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.

http://www.caseymoviemania.blogspot.com

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: American HUSTLE (2013), 2 January 2014
7/10

The acting ensemble is a joy to watch for, with a few lively sparks here and there in this entertaining but uneven crime drama.

In just a year after writer-director David O. Russell hits jackpot with his winning quirky comedy SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, he's back with the highly-anticipated American HUSTLE -- a movie which has already receiving tons of accolades from many critics and even hailed as one of the Oscar frontrunners come next year.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Loosely inspired from the FBI ABSCAM operation in the late '70s/early '80s (hence the opening title card that reads "Some of this actually happened"), American HUSTLE first introduces Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a potbellied owner of New Jersey dry-cleaning stores who is also a slick con man. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party where they instantly falls for each other and ends up working together to con people's money with their elaborate scheme. They become so famous that one day they get caught red-handed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Instead of putting Irving and Sydney to jail, Richie uses them to help him capture the New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) as well as other corrupted congressmen and mobsters for bribery.

THE GOOD STUFF

I'm particular loved the way how David O. Russell incorporated various storytelling techniques such as flashbacks and voice-over narrations to introduce his four major characters -- Christian Bale's Irving Rosenfeld, Amy Adams' Sydney Prosser, Bradley Cooper's Richie DiMaso and Jeremy Renner's Carmine Polito -- in a lively Martin Scorsese-like filmmaking style. Technical-wise, American HUSTLE -- from Linus Sandgren's fluid camera-work, excellent song choices (e.g. America's A Horse with No Name and Wings' Live and Let Die), and right down to the meticulous re-creation of the 1970s location settings, hairstyles and flamboyant wardrobes -- is top notch.

But it was the actors that shines here the most. Christian Bale, who previously collaborated with David O. Russell in 2010's THE FIGHTER (which won him his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), looks almost unrecognizable behind his sunglasses, large belly and combover. It's refreshing to watch Bale in a laidback and warm performance that doesn't requires him to brood all the time like most of his usual roles in many other movies. Amy Adams is captivating who cleverly alternates her dual personalities -- one is Sydney, and another one is a British character named Lady Edith Greensly -- in such graceful manner. Bradley Cooper is energetic as FBI agent Richie DiMaso, while Jeremy Renner delivers a likable performance as the New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito. Finally, the biggest scene stealer here is Jennifer Lawrence, who excels in her mesmerizing and showy performance as Irving's estranged wife, Rosalyn.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The hilarious scene where Rosalyn quarrels with Irving over a broken microwave, and the tense moment where Rosalyn and Sydney comes face to face together.

THE BAD STUFF

As a crime drama about deception and duplicity, it's kind of odd that David O. Russell and his screenwriter Eric Warren Singer doesn't deliver much in the subject matter, especially when everything is stripped down in mostly all-too-lightweight manner. The story feels lackluster while the movie takes time to find its proper footing after the wobbly first hour (apart from its lively opening scene).

FINAL WORDS

While American HUSTLE is hardly a great movie that I hoped for (which is definitely not in the same league with David O. Russell's previous two efforts, THE FIGHTER and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), it remains a worthwhile entertainment best seen for its colorful cast.

Ilo Ilo (2013)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: ILO ILO (2013), 2 January 2014
10/10

Poignant, funny and heartbreaking, Anthony Chen's feature debut in ILO ILO is a true gem of a Singaporean drama.

Winners of this year's Camera d'Or award (an award for best first feature film) at the prestigious 2013 Cannes Film Festival as well as the recent Taiwan's Golden Horse Award (which nabbed four awards including Best Film and Best New Director), this low-budget Singaporean drama ILO ILO is truly a remarkable feat for a first-time feature director Anthony Chen.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, ILO ILO revolves around 10-year-old Singaporean boy, Jiale (Koh Jia Ler) and the newly-hired Filipino maid, Terry (Angeli Bavani) who at first doesn't see eye-to-eye against each other. But their relationship gradually improves when the resilient Terry manages to earn affection and respect from the hardheaded Jiale. Meanwhile, Jiale's parent -- pregnant mother Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann) and recently jobless father Teck (Chen Tianwen) -- are struggling to deal with their own family and financial matter.

THE GOOD STUFF

Prior to ILO ILO, Anthony Chen has already crafted his name in the world of short films with critically acclaimed efforts such as AH MA and HAZE. In ILO ILO, Chen proves to be a gifted filmmaker who knows well how to tell a great story. In fact, he actually inspired the movie from his own personal experience when he grew up in 1990s Singapore with a Filipino maid and a family suffering from financial woes. Chen's direction is meticulous to details where everything here is presented in a uniquely Singaporean manner. Among some of the themes that everyone (at least for Singaporeans) can relate to, is the kiasu (literally means "fear of losing") attitude of a typical middle-class Singaporean family when dealing their domestic or personal problems, as well as Chen's hilarious perspective on how people usually react when comes to buying lottery numbers. Production values are suitably top notch, especially for Benoit Soler's down-to-earth cinematography which perfectly evokes the sense of time and place of the 1997 Singapore.

The cast here are just as noteworthy, with newcomer Koh Jia Ler impresses a lot as the troublemaker Jiale. Despite this is only his first acting debut, Koh Jia Ler proves to be a gifted actor who definitely has bright future ahead. Angeli Bayani is tour de force as the Filipino maid Terry, while her chemistry with Jia Ler is genuinely heartfelt. Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann (who recently won Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Horse Award) is pitch-perfect as a typical Singaporean working-class woman, while Singaporean theater and TV veteran Chen Tianwen shows amazing range of top-class acting in his first big screen debut as the family's breadwinner who faces uncertainty in life after losing his job.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

There are plenty that I wanted to include here, but among them are the funny scene where Jiale tries to escape punishment from his discipline teacher by offering him a lottery tip and of course, the bittersweet finale between Jiale and Terry.

THE BAD STUFF

None available.

FINAL WORDS

No doubt ILO ILO is well deserved for all the accolades it has received thus far. This is certainly one of the must-watch movies of the year.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT (2013), 2 January 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Blessed with solid cast and top-notch special effects, AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT is gripping if clichéd firefighter drama.

Last year, the Pang brothers attempted to resurrect the long-forgotten genre about firefighters with their big-budget 3D blockbuster, INFERNO (read my review here). The result wasn't as spectacular as I hoped for, even though that movie had its moments. This year, it was director Derek Kwok's turn for another big-budget firefighter drama entitled AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT. The good news is, AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT is far more accomplished effort than the underwhelming INFERNO.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT takes place on a single night during Christmas Eve when a team of Hong Kong's Lung Kwu Tan station-based firefighters -- team chief Sam (Nicholas Tse), Chill (Shawn Yue), Tao (Simon Yam), Ocean (Hu Jun) and among others -- are called upon to stop a fire at a winery in Menford Street. Everything seems to be under control at first, until the fire starts spreading again from the winery to a nearby power plant at Pillar Point which gradually causes the entire Hong Kong island into total blackout.

THE GOOD STUFF

From the award-winning martial arts drama GALLANTS (2010) to his recent Chinese New Year's big-budget fantasy blockbuster JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS (where he co-directed with Stephen Chow), director Derek Kwok has proved his worth as a versatile filmmaker who can switches different genre with equal success. Here, Kwok's direction is taut and engaging. Special effects are first-rate where fire and smoke looks more lively and visually spectacular than the overly CG-looking effects in INFERNO.

As for the plot, though filled with clichés, manages to blend reasonably well with solid characters-driven drama and overall excellent acting ensemble. Speaking of acting, both Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue, who previously collaborated together in Wilson Yip's DRAGON TIGER GATE and Benny Chan's INVISIBLE TARGET, deliver powerhouse performances as usual. Supporting actors including Simon Yam and Hu Jun, and even smaller roles from Andy On to Liu Kai-Chi, are equally worthwhile.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The stunning "flour explosion" sequence at the end of the movie.

THE BAD STUFF

Some of the action sequences tend to be difficult to follow because of Jason Kwan's wobbly camera-work. The female cast, including Bai Bing and Michelle Wai, are sadly underutilized here.

FINAL WORDS

While the movie isn't as refined as Johnnie To's seminal (and still the best) Hong Kong firefighter drama LIFELINE, AS THE LIGHT GOES OUT remains a highly entertaining blockbuster. It definitely does the Hong Kong cinema proud by ushering a positive beginning in the brand new year of 2014. On the side note, do watch out for a certain cameo appearance somewhere earlier in the movie.

Casey's Movie Mania: THE HANGOVER PART III (2013), 28 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A few chuckles here and there, but THE HANGOVER PART III is mostly stale and unfunny "comedy" that feels like a bad leftover.

For the record, I always thought that the first HANGOVER was overrated. And then came the inferior sequel, THE HANGOVER PART II, which was basically more of the same formula. But at least, those two HANGOVER movies have its fair share of outrageous fun and entertaining cast. Finally, here's the so-called "epic finale to the HANGOVER trilogy" which is -- surprise! surprise! -- neither particularly outrageous or fun. Instead, THE HANGOVER PART III feels strangely subdued at which returning director Todd Phillips takes different path this time around. How different, you say? Phillips is daring enough to ditch its very premise that originally shaped the success of the first two HANGOVER movies -- the concept of hangover itself. What's left here is nothing more than an uninspired B-grade action caper.

At the very least, the three principal cast -- Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and especially Zach Galifianakis -- remain reasonably entertaining to root at, even though they are no longer as fun as they used to be in the first two HANGOVER movies. In one of the subplots, the brief scene between Galifianakis and Melissa McCarthy (who plays a pawn shop owner) has a surprisingly tender moment rarely seen in the HANGOVER movie before.

Todd Phillips' direction is lazy and lackluster, while his script co-written with Craig Mazin, is mostly witless and dreary at best. Even most of the profanity-filled humor feels uninspired and repetitive. That supposedly crude joke about a pet giraffe gets accidentally decapitated at the highway? Well, I have tough time trying to laugh at that either. Then there's Ken Jeong, who becomes the main focus of a HANGOVER movie for the first time. It's not that he is unfunny, but his character somehow works fine when he is just a minor role in the first two HANGOVER movies. However, the expansion of his character feels significantly annoying this time around.

Frankly, I'm glad that THE HANGOVER series is finally over with THE HANGOVER PART III. It looks obvious that this third and final installment was made for the sake of attempting to cash-in the brand popularity rather than coming up a worthwhile entry at all. This one is strictly for die-hard fans.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: FAST & FURIOUS 6 (2013), 24 May 2013
8/10

While it doesn't quite reaches the dizzying height of FAST FIVE in term of action sequences, FAST & FURIOUS 6 is surprisingly more fun and more entertaining than the previous five movies have come before.

Just how far one can go with a franchise like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS that originally centered on illegal street racing? In 2011, director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan are smart enough to revitalize the series in FAST FIVE by tweaking the formula with a heist-movie undertone. Now, in this sixth installment, Lin and his company has upped their ante by turning FAST & FURIOUS 6 into a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-like international intrigue filled with vehicular mayhem. It's hugely ridiculous, alright but FAST & FURIOUS 6 has no doubt exceeded my expectation for being the best movie in the series I've ever seen so far.

Chris Morgan's script has considerably improved this time around. All the returning cast shows more colors and winning chemistry and the jokes are funnier (especially involving Tyrese Gibson and Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges). While Justin Lin can't really matches the height of FAST FIVE's action scenes, they still delivers nonetheless with each set-pieces are outrageously silly but hugely entertaining than the last.

Better or improved as it may be, there are still rough patches within Chris Morgan's sometimes long-winded script -- particularly involving the convoluted revelation of Letty's back-from-the-death scenario. At times, Justin Lin tends to get overwhelmed with his hyper-kinetic direction. Some of the action scenes -- particularly hand-to-hand combat -- are mostly shot in rapid zooms and tight angles. Even the first two chase sequences during the night are sometimes hard to decipher what is really happening.

Despite some of its flaws, FAST & FURIOUS 6 remains a solid action-movie blockbuster that both fans and action fans will find this a true crowd-pleaser. Likewise, don't leave the cinema yet once the credits roll. There is a mid-credit teaser that ties back the event of 2006's THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT and a revelation of a certain iconic actor who will be appeared in next July's FAST & FURIOUS 7 (which will be directed by SAW helmer James Wan).

5 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013), 11 May 2013
10/10

Brimming with enough excitement, wit and engaging character-driven drama, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a summer-movie masterpiece and one of the best sequels ever made in recent years.

J.J Abrams' 2009 reboot had certainly gave a much-needed boost to a brand new STAR TREK franchise. Even though that movie was flawed, it had its genuine moments. But now J.J. Abrams and his returning crew have outdone themselves with a much-improved sequel of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS.

Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof's screenplay with the recurring theme of friendship, responsibility and unity is as vibrant as ever. Its well-paced structure is a breathlessly cinematic experience from start till finish. Characters development are ace and all the returning cast are pitch-perfect, especially the striking friendship between Chris Pine's Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock. Up-and-coming Benedict Cumberbatch gives one of the most memorable screen villains in recent memory as the mysterious John Harrison. He's certainly a great actor to look out for in the future, with his hypnotic screen presence and terrific speech pattern that reminds me of the great Alan Rickman (best known for his Snape role in HARRY POTTER series and as Hans Gruber in DIE HARD). Action sequences are significantly improved from the first movie as they are more coherent and genuinely entertaining. J.J. Abrams' direction is meticulous as he makes every frame counts.

http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com

Vehicle 19 (2013)
31 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: VEHICLE 19 (2013), 7 May 2013
5/10

A low budget indie thriller with an interesting concept, but VEHICLE 19 suffers from sluggish pace and short of adrenaline rush. The first thing that attracted me to watch this low-budget indie thriller called VEHICLE 19 is its irresistible concept -- the movie is shot entirely from inside the car. Now that's what I called a great novelty. However, South African director Mukunda Michael Dewil fails to capitalize his own concept. Instead of a fast-paced thriller normally expected from this kind of movie, VEHICLE 19 sputters as it moves along. Somewhere in between, director Mukunda Michael Dewil manages to stage some claustrophobic moments and worthy action scenes within the confined space of a car (and limited budget). Paul Walker is fairly adequate to put on a (mostly) one-man show as a brooding and manic anti-hero. It's a shame that Mukunda Michael Dewil's script is lackluster. More than often, the movie loses its momentum whenever it tries to elaborate the storyline. The pace is patchy, while the movie's overly-stylized look is too distracting for its own good. Overall, VEHICLE 19 only works in certain angles. The rest of them are as rusty as a beat-up engine.

Iron Man 3 (2013)
14 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: IRON MAN 3 (2013), 27 April 2013
5/10

Less of a superhero movie than a Tony Stark show in an action comedy mode, IRON MAN 3 is energetic but suffers from unnecessarily bloated screenplay while the comedy element borderlines into near parody.

After the record-shattering (box office, that is) of THE AVENGERS last summer, I'm sure a lot of fans are eager to see how Marvel is going to move on with their Phase Two project -- starting with the highly-anticipated IRON MAN 3. The good news is, IRON MAN 3 is a minor improvement over the tepid IRON MAN 2 (2010). Unfortunately, just about everything in IRON MAN 3 is an overkill -- the plot is heavy-handed and the humor is too broad while the superhero element is surprisingly a bit too grounded for its own good (you know it when you see it).

Director Shane Black (who replaced Jon Favreau from the first two IRON MAN movies) does a credible job handling his first big-budget Hollywood movie. He knows how to stage a few exciting action sequences as well as delivering his trademark of witty one-liners. You can say IRON MAN 3 is the funniest of all three movies and this is especially made possible by the ever-charismatic Robert Downey Jr. As the ego-centric and now-anxious Tony Stark, Downey Jr. is often funny yet engaging enough to root for his character. I must say this is the best incarnation of Tony Stark I've ever seen so far. One surprising element that I never thought possible is how Black delivers a great buddy chemistry between Tony Stark and Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). They immediately reminded me of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the LETHAL WEAPON series (where Black used to write the first two installments). That's not all, Downey Jr. also has a brief but memorable buddy moment with the talented Ty Simpkins who plays Harley during the Tennessee scene.

It seems to me that Shane Black is more interested to feature more Tony Stark in person than the Iron Man itself. On the surface, it's a bold reinterpretation from the usual IRON MAN movie but I'm sure a lot of fans and moviegoers alike are expecting an IRON MAN movie, not a Tony Stark movie. Then there's the radical change of the bloated plot written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black himself. Apart from trying too hard to cram a lot of subgenre into a 130-minute length, I was particularly shocked to find the surprise twist halfway through. Let's just say it's a total cop-out the way how they treated a certain character in this movie. As for the two featured villains, Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin and Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian are sadly unmemorable. Even the post-credits scene this time around, let's just say, doesn't get you excited all over the place.

Overall, IRON MAN 3 is a middling effort and it's quite sad to see Shane Black fails to capitalize the full potential of a superhero genre.

http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/2013/04/iron-man-3-2013.html

49 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: THE GRANDMASTER (2013), 21 April 2013
5/10

Wong Kar-Wai's 10 years-in-the-making of the so-called Ip Man biopic is exquisitely photographed and blessed with some dazzling fight choreography, but THE GRANDMASTER is mostly a scattershot mess of unfocused direction.

When director Wong Kar-Wai first announced the project way back in 2002, I bet a lot of die-hard fans are eager to see how the critically-acclaimed art-house director is going to do a big-screen treatment of the legendary Ip Man. Fast forward to 2013 (after a string of delays and whatnot), THE GRANDMASTER has came and gone with mostly favorable reviews and successful box office runs. However, after finally watching it, I must say that THE GRANDMASTER turns out to be an overrated effort after all.

Likewise, Wong Kar-Wai is always meticulous when comes to distinctive visual flair. Philippe Le Sourd and Song Xiaofei's sumptuous cinematography is nice to look at, while beautifully framed Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography with such balletic mix of slow motion and various camera speeds. The rest of the technical credits are equally ace -- ranging from its elaborate production design to its detailed costume design. On the plus side, the first half is particularly engaging. As for the cast, Zhang Ziyi excels the most as the hotheaded, yet emotionally frustrating Gong Er.

The second half is hastily stitched together, while burdened by terribly inconsistent pace. It's understandable that Wong Kar-Wai's movie is always fragmented but this time, THE GRANDMASTER is way uneven yet unfocused. Another biggest problem here is the sudden change of focus from narrating Ip Man story to Gong Er story. If that's not insulting enough, the introduction of Chang Chen's The Razor character feels vague and needless altogether. Apart from Zhang Ziyi's exceptional performance, it's rather surprising to see the usually-reliable Tony Leung Chiu-Wai doesn't impress much as Ip Man. Although he is charismatic enough, he fails to expand his Ip Man character with a satisfying emotional center other than looking cool or broods a lot. Popular Korean actress Song Hye-Kyo is sadly neglected in a thankless role (thanks to Wong Kar-Wai for cutting off most of her scenes in the editing room) as Ip Man's wife, Zhang Yongcheng.

It's quite sad to see what could have been another classic Wong Kar-Wai movie-in-the-making turns out to be a disappointment. Strictly for die-hard fans.

http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-grandmaster-2013.html


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