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caseymoviemania

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119 reviews in total 
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57 out of 98 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

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: GANGSTER SQUAD (2013), 21 April 2013
4/10

GANGSTER SQUAD has the hallmark of a classic 1940s period gangster drama, but the movie is nothing more than a hollow genre exercise.

The next Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)? Well, it seems that ZOMBIELAND director Ruben Fleischer is trying to ape that modern gangster classic. From the outlook, GANGSTER SQUAD looks promising enough. It boosts with a fine cast (e.g. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn), slick art direction and costume design, and plenty of exciting gunfights. However, the movie is strangely uninvolving and everything in GANGSTER SQUAD is just a glossy surface with no depth.

http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/2013/04/gangster-squad-2013.html

Evil Dead (2013)
2 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: EVIL DEAD (2013), 21 April 2013
7/10

A horror fan's wet dream in term of its graphic violence and excessive gore display, but EVIL DEAD suffers from weak script and mostly forgettable characters.

Okay, if you ask any die-hard horror fans out there, you can bet your answer that the 1983's THE EVIL DEAD was one of the holy grail of all horror genres ever made. So naturally, when the filmmakers first announced the remake was greenlit, (everybody) are skeptical about the result. But before you cried blasphemy, Fede Alvarez's EVIL DEAD remake is surprisingly effective horror movie that will pleased (most) of the original fans as well as newcomers.

First-time feature director Fede Alvarez knows well that a great horror movie doesn't rely on extensive CGI when comes to gore and violence. So what you get here instead is a great deal of practical special and make-up effects that guarantees to make you twitchy or shocked in either ways. Nevertheless all the technical credits are top-notch. As a lead character Mia, Jane Levy delivers an engaging performance worthy of mention here.

Despite its added "Mia-has-to-overcome-her-heroin habit" angle, it's a shame that the plot doesn't scratch beyond its surface once the real horror kicks in. Apart from Mia, the rest of the supporting actors are mostly caricatures while Alvarez's choice to play his remake all dead serious rather than the uniquely campy tone set originally by Sam Raimi, is sometimes too depressing for its own good.

The new EVIL DEAD may not have lived up to Sam Raimi's iconic original as well as his 1987 sequel, but at least this is one of the rare horror remakes that doesn't feel like an overrated, cheap knockoff.

http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/2013/04/evil-dead-2013.html

Drug War (2012)
13 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: DRUG WAR (2013), 20 April 2013
9/10

A solid, if a tad overlong procedural crime drama anchored by two engaging performances (Sun Honglei, Louis Koo) and masterfully-crafted gunfight scenes.

Die-hard fans of Johnnie To's movie who are skeptical of the acclaimed Hong Kong director making his first crime thriller targeted specifically for the Mainland market will be suffered from strict China censorship, can breathe a sigh of relief because DRUG WAR plays like a solid Milkyway production. What's more, it's an engaging Mainland crime thriller that is bold enough to break many taboos -- namely drug abuse and portrayal of graphic violence.

Even though DRUG WAR moves in a deliberate pace, its intricate plot to see the way both sides of the Mainland police and the drug dealers going through their working procedures, is often thrilling to watch for -- particularly where Sun Honglei's Captain Zhang goes as far as adopting different personalities (among them is being HaHa) during his elaborate undercover operation.

Likewise, the cast is top-notch. Mainland actor Sun Honglei steals the show as the relentless Captain Zhang. Not to forget also is Louis Koo, who is perfectly typecast as the nervous but sneaky Timmy Choi. The rest of the Mainland supporting actors are equally credible, and so does To's Hong Kong regular team members (among them are Lam Suet, Gordon Lam, Michelle Ye, and Eddie Cheung).

Two well-staged, yet memorable action scenes are worthy of mentions here. The first one is a brief, but intense shootout sequence between the police squad and two deaf-and-dumb brothers (Guo Tao, Li Jing) in a drug factory. The other one is the brutal open-space gunfight sequence outside the primary school and the highway.

Full review at http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/2013/04/drug-war-2013.html

Long min (1992)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: CAGEMAN (1992), 24 February 2013
9/10

Winner of 4 Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, Jacob Cheung's CAGEMAN was famously toppled over heavy favorites like Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II and Stanley Kwan's CENTER STAGE back then. After finally watching this movie for the first time, it's easy to see why -- CAGEMAN is one of those rare social dramas that depicts the harsh reality of poor Hong Kong residents living in caged apartment.

Set (almost) entirely at the Wah Ha Men hostel, the movie centers around a bunch of varied residents going through their mundane routines day and night. The hostel is manned by Fatso (Roy Chiao), who has a mentally-challenged son Prince Sam (Liu Kai-Chi) to look after for. Other residents are including Tong (Teddy Robin), an outspoken seller of fraudulent medicines who likes to gamble and smokes a lot; 7-11 (Michael Lee), the oldest resident who never leave his cage and he made his money by selling canned goods from his cage; Sissy (Victor Wong) is 7-11's loyal friend and worker who lives below him; Luk Tung (Ku Feng) is a handyman who often helps to fix broken things; and Taoist (Lau Shun) is a former teacher who likes to talk a lot about philosophy of life. Despite their poor lifestyle living in cramped cages, they treat each other well like a big family.

When the landlord decides to sell off the entire building, they are thrown into turmoil but they vow to fight back and refuse to leave at all cost. Soon, Fatso seeks Councillor Chow (Chow Chung) to help out their situation. Chow agrees to support them and fight for their rights at all cost. He uses his great influence to attract media attention by volunteering to stay three days at the Wah Ha Men hostel so he can understand more of these cage dwellers. At first, it looks as if there's high hope for the residents but little they do realize that Councillor Chow is actually manipulated them for his personal gain. In the meantime, there's a new resident named Mao (Wong Ka-Kui), a youngster who just released from prison and vows to stay away from triad society.

Jacob Cheung's direction is perfectly low-key while his social commentary on these cage dwellers as well as his view on hypocritical Hong Kong government are riveting to watch for. The script, written by Jacob Cheung, Ng Chong-Chow, Yank Wong and Chin Yiu-Hang, are absorbing and insightful. Not to mention, the movie is also blessed with some heartwarming moments including the one involving Fatso and Prince Sam enjoying their night together drinking a small bottle of wine and another scene involving the residents celebrating happily during the night of Mid-Autumn Festival (which is perfectly captured in a long tracking shot). Then there's the downbeat ending depicting the fate of cage dwellers, which I must say, truly heartbreaking.

All the actors here are great with some of the terrific acting ensembles ever put in a Hong Kong movie. Roy Chiao is remarkable as Fatso, while it's rare to see a popular comedian like Teddy Robin plays a different type of character that requires him to swear a lot. Liu Kai-Chi, who won Best Supporting Actor, is endearing as the mentally-challenged Prince Sam (the scene where he "scares" the wine before drinking is particularly amusing). The rest of them are just as memorable. But the most surprising of all is Wong Ka-Kui (well-known as the lead singer of a rock band, Beyond) in his tour de force performance as the young and reckless Mao. It's a great performance nonetheless but it's such a tragedy that he died in a freak accident while filming a game show for Fuji Television in Japan a year later.

While CAGEMAN may have been a great movie, it's still not without its fair share of flaws. Clocking at over two-hour long, the movie does feels a bit labored with some uneven pace. Eugene Pao and Lee Chi-Ngai's music score is sometimes distracting and awkwardly out of place (you'll know when you hear it).

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: SCHOOL ON FIRE (1988), 24 February 2013
10/10

During the late 1980s, Hong Kong director Ringo Lam was on top of the world with two of his "On Fire" trilogy: PRISON ON FIRE and CITY ON FIRE (both released in 1987). But his third and final "On Fire" trilogy, SCHOOL ON FIRE was greeted with muted response back in 1988. It was such a miserable flop that it only ran a one-week theatrical run and quickly fizzled out at the Hong Kong box office. However, I must say this hugely underrated SCHOOL ON FIRE is surprisingly ranked as Ringo Lam's finest cinematic masterpiece ever made. Never before I've seen a Hong Kong's high-school melodrama so engrossing, yet so remarkably intense that you can almost feel the heat ignited throughout the movie.

When high-school student Chu Yuen-Fong (Fennie Yuen) witnesses a triad beating in the busy street that claimed the life of an unfortunate male student, she faces a lot of pressures from the cops, Hoi (Lam Ching-Ying) and Chuen Ngor (Tommy Wong), his teacher Mr. Wan (Damian Lau) and especially a notorious triad boss Brother Smart (Roy Cheung) who particularly threatens her not to report the incident or suffers terrible consequence. However, Fong ends up testifying anyway which prompted Brother Smart to terrorize her into paying a HK$30,000 legal fee -- which is actually a protection fee. Her best friend Sandy (Sarah Lee) offers help by giving her some money and even hook her up with Brother Scar (Terrence Fok), who falls in love with her immediately for the first time. Unfortunately, tension starts to escalate from bad to worse where everything eventually turns into a full-blown nightmare.

While I believe some viewers might question the authenticity that Lam depicted the harsh reality of a high school in Hong Kong, SCHOOL ON FIRE remains an unflinching experience to watch for. Likewise, Lam's direction is gritty in the style of a docudrama, while he certainly knows how to pace the movie so perfectly that there are no single frame wasted with unnecessary fillers. Meanwhile, Nam Yin's script is compelling. Everything in this movie is presented in a pessimistic view where the world is full of grim and despair. Even the large depiction of triads here are not glamorized or romanticized in the way of other Hong Kong filmmakers would do (say, someone like John Woo). Instead, the triads are depicted as capitalists that they are so powerful they even ruled over the school system. Teachers and parents are portrayed as ineffective individuals who can't do much to protect their own children (which of course, the students), while the cops are just as hopeless.

The young cast are all top-notch. Fennie Yuen delivers a breakthrough performance as an ordinary student who subsequently forced to sink deep into a hellhole, while Sarah Lee is similarly engaging as the doomed Sandy. Tse Wai-Kit is particularly despicable as George Chow, a gangster student who always looking for trouble. Even the adult ones are equally strong. Roy Cheung is typically intense as the triad boss, Brother Smart while it's nice to see both Lam Ching-Ying and Damian Lau in unfamiliar, yet perfectly restrained roles (as both of them are usually known for their martial-art roles).

All the technical credits are ace -- Joe Chan's vivid cinematography matches perfectly with Lam's constantly restless cameraworks; Tony Chow's editing is airtight while Lau Chi-Ho and Joe Chu's action choreography are intensely staged with such claustrophobic manner where the depiction of violence are meant to be as brutal and provoking as it gets (especially the all-hell-breaks-loose graphic finale).

Spiders 3D (2013)
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: SPIDERS (2013), 19 February 2013
1/10

SPIDERS opens with bits and pieces of an old Soviet space station falls to Earth and crashes down into the New York city subway like a meteor shower. When one of the staff members from the New York City Transit Police is found dead, one of the supervisors, Jason (Patrick Muldoon) hurries down to the subway to find out the truth. He subsequently discovers from the autopsy report, that his staff member's death is caused by a bug bite. And that bug turns out to be one of the genetically engineered spiders, which are supposed to be part of a top-secret Russian experiment. Now, the U.S. military force, lead by Colonel Jenkins (William Hope), wants to harvest them for weaponry.

But in order to shield the truth from the public, Colonel Jenkins have the whole affected area immediately evacuated and declares that there are some sort of a new virus spreading around. Meanwhile, the spiders in the subway begin to mutate and multiply all over the place. Jason, who already have a rough day dealing with a unusual situation at the subway as well as going through a divorce with his estranged wife Rachel (Christa Campbell), is forced to step up when his precious daughter Emily (Sydney Sweeney) is in danger.

Judging by the synopsis above, SPIDERS looks like an entertaining B-grade sci-fi/monster genre that mixes with TARANTULA (1955) and MIMIC (1997). I mean, it supposes to be fun watching a bunch of mutated spiders and a giant spider (as shown in the poster of this movie) attacking people in New York City. However, this movie ends up more like a snoozefest. Apparently genre veteran Tibor Takacs does the impossible for botching such potential premise with his flat-footed direction. I appreciate the fact that Takacs sets the first half of the movie in a deliberate pace so he can find sufficient time to tell a story and explore his main characters. However, the story is awfully pedestrian while the acting are all badly acted.

Patrick Muldoon gives an unenthusiastic and wooden performance as Jason. Christa Campbell fares even worse as Rachel, who often act with blank expressions Even by the time the second half starts to feature plenty of action involving spiders, they remain terribly uninspired. The so-called suspense and tension are almost non-existent, while Joseph Conlan's score is seriously misguided. As for the special effect, those mutated spiders are quite reasonable to look at, especially given its limited budget. But too bad the spiders are given zero personalities.

Avoid this like a plague.

Flight (2012/I)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: FLIGHT (2012), 18 February 2013
5/10

It's hard to believe that Robert Zemeckis' last live-action movie was Tom Hanks' survival drama CAST AWAY. And that was like 12 years ago back in the year 2000. Ever since then, Zemeckis devoted all his time exploring a series of motion-capture animations with varying degree of success including 2004's THE POLAR EXPRESS, 2007's BEOWULF and 2009's A Christmas CAROL. Now I'm personally glad that Zemeckis has finally returned to his first live-action movie with FLIGHT. At the first glance, his much-anticipated comeback seems like a guaranteed success: FLIGHT has a knockout, Oscar-worthy premise about a disgraced airline pilot who has miraculously landed a heavily-malfunctioned aircraft safely onto the ground, only to find himself being haunted by his own personal demons. Then there's the ever-reliable Denzel Washington in the lead role. And of course, the spectacular opening 20-minute which featured one of the most frighteningly believable plane crashes ever seen in a movie.

In the opening act, Robert Zemeckis starts out well with the introduction of Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who wakes up in a hotel room at the American Value Suites while a comely nude woman (Nadine Velazquez) is getting dressed beside the bed. Then we see Whitaker overcomes his morning hangovers by downing an alcohol and snorting a line of cocaine on the coffee table, before he gets dressed up in his flight uniform and heads out of the hotel room. Whitaker turns out to be an airline pilot captain for SouthJet Air and he's actually a couple of hours away from his latest flight, Orlando to Atlanta. Once on board, he still have time to sneak three miniature liquors into his orange juice. Everything seems to be under control, even though Whitaker and his co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) are facing ugly storm ahead of their bumpy take-off. But thanks to Whitaker's quick-minded expertise, he insists they fly through at an overwhelming speed in order to break above the dark clouds. They successfully overcome the danger zone. Then comes an unexpectedly severe mechanical breakdown that sends the plane into a nosedive. Instead of getting all panic, Whitaker quickly made decision by inverting the plane to level out their descent and subsequently forced to crash-land in the field somewhere beyond a church. What Whitaker has done is miraculously enough to keep everyone alive except for the unfortunate six casualties.

So far, so good and credit goes to Zemeckis for the sheer intensity he has successfully created during the opening act. For a while there, the movie is truly an exhilarating cinematic experience.

However, once Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins takes a far different direction by shifting the story entirely into an old-fashioned addiction drama, everything starts to become bumpy. As a movie that deals with alcoholism, it's hardly as good as THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) or even LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995). Problem is, John Gatins' screenplay is awfully clichéd and too melodramatic. At 135 minutes, the movie also feels overlong with too many heavy-handed moments involving Whitaker's on-and-off battle against alcoholism. The movie spirals further in the preposterous third act involving Whitaker's federal hearing with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).

Cast-wise, FLIGHT is actually blessed with a strong ensemble that deserved a few praises. Denzel Washington is coolly charismatic and gritty in his impressive turn as Whip Whitaker. As Whip's love interest, Kelly Reilly is stunning and remarkable in her fearless performance as the heroin addict, Nicole. Both Bruce Greenwood, who plays Whitaker's best friend and Don Cheadle who plays Whitaker's lawyer, are equally fine while John Goodman is top-notch in a perfectly quirky and laid-back performance as Whitaker's drugs dealer.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: CLOUD ATLAS (2012), 17 February 2013
5/10

David Mitchell's massive, 509-page award-winning novel Cloud Atlas was widely considered as "unfilmable". But three directors -- Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer -- are daring enough to step up the game and delivers one of the most ambitious projects ever made in recent memory. Whether you have read the book or even come to know the premise, it's impossible to ignore the existence of CLOUD ATLAS. The result is undeniably beautiful, but bloated mess of epic filmmaking that doesn't really bring the best out of acclaimed visionary directors of the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer.

Spanning over six separate eras (1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144 and 2321) with six different stories overlapping one after another, CLOUD ATLAS begins in the South Pacific Ocean in 1849 where a young American lawyer named Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) arrive at the Chatham Islands to seal a business deal with Reverend Giles Horrox (Hugh Grant) for his father-in-law, Haskell Moore (Hugo Weaving). When Ewing is welcomed aboard a ship alongside with the cunning Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks), he stumbles upon a mistreated escaped slave named Autua (David Gyasi) who tries to convince him to let him join the ship crew as a freeman. In the meantime, Goose has a wicked agenda of his own in an attempt to slowly poison Ewing and claims it is a cure for parasitic worm because he's aiming to steal Ewing's valuables.

In 1936 Cambridge, England, a 23-year-old bisexual English musician named Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) bids farewell to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy), to work as an apprentice to a famous composer, Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). Frobisher subsequently finds time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, "The Cloud Atlas Sextet". Ayrs likes Frobisher's newly-composed classical music so much until he wishes to take all the credit. When Frobisher refuses to cooperate, Ayrs threatens to expose Frobisher's disgraceful background. However, their subsequent disagreement leads to an unexpected act of violence.

In 1973 San Francisco, ambitious journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) has a chance encounter with an older Sixsmith (also James D'Arcy), who is now a nuclear physicist. They first come across to each other when they stuck in the elevator due to a power outrage. Shortly after their meeting, Sixsmith is found dead. Rey starts to do some investigation and subsequently discovers that Sixsmith's death has something to do with a huge conspiracy theory connecting Big Oil with nuclear power chief Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant).

In 2012 London, an eccentric 65-year-old publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) finds himself unexpectedly shipped off by his brother Denholme (Hugh Grant) to a nursing home ruled by the tyrannical Nurse Noakes (Hugo Weaving).

In 2144 futuristic Neo Seoul, Korea, a genetically-engineered fabricant Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) works as a server at a fast-food restaurant. At the beginning of this segment, she is seen being interviewed prior to her execution. During the subsequent flashbacks, she recalls how she is released from her caged life and falls in love with star-crossed rebel Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess).

Lastly in 2321 post-apocalyptic Hawaii, a Polynesian tribesman Zachry (Tom Hanks) is visited by Meronym (Halle Berry), one of the last members of the technology-based civilization. Both of them embark on a treacherous journey in search of Cloud Atlas, a communications station where she is able to send a message to people who have left Earth and now live on other planets.

No doubt the premise alone is intriguing enough to check out what's the big fuss surrounding this movie. CLOUD ATLAS is a movie filled with big ideas, but the Wachoswki siblings and Tom Tykwer's adapted screenplay is too heavy-handed, yet strangely hollow. That's not all, their non-linear storytelling approach is sometimes difficult to follow if one doesn't pay close attention. Meanwhile, the pacing is uneven, making this nearly three-hour movie almost like a chore to sit through.

While their screenplays are half-realized, their directions are equally lackluster. Sure, there are flashes of brilliance somewhere in the movie but not nearly enough to justify this as a satisfying cinematic experience. The 2144 segment, which obviously directed by the Wachowski siblings, is easily the most entertaining sequence here, even though the action are not up to the high standards of THE MATRIX trilogy. In the 2012 segment, directed by Tom Tykwer, the entire scene involving Timothy attempts to escape from the nursing home is suitably lighthearted, yet funny enough it's almost like revisiting ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

Cast-wise, all the actors are gamely playful in their multiple roles. But it's really baffling why the filmmakers have to be so stereotypical for choosing white actor to play Asian role (e.g. Jim Sturgess in an unconvincing makeup as Hae-Joo Chang). Jim Broadbent is particularly a joy to watch for as the eccentric Timothy Cavendish, while it's fun to see Hugo Weaving in drag playing Nurse Noakes. Doona Bae gives a heartfelt performance as Sonmi-451, while Tom Hanks delivers a highly enthusiastic performance in a fake but entertaining Irish accent as the gangster author, Dermot Hoggins.

Blessed with a $100 million-budget tag (in which CLOUD ATLAS is among the most expensive independently-financed movies ever made), all the technical credits, ranging from its elaborate production designs to its special effects are visually stunning.

Lincoln (2012)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Casey's Movie Mania: LINCOLN (2012), 17 February 2013
2/10

At the time of this writing, Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN has won numerous awards including BAFTA and Golden Globes as well as scoring 12 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis. Not only that, the historical epic was widely greeted with (near) universal praises among top critics and viewers when it was released last November in the US. Even the US box office grosses was really impressive, which was currently sitting at $173.6 million against the modest $65 million budget. Now that the highly-acclaimed LINCOLN have finally reaches our local shore (which will be open nationwide on February 21), is the movie really that praiseworthy? I hate to say this, but LINCOLN has to be one of the most overrated movies ever made in recent memory. How this movie could have ended up such a praiseworthy historical epic is seriously beyond me.

Partially adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Teams of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, this historical epic focusing on the last few months of Lincoln's (Daniel Day-Lewis) life as he tries to convince and manipulate the Congress into passing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which would officially end slavery and also allow people to vote regardless of race. At the same time, Lincoln is also facing the ongoing Civil War during his second term as the 16th US president.

First of all, LINCOLN is unlike any historical epic Steven Spielberg has ever done before in his illustrious directing career. There's nothing majestic or even any sense of epic grandeur normally expected from Steven Spielberg. Instead, he and screenwriter Tony Kushner opted the most unconventional way by shifting a larger-than-life historical figure like Abraham Lincoln into a deeply personal, yet intimate portrait of the 16th US president. Suffice to say, everything in LINCOLN is heavily constrained into a chamber drama. At the surface level, such radical approach is certainly ambitious but unfortunately, both Spielberg and Kushner are not Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet in term of executing a movie heavy on dialogue.

As a result, this lengthy 149-minute LINCOLN feels like watching the paint dry. While I have to applaud Kushner's meticulous detail on how US backroom politics are achieved during the mid-19th century, his overall screenplay feels too static to warrant this as an intriguing drama worth paying attention for. Then there's Spielberg's delicate, yet plodding direction where he is hopelessly out of touch. By stripping his usual lively direction to a skeletal core, his attempt on minimalist direction fails miserably to sustain the momentum and pacing of the movie. Further damaging the overall structure of the movie is Michael Kahn's poor editing, while John Williams' score is almost non-existent and Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is so drab and uninspired with far too many static shots.

As for the huge ensemble which was heavily praised by the US critics, I can say that only Daniel Day-Lewis deserves some, but not all, praises in his uncanny turn as Abraham Lincoln. But that is as far as he goes. His so-called subdued acting leaves little to be desired of, and frankly, his supposedly layered performance comes across too single-minded and dare I say, boring. Apart from what we know as one of the most beloved US presidents who made a great achievement by abolishing slavery, both Spielberg and Kushner fail to scratch beyond the surface of Lincoln's life. As Mary Todd, Sally Field is equally wasted as Lincoln's estranged First Lady. The rest of the supporting actors are forgettable as well -- from Tommy Lee Jones' fairly adequate turn as Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's sadly thankless role as eldest son Robert Lincoln.

LINCOLN is a terribly misguided effort. I don't blame Spielberg for trying something different in his usual approach on a historical epic genre, but this is the kind of movie where it should be directed by someone else more qualified. Seriously, LINCOLN deserves far better treatment than this lifeless movie.


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