Reviews

119 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Note (II) (2015)
7/10
A spellbinding, if laboured psychological drama featuring a scene-stealing performance from the late Ramli Hassan.
27 August 2015
Prior to the release of NOTA on August 13th, I have little knowledge about this movie. It is not until I discovered a series of overwhelming responses that finally piqued my interest to check out the movie in the cinema. There were only four audiences (including me and my friend) for the NOTA showing -- a shockingly low attendance if you ask me. But after watching the movie, it's easy to see why. Despite familiar faces (Hans Isaac and Maya Karin) and a psychological thriller-drama element, NOTA is hardly the kind of movie that would easily attract the mainstream audiences. Still, that doesn't bother me at all because NOTA is a rare local gem worth checking out for, especially for those who often complain about the lack of quality movies in Malaysia.

FULL REVIEW: http://goo.gl/Z6kqJu
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Sabotage (2014)
5/10
Schwarzenegger delivers a rare dark performance in this extremely violent but ponderous cop thriller.
3 April 2014
From TRAINING DAY (2001), DARK BLUE (2002), HARSH TIMES (2005), STREET KINGS (2008) and END OF WATCH (2012) at which he either writes, directs or doing both duties, David Ayer has crafted quite a career for himself as the go-to guy when comes to movie that explores the dark side of a law enforcement. This year is no different as Ayer explores the same territory again with SABOTAGE. But what's really interesting about his latest effort is his first-time collaboration with the former '80s and '90s king of big action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the kind of role unlike anything fans have seen him before... well, at least not since 1984's THE TERMINATOR or to certain extent, 1997's BATMAN AND ROBIN.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Following a successful drug raid to steal US$10 million from the cartel's money, John "Breacher" Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his rugged team of undercover DEA task force -- James "Monster" Murray (Sam Worthington) and wife Lizzy (Mireille Enos), Joe "Grinder" Phillips (Joe Manganiello), Julius "Sugar" Edmonds (Terrence Howard), Eddie "Neck" Jordan (Josh Holloway), Tom "Pyro" Roberts (Max Martini), and Bryce "Tripod" McNeely (Kevin Vance) -- are happy to collect it later where they hide it in the sewer pipes. However, they return to discover that the drug money has gone missing. They are eventually held for investigation and everyone ends up suspended from duty. But after the authorities fail to land hard evidence against them, their superior (Martin Donovan) put them back into action. Then, one by one from Breacher's team members ends up dead in gory fashion. While trying to find out the culprit, Breacher is subsequently working with homicide investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) and realizes that the murders as well as the stolen drug money is actually involving one of them.

THE GOOD STUFF

As with other Ayer's movies, the action is brutal and gripping enough to capture your attention. Together with cinematographer Bruce McCleery, Ayer also manages to create some creative shots including the one where he utilizes small digital cameras from the tip of a gun barrel's point-of-view during a shootout.

The overall cast here is engaging, with Schwarzenegger gives a daring performance as the cigar-chomping John "Breacher" Wharton with a dark past. It's certainly nice to see him willing enough to change his usual larger-than-life action image for something radically different. As the emotionally-confused and relentless Caroline Brentwood, Olivia Williams plays her role with enough gravitas to stand out on her own. The rest of the supporting actors, including Sam Worthington (sporting a shaved head and braided goatee) and Joe Manganiello (looking good with a cornrow hairstyle), are equally adequate with their respective roles but it was Mireille Enos who steals the show in SABOTAGE. Here, Enos brings an uncompromisingly fearless performance as the tortured Lizzy who is addicted to drugs.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

For all the blood, sex and profanities that showcased throughout the movie, I can't singled out a moment worth placing here.

THE BAD STUFF

It's a pity that the story here is major disappointment. Written by David Ayer and Skip Woods, SABOTAGE does look promising with a nifty concept that mixes Ayer's trademark gritty cop thriller with Agatha Christie-like whodunit structure (particularly her famous novel of And Then There Were None). However, the execution is rather poor or should I say, lazily constructed, as the whodunit doesn't look interesting at all. And worst, the story drags a lot throughout the movie.

As exceptionally good as Schwarzenegger has put into his character, there's a nagging feeling that he looks wooden when he is required to deliver more stilted dialogues than usual. As the soft-spoken Sugar, Terrence Howard does little to make his performance worthwhile in the movie.

As much as Ayer loves to showcase a lot of grits in his movie, his penchant for shaky camera-work feels rather annoying, particularly when he loves to do a lot of tight close-ups. Another flaw here is Ayer's over-the-top display of gore and violence that somehow works better for a hardcore horror movie than a gritty cop thriller.

FINAL WORDS

While SABOTAGE is far from both Ayer's and Schwarzenegger's best efforts, the movie remains quite a jolting cinematic experience.
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Divergent (2014)
4/10
The cast is the least worthwhile in this lacklustre and generic young-adult dystopian thriller.
29 March 2014
Riding on the phenomenally successful adaptations of the first two HUNGER GAMES movies, it's simply a matter of time before Veronica Roth's best-selling novel trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant) is finally riped for big screen adventure. Out of the gate this year is the highly-anticipated first movie in a trilogy, DIVERGENT, which already positioned as the next HUNGER GAMES.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Set in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions based on five different personalities: Erudite (smart), Candor (honest), Amity (peaceful), Dauntless (brave) and Abnegation (selfless). Those who doesn't fit to any of the five personalities are declared factionless and they are equivalent of homeless peoples.

However, Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shailene Woodley), who belongs to an Abnegation family with parents Natalie (Ashley Judd) and Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), discovers that she is a Divergent after being tested by a tester named Tori (Maggie Q). Apparently Divergent is classified as someone who fit into more than one personality, and could not be discovered by anyone or risk terrible consequences.

When the day has arrived for a new group of teens to choose their own factions, Beatrice picks Dauntless. After the choice has been made, she has to undergo an extensive training period to become a qualified brave warrior within given time period. If fail, she will be kicked out of the faction and becomes homeless. As the training takes place, she slowly becomes friends with one of her drill instructors named Four (Theo James) and eventually falls for each other. Then one day she learns about Erudite, led by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), is planning to overthrow Abnegation, the humble faction which currently rules the government.

THE GOOD STUFF

The cast here is overall solid, with Shailene Woodley being the particular standout. As Tris, she manages to handle her first leading role with her engaging and soulful performance. Equally good is Theo James, who brings an unexpected warmth beneath his cool-looking exterior. In fact, both he and Woodley display believable chemistry together as eventual lovers.

As for the supporting actors, Jai Courtney is perfectly typecast as the no-nonsense Dauntless leader Eric, while Zoe Kravitz is likable as Tris' closest friend, Christina. Maggie Q, who plays compassionate tester Tori, manages to make full use of her limited screen time to give a worthwhile performance. Last but not least is Kate Winslet, in her rare villainous role as the power-hungry Jeanine Matthews. Although her role doesn't flesh out well, she remains plausible enough to pull off her role with her steely-eyed expression.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The engaging knife-throwing scene (which is heavily promoted in the internet) where Tris is daring enough to step in front of the knife boards and tries her best not to flinch when Four starts throwing knives at her.

THE BAD STUFF

At 139 minutes, DIVERGENT suffers badly from glacial pacing while the story -- adapted by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor -- feels bland and noticeably lack of sheer urgency needed for this kind of dystopian-thriller genre. Then there's the drab vision of dystopian Chicago which feels like a cheap-looking, B-grade movie. Overall technical credits here are disappointingly mediocre, while all the action sequences here (from fistfights to extended shootouts during the climactic finale) falls flat on the surface. It doesn't help either when the action is mostly ruined by shaky camera-work.

To top that off, it's a surprise that Neil Burger's previous directing credits, such as the magic-themed period drama THE ILLUSIONIST (2006) and mystery thriller LIMITLESS (2011), who has a knack for showing versatility when tackling different genres, seems to be clueless directing DIVERGENT. I was shocked to see his direction here is terribly pedestrian and dare I say, lifeless as well.

FINAL WORDS

Overall, DIVERGENT is a waste of opportunity and a weak start to a potentially exciting new movie franchise. Hopefully, the subsequent two sequels (INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT) will show some improvements in the future.
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9/10
A taut and engaging sequel that cleverly mixes comic-book sensibility with political-thriller undertones.
29 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When news broke out that 2011's CAPTAIN America: THE FIRST AVENGER director Joe Johnston did not return for the sequel and replaced by Anthony and Joe Russo instead, I felt skeptical at first. After all, we are talking about these directors whose previous directing experiences consisted of *gulp* comedies including 2002's WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD, 2006's YOU, ME AND DUPREE and TV's Community. It's definitely a very odd choice to choose such filmmakers for tackling a blockbuster movie that is seemingly out of their leagues. But upon finally watching the sequel in the cinema, I was really surprised that the Russo brothers are unexpectedly the right choice for CAPTAIN America: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Better yet, this sequel is noticeably more improved than the first movie.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

In this sequel, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) continues his duty as a S.H.I.E.L.D. team leader who engages on counter-terrorism missions under the direct order of S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). At the beginning of the movie, Rogers and his fellow team members, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) are assigned to rescue the hostages on a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship hijacked by pirates. However, the mission proves to be more than just a mere assignment when Rogers find out that Fury and Romanoff are keeping a secret. Things get worse when there's an assassination attempt against Fury that leads to a wide conspiracy theory involving S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as the mysterious appearance of an unstoppable ruthless killer nicknamed The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

THE GOOD STUFF

For first-timers who exposed to big-scale action movie like CAPTAIN America: THE WINTER SOLDIER, directors Anthony and Joe Russo does a tremendous job like seasoned pros. Surprisingly enough, most of the action sequences are top notch which has that sense of urgency to keep you on the edge of your seat.

But the real deal here is the way Anthony and Joe Russo made a lot of efforts to distinguish CAPTAIN America: THE WINTER SOLDIER from your average Marvel movie. Working on a tense script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, it's a refreshing change of pace to see a comic-book movie is fueled with political intrigue. Apart from that, Anthony and Joe Russo also make good use of their comedy background to come up a couple of witty one-liners as well as snappy verbal exchanges along the way.

As Steve Rogers/Captain America, Chris Evans fares better than he did in the first movie as well as THE AVENGERS. This is because his character is finally given a chance to evolve more than just a strictly by-the-book superhero who follow orders. Not only that, he also improved a lot in terms of fighting scenes as well as his excellent use of shield. And despite this is a solo movie, Anthony and Joe Russo ensure that most of the supporting actors here are given a fair share of limelight. As Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson is as stunning as ever. Anthony Mackie acquits his role well as Steve Rogers' sidekick, Sam Wilson/The Falcon while Samuel L. Jackson is blessed with a bigger and important role this time around as Nick Fury. Finally, there's Robert Redford, who gives a solid performance as the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. senior leader, Alexander Pierce.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

Marvel fans rejoice! There are plenty of memorable moments throughout the movie and here goes: the intense car chase scene between Nick Fury and the police that ends with a showdown against the Winter Soldier; the claustrophobic fight scene in an elevator where Steve Rogers takes down a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents; the exciting scene where Steve Rogers jumps off from his motorcycle while throwing his shield to take down a S.H.I.E.L.D.'s jet (Quinjet); the explosive battle scene at the highway that ends with an one-on-one fight between Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier; and the extended climactic finale involving the helicarriers.

THE BAD STUFF

At 136 minutes (which makes this as Marvel's second longest movie after 2012's THE AVENGERS), there are times the plot feels a bit heavy-handed. And for a CAPTAIN America movie subtitled as THE WINTER SOLDIER, it's rather surprising that Sebastian Stan's character as The Winter Soldier himself is sadly underwritten (although he looks good during the action sequences).

While there are plenty of praises to be had for the action sequences, I just couldn't help it but feel some of Anthony and Joe Russo's camera-work is inconsistent. For instance, most of the opening set-piece on a ship is hard to tell what's really going on because the way they utilize too many tight close-ups and whip pans.

FINAL WORDS

CAPTAIN America: THE WINTER SOLDIER may have its fair share of flaws, but this sequel remains engaging enough to qualify as one of the best Marvel movies ever made. Likewise, don't leave your seat once the end credits rolls. And just so you know (especially for fans), there are two teasers at the middle and another one at the conclusion.
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7/10
A surprisingly better-than-expected, if flawed follow-up to Zack Snyder's 300.
5 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When Zack Snyder's 300 was screened back in 2006, the effects-heavy ancient epic was one-of-a-kind cinematic experience. It became such a beloved fan-favorite movie that many filmmakers tried to imitate the similar stylized technique (e.g. the super slow-motion, actors and props against computer-generated background, CGI blood-and-gore) with varying degree of success. Now, in this long-gestating sequel/side-quel, I originally never expected much from 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. After all, I thought the movie will be probably more of the same. However, upon finally watching the movie at the exclusive IMAX 3D sneak preview, I was surprised that the movie lives up beyond my low expectation.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE tells the other side of the story where Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads his army against Artemisia (Eva Green) on a naval battle by the sea, while King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, only appeared in recycled footage from 300) and his Spartan warriors engaged in their ill-fated battle against King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his Persian army on the land.

THE GOOD STUFF

Prior to 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, veteran Israeli commercials director-turned-feature filmmaker Noam Murro only has the 2008's dramedy, SMART PEOPLE to his credit. However, Murro manages to handle his first big budget studio production like a seasoned pro. Here, Murro proves to be an accomplished visual stylist like Zack Snyder himself (who only returned as one of the screenwriters and producers) after all. With the help of cinematographer Simon Duggan, Murro successfully recreates Snyder's stylized display of slow-motion violence and gore while his mix of fluid and gritty camera-work are put into good use. Thanks also to Murro's energetic direction, the action scenes -- especially the one involved the naval battle -- are electrifying. Other technical credits, including Junkie XL's throbbing score with a dash of sizzling Middle Eastern beat, are equally first-rate.

Zack Snyder's and Kurt Johnstad's screenplay is effective, especially the way it juggles between the main premise surrounding the naval engagement and several flashbacks/backstories without making them heavy-handed.

Cast-wise, Rodrigo Santoro is typically imposing as the ruthless King Xerxes while Lena Headey made adequate use of her limited screen time as Queen Gorgo. But it was Eva Green who steals the show with her wicked performance as Artemisia. In fact, it's simply refreshing to see a female actor commands the screen in this otherwise male-dominated movie.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The scene where Themistocles and his Greek army manage to outwit Artemisia and her crew by making their ships stumbled between the rocks, and another one where Artemisia stages a brilliant plan by creatively using oil to trap and blow up Themistocles' ships (you simply have to see it for yourself). Both of these well-staged strategies are particularly fascinating to watch for.

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE

Queen Gorgo: You've come a long way to stroke your cock while real men train!

THE BAD STUFF

The absence of Gerard Butler is sorely missed in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (his character is supposed to be featured here in the original script, but forced to cut out because Butler declined to return). After all, his iconic role as the fearless Spartan leader King Leonidas is simply unforgettable. But all can be forgiven if a new leading role is engaging enough to carry the movie. Unfortunately, Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton isn't really the one. Although he has the impressive physique, Stapleton looks somewhat bland and noticeably lack of rugged charm and commanding presence that Butler previously displayed very well in 300.

But the major flaw here is the anticlimactic finale that ends abruptly before the credit rolls. I mean, is it really necessary to make way for an open ending?

FINAL WORDS

For those who are disappointed with the lackluster results of recent ancient epic failures (THE LEGEND OF THE HERCULES, POMPEII), 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE proves that this particular genre can stand tall if done right.
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Formulaic storyline aside, THE LEGO MOVIE is vibrant and wildly entertaining animated feature for all ages.
5 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
For more than 60 years, Lego has entertained kids all over the world with their famous colourful interlocking plastic bricks. Now thanks to directors duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, 21 JUMP STREET), we finally get to watch the long-awaited LEGO MOVIE in the big screen for the first time ever!

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is an ordinary Lego mini-figure who works at the construction site. He lives his routine life by following "instruction manuals", until one day he is mistakenly identified as the Special -- Master Builder, to be exact -- by a tough young woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Soon he meets an old blind wizard named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and joins a fellowship of strangers including Batman (Will Arnett), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie) and Benny the "1980-something space guy" (Charlie Day), on an epic journey to stop the evil tyrant Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the Lego universe on Taco Tuesday by gluing it altogether.

THE GOOD STUFF

For decades, Lego is widely known to kids as a toy that allows them to unleash their creativity. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller clearly understands what makes Lego such a long-lasting toy phenomenon till now, and successfully translating that very idea into a spectacular animated feature. Thanks to the effects team from Animal Logic, the seamless mix of stop-motion animation and CGI are very eye-catching. The action are imaginatively staged to maximum impact it's almost like riding a roller coaster. Lord and Miller also have fun times parodying plenty of Hollywood famous blockbusters and other creative properties including DC comic characters (e.g. Batman, Superman and Green Lantern); Gandalf from THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT trilogy; STAR WARS, NBA All-Stars (which includes Shaquille O'Neal himself) and even William Shakespeare, to hilarious result.

All the voice cast here delivers first-rate performances. Chris Pratt is wonderful as Emmet, while Elizabeth Banks brings superb tough-girl attitude as Wyldstyle. Then there's Will Arnett, who perfectly brings the trademark husky voice of Batman character and Morgan Freeman delivers an entertaining parody of himself as Vitruvius. As for the two particular villains, Will Ferrell is well-cast as Lord Business and the normally tense Liam Neeson lets loose as Bad Cop/Good Cop.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The "twist" finale. Well, it's not something out-of-this-world kind of experience, but it is the poignant moment that gives me the true meaning of Lego existence.

THE BAD STUFF

It's quite a pity that Phil Lord's and Christopher Miller's overall screenplay feels formulaic. You know, it's like when you stumble upon a plot about "a chosen person who is destined to save the world", they are basically more-of-the-same clichés.

FINAL WORDS

THE LEGO MOVIE is far from perfect, but with enough fun to be had here, it's a great cinematic experience for both kids and adults.

caseymoviemania.blogspot.com
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7/10
Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux deliver performances of their lifetime in this intimate but overlong romance drama.
3 February 2014
Winner of the coveted Palme d'Or and Best Director (Abdellatif Kechiche) at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR has also made history when the movie awarded two of the actresses (Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux) for the first time ever in the history of Cannes.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

The movie centers on a 15-year-old high school student Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) who has a particular passion for literature. Following a short-lived romance with handsome classmate Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte), Adele soon finds herself she has more feelings for women especially after she meets a blue-haired fine arts student named Emma (Lea Seydoux) at a lesbian bar. Both of them eventually become lovers. At the beginning, their relationship is fulfilling but as years goes by with Adele becoming a kindergarten teacher, everything starts to feel different than they used to be.

THE GOOD STUFF

Director Abdellatif Kechiche's penchant for relentless close-ups, as well as his attention to detail is visually captivating. The story -- adapted from Julie Maroh's Le Bleu est une couleur chaude comic book -- is equally stunning where Kechiche embraces the lesbian theme with the utmost passionate and heartfelt manner.

But the movie, of course, is best remembered for its few graphic sex scenes where Kechiche is daring enough to push the boundaries of the NC-17 rating. Equally remarkable as well are the two central performances from Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. Exarchopoulos, in particular, is tour de force especially the way she conveys her varied emotion beneath her shy-looking exterior.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The first sexual encounter between Adele and Emma -- one of the most explicit and passionate sex scenes ever put into film.

THE BAD STUFF

At three hours long, the movie can be a test of patience to watch this in one sitting. Not surprisingly, most of the scenes feel unnecessarily overlong. It is understandable that Abdellatif Kechiche wants to unfold his movie as naturalistic as possible, but it would be more appreciated if he practices a sense of restraint with a little cinematic term called "editing".

FINAL WORDS

While BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR isn't exactly a masterpiece at all, this French lesbian drama remains one of the best movies of the year.
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The Counselor (2013)
3/10
Despite A-list cast and some shocking act of violence, THE COUNSELOR is too wordy to thrill.
3 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
At the first glance, THE COUNSELOR seems like one of the must-see movies of 2013 (and yes, it was banned here in Malaysia): there's Ridley Scott (PROMETHEUS) on the director's chair; acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) making his first screen writing debut; and an A-list cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt. With the amount of talents involved, this movie is seriously hard to ignore. But upon finally watching it, I was floored by the disappointing outcome of this movie.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

THE COUNSELOR revolves around the unnamed title character (Michael Fassbender), a Texas attorney who is about to marry his beautiful girlfriend, Laura (Penelope Cruz). He gets himself involved in a US-Mexico drug deal with a shady middleman named Westray (Brad Pitt), simply because he needs money to pay for a 3.8 karat diamond of engagement ring and live a lavish lifestyle. When the drug deal starts to go wrong, the counselor lands himself in a deep trouble that everyone else involved with him will pay the price.

THE GOOD STUFF

The movie's sudden burst of graphic violence is simply shocking, especially the one involved "bolito" -- a mechanical device comprising a loop of alloy wire attached to a small electric motor at which the wearer's head will be decapitated when the loop is tightened around the neck. Technical credits are top notch, including Dariusz Wolski's lush cinematography, Daniel Pemberton's unusual music score and of course, Arthur Max's slick production design that deserved some mentions here.

Javier Bardem is perfectly typecast as the counselor's flamboyant wealthy friend, Reiner while Cameron Diaz steals the show as Reiner's vicious girlfriend, Malkina. As Laura, Penelope Cruz makes full use of her limited screen time hitting all the right notes as the counselor's naive girlfriend and bride-to-be.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The controversial, yet bizarre scene involving Malkina having "sex" on Reiner's yellow Ferrari. Another one of course, is the graphically violent scene involving the fate of Westray's life.

THE BAD STUFF

Ridley Scott's direction is unusually restrained here, which in turns, becomes his huge mistake because he let Cormac McCarthy's wordy screenplay do all the talking. Although McCarthy is a highly-acclaimed author who has unusual talent for words, he fails miserably as a screenwriter simply because he makes every scene a chore to sit through. Almost every conversation involving two characters interacting each other will last about ten minutes or so. Problem is, McCarthy's love for verbose dialogues are heavy-handed, yet so boring to hear. He should have learn a thing or two from better screenwriter like David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino when comes to talky pictures. Not surprisingly, THE COUNSELOR feels terribly draggy at an almost two hours long. If that's not bad enough, the movie is also noticeably lack of thrills while the anticlimactic ending is such a huge disappointment it might leaves you hanging with... Is that it?

As the title character, it's such a waste that Michael Fassbender's would-be impressive performance is sadly underdeveloped.

FINAL WORDS

THE COUNSELOR is simply one of the worst movies in 2013. For those who have trouble sleeping all the time, watching this movie might helps.

caseymoviemania.blogspot.com
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7/10
Donnie Yen's highly-spirited performance and Soi Cheang's energetic direction made this a surprisingly enjoyable epic fantasy.
3 February 2014
When THE MONKEY KING debuted the teaser trailer sometimes last year, I was doubtful whether Donnie Yen was really up for the legendary Sun Wukong role or not. Even the glimpse of the special effects doesn't look engaging enough to convince me whatsoever. However, upon finally watching it, this nearly four-years-in-the-making production proves to be a well-worthy cinematic experience after all.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

During an ongoing war between god and demon on the Heavenly Palace, Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) lost the battle against Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat). However, Jade Emperor's daughter, Princess Iron Fan (Joe Fan), begs her father for mercy because she loves Bull Demon King very much. Jade Emperor ends up banishing both of them to the Fire Mountain and forbids them to enter Heavenly Palace ever again. Meanwhile, a monkey spirit is born out from Princess Nuwa's (Zhang Zilin) magic stones which later grows up as a mischievous adult. Soon he is trained under Master Puti (Tian Hai Yi) and names him as Sun Wukong. After Wukong completed his master's training, he returns to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits where he originally belongs to reunite with his fellow monkey clan and calls himself as Handsome Monkey King. Trouble arrives when Bull Demon King sees Wukong as his golden opportunity to use him as bait to access Heavenly Palace, while waiting for the right moment to wage war against the god all over again.

THE GOOD STUFF

Last seen in 2012's MOTORWAY, Soi Cheang's direction is colorful and yet entertaining enough to please most of the die-hard fans of the Sun Wukong story. Speaking of story, Szeto Kam Yuen's and Edmond Wong's screenplay is a fairly satisfying combination of action, comedy, romance and fantastical elements all rolled into slick package. Christopher Young's music score, in the meantime, is simply majestic. The action sequence, which is choreographed by Donnie Yen himself, is often exhilarating and epic in scope.

As Sun Wukong, Donnie Yen has successfully delivers one of his best performances ever seen since IP MAN (2008) and IP MAN 2 (2010). And likewise, he proves to be such a nimble fighter as usual, especially when he uses his golden staff. Other actors, such as Peter Ho as the scheming Erlangshen and Chow Yun-Fat as the noble Jade Emperor, are equally acceptable as well.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The "all-hell-breaks-loose" duels during the movie's spectacular finale.

THE BAD STUFF

Despite the hefty amount spent on the budget, the special effects are average at best. Even there are times the special effects looks like a rushed job. Some of the other cast, including Aaron Kwok's villainous turn as Bull Demon King, Kelly Chen as Guanyin and Gigi Leung as Chang'E, are sadly underwritten.

FINAL WORDS

While THE MONKEY KING is far from the best movie adaptation ever seen from Wu Cheng'en's classical novel of Journey to the West, it remains a satisfying effort worth checking out for this Chinese New Year.

caseymoviemania.blogspot.com
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7/10
First-class acting ensemble dominates in this harrowing but slack slavery drama.
3 February 2014
Long before 12 YEARS A SLAVE reaches to our local cinemas (scheduled for release on 26 December 2013), this acclaimed slavery drama has been (almost) universally praised by critics and even garnered a number of accolades from various film festivals when it first landed in the US. Not only that, it has also been positioned as one of the frontrunners for 2014 Oscar. And now, here lies the biggest question: does 12 YEARS A SLAVE really worth such a high praise? Upon finally watching it, I admit the movie was good but hardly the kind of cinematic masterpiece I was hoping for in the first place.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Based on the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free and well-educated black man who lives with his beloved wife and two children in New York. One day he is enticed by a pair of professional illusionists Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Hamilton (Taran Killam) to travel with them to Washington, DC for a lucrative circus gig. But things goes wrong after he's been drugged by the two illusionists and finds himself awakens being chained to a floor. He is subsequently sold into slavery by a slave trader Freeman (Paul Giamatti), and later finds himself being laboured away by the kind-hearted plantation owner Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Northup's life as a slave turns uglier when Mr. Ford sells him to Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender), a drunken sadist who owns a cotton plantation.

THE GOOD STUFF

As in previous two features, HUNGER (2008) and SHAME (2011), director Steve McQueen applies the same unflinching approach in 12 YEARS A SLAVE with some worthwhile moments here and there that makes you cringe.

However, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is best remembered for its top-notch acting showcase. Chiwetel Ejiofor achieves his career-best as Solomon Northup, who is particularly memorable the way he uses his expressive eyes to convey his varied emotions. This is the kind of performance that I seriously hoped he will lands an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. As the spiteful Mr. Epps, Michael Fassbender is similarly impressive while newcomer Lupita Nyong'o almost steals the show with her heartbreaking performance as the sympathetic slave, Patsey. The rest of the supporting actors, ranging from Benedict Cumberbatch to Brad Pitt, have equally prove their worthy talents here.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The long uninterrupted take where Northup is seen struggling to stay alive with a noose dangling around his neck, and a painful scene where Patsey ends up being lashed after trying to reason with Mr. Epps over a bar of soap.

THE BAD STUFF

Despite the agonising subject matter, McQueen's direction is somehow too restrained to fulfill the impact for the horror of slavery. Sometimes the movie feels overly melodramatic and other times the pace slackens a lot, particularly in the climactic finale which could have been trimmed shorter. John Ridley's adapted screenplay, though captivating, is unnecessarily overlong that doesn't justify its 134-minute running time.

FINAL WORDS

While 12 YEARS A SLAVE misses the opportunity for becoming the great movie it aims to be, it remains a worthwhile effort that deserved to be seen at least once.

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