Reviews written by registered user
lasttimeisaw

Send an IMDb private message to this author or view their message board profile.

Page 1 of 112:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]
1114 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

Greenaway's inimitable work remains as aloof, indecipherable and tongue-in-cheek as it aims to be, 4 December 2016
7/10

UK maverick filmmaker Peter Greenaway's Venice main competition entry in 1982, arguably his feature debut, a period picture steeped in highbrow phraseology, sumptuous baroque costumes and elusive intrigues.

In 1694, rural Wiltshire, Mr. Neville (Higgins), an eloquent, stuck-up draughtsman strikes a contact with Mrs. Virginia Herbert (Suzman), to complete 12 landscape drawings of her estate during the absence of her husband Mr. Herbert (Hill), with a proviso that Mrs. Herbert must meet him in private and consent to actions gratifying his pleasure, which Mrs. Herbert condones. Later, Sarah Talmann (Lambert), Mr. Herbert's sole daughter approaches to Mr. Neville with a new proposal, but this time, she should be the recipient of their carnal knowledge, moreover, maybe there is also a hidden agenda behind it, as we apprehend that Sarah is married to Mr. Talmann (Fraser), yet they have no heir to inherit the Herberts' fortune. A sinister turning point hits when Mr. Herbert's body is found in the moat around the estate, soon the presumption that clues of the said murder can be unobtrusively garnered from Mr. Neville's 12 drawings, unfortunately puts the latter in a perilous situation. In the final deciding crunch, Mr. Neville seems to be designated as the fall guy by a clique lead by the jealous Mr. Talmann, but nothing substantial of the conspiracy theory comes to full disclosure at last. The only unbidden witness of the appalling denouement is the camouflage man, a full-frontal figure at times inexplicably skulks out on the roof when the residents are dining al fresco, hides invisibly among the creepers, or straddles the bronze horse as a medieval knight, and finally gobbles up the pineapple.

Greenaway contrives at great length to frame the 12 drawings with his principally stationary camera angle and a vaguely anachronistic apparatus, an expedient stems from his artist upbringing and magnificently instils each and every scene with painting-like allure and precision, which balances out the elocutionary hyperbole in a positive way.

A core cast marshaled by Higgins, who triumphantly struts his haughtiness in an unstinting mode, precisely up to his last breath, whereas Janet Suzman puts on an imperial air spiked with a tense impression of self-inflicted dejection, she might be as clueless as the scapegoat, but is certainly swell in her cogent diction about pomegranate and deities. Anne-Louise Lambert, the ethereal Australian beauty from Peter Weir's PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975), is quite unrecognizable (much as everybody else) under the elaborate garments, but pulls off a brilliant equivocation in contrast to Hugh Fraser's competently rebarbative impersonation of upper-crust impotence.

Predominantly, composer Michael Nyman's Purcell-inflected accompanying score hones perfectly the Baroque decadence and essentially Greenaway's inimitable work remains as aloof, indecipherable and tongue-in-cheek as it aims to be.

Rushmore (1998)
a launch pad of Anderson's distinctively quirky aesthetic pursuit, 2 December 2016
7/10

Wes Anderson's sophomore feature, RUSHMORE is the name of an elite prep school in Houston, and our protagonist, a 15-year-old Max Fischer (Schwartzman), is the whip-smart prodigy in Rushmore, a high-school specimen of GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997), but only if it were true, that's just a figment of his imagination in the film's jaunty opening, in reality, he is a barber's son, although, to hide his deep-down low self-confidence, Max brags about that his father is a successful surgeon. Max is granted entrance to Rushmore for his playwright talent, but he flunks in almost every major subject, while a plethora of extracurricular activities corroborates that Max is not made of scholarly material.

As a matter of fact, he is on the verge of being expelled from the school by the headmaster Dr. Guggenheim (Cox), but that doesn't bother him too much, he befriends Herman Blume (Murray), the father of his objectionable twin classmates, an industrialist whose life is hemmed in a lull of disillusion. Also, reaching prepubescence lands him his first crush on the newly arrived first-grade teacher, Rosemary Cross (Williams), a widow from England, but she doesn't reciprocate her feeling due to their age difference, and, spontaneously they remain in a mutually agreed friend zone.

Turning sour when Rosemary brings a date to his new school play, Max unveils his age-defying megalomaniac side which riles Rosemary and pours cold water on their budding affinity. Soon Max is as expected being expelled and enrolls into a public school, and falls out with his younger sidekick Dirk Calloway (Gamble). When he finds out Herman and Rosemary becomes an item, a puerile tit-for-tac game of sabotages kick-starts with the typical Anderson-esque moxie, sandwiched between those two man-children, one is too young and another is too old, and neither is proper to her taste, one does feel sorry for Ms. Cross. Luckily, in a well-intention-ed move, Max writes a new play paying tribute to Herman's Vietnam days, and finally, all the hatchets have been buried in the opening night of the play, Rushmore days are gone with the wind, Max finds an age- commensurate Asian girlfriend Margaret Young (Tanaka), Herman and Rosemary also reconcile.

Playing out Max's defects and merits with deadpan but farcical felicity, a pint-size Schwartzman under-girds his stereotypical screen-image in his screen-debut, self-consciously loquacious and obnoxiously self-centred. Bill Murray, whose stalled career has received a critical boost since he meets Anderson and becomes a prominent figure in the latter's ever-expanding star-studded troupe, brings about what a great farceur can achieve, subtle humor saddled with immeasurable humanity, he is pitch-perfect. Olivia Williams, an incongruent English rose involuntarily gets involved with Anderson's characteristic American levity and recklessness, instils a somewhat bracing air of wholesome sensibility.

The script is written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, and an indie-tinged soundtrack faithfully punctuates the narrative especially in its longueur, RUSHMORE is Anderson's arch epigraph commemorating his unconventional youth and a launch pad of his distinctively quirky aesthetic pursuit, although in a primordial but prophetic fashion.

Ben-Hur (1959)
the apotheosis of mainstream studio production in Hollywood's Golden Era, 30 November 2016
8/10

The newest iteration of BEN-HUR (2016) made by schlockmeister Timur Bekmambetov crashed and burned in the box-office front, which prompts my belated viewing of this grandiose historical epic under the supervision of William Wyler, the film won him a third Oscar for directing and swept with 11 wins out of its total 12 nominations (only Karl Tunberg lost BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY to Jack Clayton's ROOM AT THE TOP).

Adapted from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel, BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE Christ, this Hollywood juggernaut opens with the birth of Jesus Christ, jand condones quite a chunk of time in padding out the Calvary crucification after the iconic chariot racing money shot (which partially explains its drawn-out length, running up to 212 minutes), vehemently gets its feet wet as a Christianity- moralizing tale by casting J.C. as the Messiah who literally saves our hero Judas Ben-Hur (Heston) from perishing during his trials and tribulations, and jumps the shark in its miraculous ending, gratifyingly throws humankind's fate under the omnipresence's whims, which gives a staid aftertaste.

The main plot is of course, about Judas, a wealthy Jewish prince in Jerusalem, AD 26, falls foul of his childhood friend, now a Roman tribune, Messala (Boyd), who swears allegiance to the Roman Empire, and fails to rope the freedom-advocating Judas into joining his side. Under Messala's cunning malfeasance out of a mere accident, Judas is sentenced to toil in the galleys whilst his mother Miriam (Scott) and sister Tirzah (O'Connell) are cooped up in prison. Revenge is the mainspring behind Judas' odyssey from a galley slave to an heir of the childless Roman Consul Quintus Arrius (Hawkins), it is hatred that keeps his head above water against adversity, alert to a golden window to enact his exit strategy and he even magnanimously hatches a son-father rapport with the tyrannical Arrius. This is the thorny knot in the otherwise rather Manichaean racial feud depicted in the story, how far one can go to love your enemy? Which remains a quintessential challenge for those who endorse Christianity, and the film could have delved deeper into Judas' psyche on that issue, yet, Arrius wholly disappears from the narrative after the mid-stream, and he merely functions as a springboard to Judas' glorious homecoming with his rehabilitation, reunion and rediscovery. At the end of the day, justice belatedly prevails, but Judas still gets all shaken up in the aftermath, revenge might keep him alive but it is religion that gives him the ultimate peace.

For what it's worth, BEN-HUR's visual spectacle still holds water to an awe-inspiring amazement and thrill, it is a historic accomplishment not just because of its cutting-edge technicalities but also for the staggering manpower it strenuously deploys, the film itself is a panegyric of human's creativity, which is something no dissenter can take away.

Romans are played by a crop of top-notch British thespians, whilst Jews are mostly impersonated by Americans, although how come Hugh Griffith's ludicrously swarthy portrayal of the Arabic Sheik can walk off with that Oscar statute still eludes me, he is not even the top-pick among the supporting cast in the film, both Hawkins and Boyd can easily upstage him with their more engaging agent and emotive bravura, especially the latter, truly deserves at least an Oscar nomination which usurped by Griffith. That is not to say, Heston wins his Oscar all fair and square, but at least one can understand the logic, Heston has a dominating role whacked by an unimaginable baptism of fire, he is undeniably sympathetic and mostly affective with a very theatrical flair. An unsung heroine, is Israeli beauty Haya Harareet's divine presence as Esther, the daughter of Judah's former slave Simonides (Jaffe), and Judah's sweetheart, who livens up the scenes whenever poignancy comes into play, a classic godsend.

When all is said and done, BEN-HUR is the apotheosis of mainstream studio production in Hollywood's Golden Era, its phenomenal scale, its breathtaking grandeur and the imposingly plangent score by Miklós Rózsa can unnerve any redux project even tries to emulate its success, and furthermore, its "revenge is never the cure" message can earnestly transcend any religious persuasions and reach to a broader demography out of its faith-base home-turf.

J. K. Rowling's magic realm reopens with this first installment of a 5-picture deal, 27 November 2016
7/10

J. K. Rowling's magic realm reopens with this first installment of a 5-picture deal, directed by wizardry old-hand David Yates, adjusts the time back to 1926, New York City and introduces us a new protagonist, the 29-year-old Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a self-consciously introvert wizard, carries a suitcase which contains all the heterogeneous beasts he has captured all around the world, although, some naughty ones constantly sneak out into the world of No-Maj (a precursor term of Muggle), and unleash some considerable commotions, notably the cutesy Niffler, a relentless, reckless and ravenous treasure-hunter.

Newt's pursing action in a bank catches the attention of Tina, a delegated former Auror employed by the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), also causes his suitcase unintentionally swapped with the one belongs to Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), a portly No-Maj who fails to get a loan to open his pastry shop. The triad soon will be joined by Tina's mind-reading sister Queenie (Sudol, aka. the musician A Fine Frenzy), woozily inveigles herself into a tabooed romance with a No-Maj, but, it is the Jacob-Newt pair gets the full treatment of a constellations of awesome beast-hunting exploits.

Meanwhile, a mysteriously destructive dark force, later identified as Obscurus, wreaks havoc in the city, killed a bigot Senator, Percival Graves (Farrell), the head of Magical Security of MACUSA, yokes the advent of Obscurus to Newt's arrival (indeed there is a dormant Obscurus captured by Newt inside his suitcase), but on the sly, Graves also coerces a young Credence Barebone (Miller) to locate the human host of the amorphous Obscurus with his own ulterior motive, on the grounds of a quid pro quo to extricate Credence from his abusive stepmother Mary Lou (Morton), a No-Maj extremist against witchcraft. In the process, Newt and his friends must save themselves from the persecution from MACUSA and during the climax, when a rampant Obscurus threats to expose the witchery universe to the whole world, it falls on Newt and his fantastic animals' shoulders to do the reparation job, a finale sounds like boilerplate on paper, but in fact, emanates a feeling of cleansing solace owing to its visual and aural grandeur.

First time takes on the sole credit for the script, Rowling timely orchestrates a storyline simmering with a cauldron of repressed torment from an anomaly, whilst adheres to the family-friendly, mass- appealing tenet, punctuated with a kaleidoscope of SFX creatures to lure any goggle-eyed audience. Among the core triad, Redmayne walks us through the journey with his unaffected self- effacement, Waterston engages us with a competently innocuous impression in the traditional heroine mode and Fogler makes for a sufficient comic foil tailing around as a proxy of us Muggle onlookers. A key revelation may suggest Farrel's future involvement with the franchise would be blunted, after being supplanted by an even more named star, however for my money, Miller upstages others to demonstrate his versatility, he can go very dark if necessary, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN-style.

By and large, the film sets a solid first step to usher the large demography of Harry Potter fans to a similar milieu after a 15-year stretch (bar those have become too skeptical to take the story seriously) and establishes Newt in a grown-up Harry image as our sympathetic guide, hopefully, peddles new audience at the same time even if the whole enterprise feels like being constructed by rote and commonality, that is what masscult for, isn't it?

p.s.: The 3D format I watched is rather murky and blurry, which as usual, is poles apart from its pristinely clear quality from its trailer, always a disheartening factor to put potential viewers off from cinema-going, since Blu-Ray DVDs are only several months away, 3D, once an eye-catching pull, now has legitimately become a thorn in our flesh in its stalled technological progress.

a refreshingly engaging comedy, replete of the gratifying allure of Hollywood's Golden Age, 22 November 2016
7/10

This is the bona-fide movie adaption of Harry Segall's play HEAVEN CAN WAIT, which Warren Beatty would remake in the 70s, whereas Ernst Lubitsch's 1943 namesake is a different story. Alexander Hall's HERE COMES MR. JORDAN is a seven-times Oscar nominee including those big ones, BEST PICTURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST LEADING ACTOR and BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR and it won 2 for its original story and script (at a time when there were three different categories to honor the writers).

This fantastic fable is about a promising prizefighter Joe Pendleton (Montgomery), whose soul is prematurely taken out of his body by an eager beaver soul-collector (Horton) during a plane crash, then according to the almighty agent of heaven, Mr. Jordan (Rains), Joe still has five-decade of life on earth, but the scrape is that his body has already been cremated, there is no way he can return as Joe. But no need to worry, Mr. Jordan comes to the rescue, he promises to chaperon Joe's soul to look for a perfect body, aka. a newly dead corpse, to his liking. Finally it is the murdered millionaire banker Bruce Farnsworth catches Joe's interest, but not in light of his wealth, the high- minded script clarifies that it is solely because of Joe's Good Samaritan attribute and an overt love- at-first-sight vibe, he tries to help out an elegant damsel-in-distress Miss Logan (Keyes), whose financier father is going to be put in jail thanks to the worthless bonds sold by Bruce's bank. Only, things will not be that easy because a certain destiny is already written in stone, and another tricky thing is, how can he makes Miss Logan reciprocate her love to him, Joe Pendleton instead of the person she sees aka. Bruce Farnsworth? Yet, don't worry, Mr. Jordan will safeguard that everything will be fine, plus, Joe always has his lucky saxophone as a mnemonic.

Tackling with surreal idea like afterlife, floating-soul, body-altering, etc., the film deploys a strikingly economic visual tack, not even tries to adorn the narrative with a rudimentary out-of- body and invisible artifice which David Lean puts into practice in BLITHE SPIRIT (1945), this most expedient yet effective sleight-of-hand is to allow audience seeing Joe's soul all the time, regardless of his physical hosts, which means Montgomery can play along with a supporting cast reacts differently according to his host's identity, whether he is Bruce Farnsworth or later, the boxer Murdoch. Amplifying by the identity-shifting gimmick, a concise but innovative script, the film makes great play of appeal with a credible cast, headlined by Mr. Montgomery, who is marginally needling being a self-centered whiner in the beginning, but in time, he will imbue a charming patina of earnestness when the plot thickens and effortlessly take our breath away.

Veteran character actor James Gleason scoops a hard-earned Oscar nomination as Joe's boxing agent, Max Corkle, who is the only one in the know and Gleason is hilarious, particularly in several reaction shots and whenever he attempts to communicate with Mr. Jordan whom he cannot see. Claude Rains is by and large, affable and unfathomable in a larger-than-life design, meanwhile the distaff players have less to impress, Evelyn Keyes and Rita Johnson (as Bruce's murderous wife) incarnate a Manichaean representation of women, which shamefully belies the movie's wishful- thinking male spin - a woman finds him desirable because of his soul rather than his outward form, but let's not forget, what attracts Joe at the first place is Miss Logan's comely appearance, not her inner quality, that's a double standard doesn't consonant with political correctness, otherwise, it is a refreshingly engaging comedy, replete of the gratifying allure of Hollywood's Golden Age.

A massive crowd-pleaser in the international festival circuit from Kiwi country, 21 November 2016
7/10

A massive crowd-pleaser in the international festival circuit from Kiwi country, Taika Waititi's fourth feature has already become the top grossing New Zealand film ever, and Waititi himself has been propitiously recruited by Hollywood to run the show of the upcoming MCU tent-pole THOR: RAGNAROK.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE taps into the universally viable prescription of an odd-pair adventure, a tubby juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker (Dennison) is sent to a new foster home in a rustic land by child welfare services, he is welcome by the heart-of-gold Maori woman Bella (Te Wiata), yet Bella's shaggy and grumpy husband Hec (Neill) doesn't seem to warm up to him. Ricky's escape attempt is thwarted by the place's unique topography, a remote house in the middle of nowhere adjunct to a green expanse of forests. And his resistance begin to thaw when aunt Bella's all-embracing maternal care overcomes a boy's innate defensive mechanism.

But good time doesn't linger, he and Hec are bereft when Bella drops dead out of the blue, and under pain of being transferred to a juvenile prison on account of that there will be no more foster homes available, Ricky fakes his death by setting the barn alight and heads to the forest with Bella' ashes, which he intends to scatter in the place closer to the sky just as Bella wished. Strayed in the wilderness, Ricky encounters Hec, who is looking for him. But, finally, they embark on a months- long living-in-the-woods fleeing while being subjected as the target of a national manhunt, insisted by the relentless welfare services officer Paula (House, hams herself up in caricature, "no one is left alone").

Waititi is aptly conversant with all the ropes, in the duo's solitary journey, inevitably both will open their hearts and comes to terms with each other (Hec is an illiterate with a manslaughter past, and Ricky is highly haiku-dependent), subsequently a heartfelt mutual understanding and rapport registers itself and ultimately, the blasé but none-too-mawkish father-son bond that transcends blood lineage and overcome even the most skeptical onlooker. En route, they come face to face with forbidding threats (both from fellow humans and wildlife), but heartwarming greetings also episodically arise: an extra friendly Maori family where Ricky entrains a ritualistic admiration of Kahu (Ngatai-Melbourne), a girl of his age, and a zany hermit living in the wild, Psycho Sam, played by Rhys Darby with a scene-stealing offbeat exultation.

Waititi knowingly plays up the scenery-porn of New Zealand's otherworldly terrain and its lush flora and fauna, together with an ethnic and eclectic soundtrack, but pulls punches with the harsh reality of how to survive in the nature, for example, it is sheer inexplicable that our hero can keep his chubby figure unaltered after all his tribulations, which tallies with Waititi's precept of downplaying anything (death, funeral, ash-scattering and a malicious sniper) that would hinder its cardinal quirkiness and light-heartedness. Many film references are being felicitously inserted, from one-liners of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and TERMINATOR franchises, to the faux-THELMA & LOUISE (1991), over-elaborate climax.

Under Waititi's Wes Anderson-like fabrication of a feel-good fairy-tale, newcomer Julian Dennison gives a properly scintillating child performance, sometimes precocious, sometimes wide-eyed, but never rubs the audience up in the wrong way (although the self-conscious patter to the three gormless hunters detailing what they do in the woods is quite a stretch for him to pull off). Sam Neill, magnanimously saves much spotlight for his inexperienced co-star but sends off a pulsating vibe as a man who is completely at ease with his self-effacement. Last but not the least, a wonderful Rima Te Wiata radiates splendid affability and effervescence which affectingly provokes a tang of loss when her screen-time is due, and prompts us wonder would it be nice if it were an aunt-and-boy venture. Woefully, under the sexist climate, that would never be green-lit for an obvious reason.

a review of MY FRIENDS and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2, 20 November 2016
7/10

MY FRIENDS is originally a project for Italian writer/director Pietro Germi, whose untimely death in 1974 at the age of 60, leaves the film to be taken over by another maestro of the Commedia all'Italiana, Mario Monicelli. The film was a whopping box-office success, which subsequently would spawn two sequels, Monicelli would be back in the saddle with ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 (1982) and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 3 (1985) would be outsourced to Nanni Loy.

A double-bill of these two Monicelli's vehicles, set in Florence, MY FRIENDS has a quartet core of middle-aged men: Count Lello Mascetti (Tognhzzi), a down-and-out ex-nobleman who has squandered all his fortunes, can only slum it in a tiny basement with his suicide-driven wife Alice (Vukotic) and their daughter, which doesn't dissuade him from being smitten with an underage student Titti (Dionisio), who has a predilection for girls over men; the second one is Giorgio Perozzi (Noiret), a journalist separated from his wife Laura (Goodwin) and is irreconcilably at adds with his prim adult son; then there is Rambaldo Melandri (Moschin), a bachelor architect, determined to find his perfect half and lastly is Guido Necchi (Del Prete), married with Carmen (Tamantini) and they own a bar which serves as their haunt.

Life is anything but optimistic, Pietro Germi and co.'s script conscientiously draws the milieu from reality, in both Mascetti and Perozzi's cases, one might easily finds company in distress and self- abandonment, but, not these four, feeding on their staunch friendship, the fold never relinquish their idiosyncratic practical jokes and escapades, mostly ingenious and borderline harmless, counting their classic passengers-slapping when a train departs and Mascetti's trademark "supercazzola" gibberish. And following Melandri's tireless pursuit of a married woman, Donatella (Karlatos), an embodiment of Madonna with psychological hiccups, a fifth member, Professor Sassaroli (Celi) is introduced, a renowned surgeon and the husband of Donatella, who is perversely liberal about the affair and is more than happy to not stand in their way if they are really made for each other, and of course, they are not, but Sassaroli is here to stay.

One of their most detailed skits involves a penny-pinching pensioner Righi (Blier), who is hustled into believing that the quartet belongs to a mafia mob, with Sassaroli as their boss, dangled by the profitable income, Righi buckles down to join in their "dangerous" line-of-work, and their adventure culminates in a self-organized gangster melee, which leaves Righi in chagrin, utterly side-splitting thanks to Blier's bang-up po-faced bearing. The coda of MY FRIENDS deflects to a more sombre streak - a heart attack does Peruzzi in, all happens in a sudden but no grim sorrow is allowed to percolate, his friends keep their comic esprit de corps alive, even death cannot take it away.

ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 comes 7 years later, the story continues after Peruzzi's abrupt departure, the original cast returns (significantly older) except Del Prete, who is replaced by a more prosaic- looking Renzo Montagnani as Necchi, only the latter is not endowed with Del Prete's dashing and devil-may-care panache.

The part 2 doesn't structurally pigeonhole itself as a strict sequel, owing to the huge pull of Noiret's Perozzi, there are abundant flashbacks charting Perozzi and Mascetti's past stories, which take place earlier than those in the first one, while without ghettoizing Sassaroli out of the picture (the original four becomes a quintet), it conspicuously creates some anachronism for viewers with fresh memory of the first installment. Gallantly interpolating the flood of Arno in 1966, the story manages to expound on Perozzi's marriage disintegration and take a taunting spin on Melandri's another devoted courtship to a voluptuous but God-fearing young girl Noemi (Giordano).

Contriving an act of pulling Pisa tower back in perpendicular, gate-crushing a singing contest with a risqué song a cappella in the presence of cardinals, a chirpy caper involving a Spanish contortionist (Da Silva), their shticks never disappoint, meanwhile Mascetti has his own familial problem when his slow-witted daughter is impregnated by an unknown rapist and decides to become an unwed mother. Finally, a guest performance from Paolo Stoppa as Savino, a Shylock to whom Mascetti is indebted, he would fall prey into the quartet's pranks (includes a scatological one which sublimely tips the scale), and undergo several "invisible" operations to square off Mascetti's debts. Similarly, another heart attack befalls on one of the main characters near the finish, but this time, to a lesser extent, Tognazzi, Moschin, Noiret and Celi are all sterling comedians, but it is Tognazzi who stands out in his more sympathetic nobleman-in-distress mould.

Inscribing their marks as quintessential pieces of Commedia all'Italiana, both films are salacious, amoral and pathologically funny, although the second one only logically contends to take a leaf from its predecessor's book. But essentially they are not connived as far-fetched escapist fares with a shamelessly patronizing smugness, their gypsyish antics are genuinely devised to imbue a positive vibe out of their quotidian misfortunes, despite that they can never hit the right note of the gender politics, yet, what do you expect from a buddy movie?

My Friends (1975)
a review of MY FRIENDS and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2, 20 November 2016
8/10

MY FRIENDS is originally a project for Italian writer/director Pietro Germi, whose untimely death in 1974 at the age of 60, leaves the film to be taken over by another maestro of the Commedia all'Italiana, Mario Monicelli. The film was a whopping box-office success, which subsequently would spawn two sequels, Monicelli would be back in the saddle with ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 (1982) and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 3 (1985) would be outsourced to Nanni Loy.

A double-bill of these two Monicelli's vehicles, set in Florence, MY FRIENDS has a quartet core of middle-aged men: Count Lello Mascetti (Tognhzzi), a down-and-out ex-nobleman who has squandered all his fortunes, can only slum it in a tiny basement with his suicide-driven wife Alice (Vukotic) and their daughter, which doesn't dissuade him from being smitten with an underage student Titti (Dionisio), who has a predilection for girls over men; the second one is Giorgio Perozzi (Noiret), a journalist separated from his wife Laura (Goodwin) and is irreconcilably at adds with his prim adult son; then there is Rambaldo Melandri (Moschin), a bachelor architect, determined to find his perfect half and lastly is Guido Necchi (Del Prete), married with Carmen (Tamantini) and they own a bar which serves as their haunt.

Life is anything but optimistic, Pietro Germi and co.'s script conscientiously draws the milieu from reality, in both Mascetti and Perozzi's cases, one might easily finds company in distress and self- abandonment, but, not these four, feeding on their staunch friendship, the fold never relinquish their idiosyncratic practical jokes and escapades, mostly ingenious and borderline harmless, counting their classic passengers-slapping when a train departs and Mascetti's trademark "supercazzola" gibberish. And following Melandri's tireless pursuit of a married woman, Donatella (Karlatos), an embodiment of Madonna with psychological hiccups, a fifth member, Professor Sassaroli (Celi) is introduced, a renowned surgeon and the husband of Donatella, who is perversely liberal about the affair and is more than happy to not stand in their way if they are really made for each other, and of course, they are not, but Sassaroli is here to stay.

One of their most detailed skits involves a penny-pinching pensioner Righi (Blier), who is hustled into believing that the quartet belongs to a mafia mob, with Sassaroli as their boss, dangled by the profitable income, Righi buckles down to join in their "dangerous" line-of-work, and their adventure culminates in a self-organized gangster melee, which leaves Righi in chagrin, utterly side-splitting thanks to Blier's bang-up po-faced bearing. The coda of MY FRIENDS deflects to a more sombre streak - a heart attack does Peruzzi in, all happens in a sudden but no grim sorrow is allowed to percolate, his friends keep their comic esprit de corps alive, even death cannot take it away.

ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 comes 7 years later, the story continues after Peruzzi's abrupt departure, the original cast returns (significantly older) except Del Prete, who is replaced by a more prosaic- looking Renzo Montagnani as Necchi, only the latter is not endowed with Del Prete's dashing and devil-may-care panache.

The part 2 doesn't structurally pigeonhole itself as a strict sequel, owing to the huge pull of Noiret's Perozzi, there are abundant flashbacks charting Perozzi and Mascetti's past stories, which take place earlier than those in the first one, while without ghettoizing Sassaroli out of the picture (the original four becomes a quintet), it conspicuously creates some anachronism for viewers with fresh memory of the first installment. Gallantly interpolating the flood of Arno in 1966, the story manages to expound on Perozzi's marriage disintegration and take a taunting spin on Melandri's another devoted courtship to a voluptuous but God-fearing young girl Noemi (Giordano).

Contriving an act of pulling Pisa tower back in perpendicular, gate-crushing a singing contest with a risqué song a cappella in the presence of cardinals, a chirpy caper involving a Spanish contortionist (Da Silva), their shticks never disappoint, meanwhile Mascetti has his own familial problem when his slow-witted daughter is impregnated by an unknown rapist and decides to become an unwed mother. Finally, a guest performance from Paolo Stoppa as Savino, a Shylock to whom Mascetti is indebted, he would fall prey into the quartet's pranks (includes a scatological one which sublimely tips the scale), and undergo several "invisible" operations to square off Mascetti's debts. Similarly, another heart attack befalls on one of the main characters near the finish, but this time, to a lesser extent, Tognazzi, Moschin, Noiret and Celi are all sterling comedians, but it is Tognazzi who stands out in his more sympathetic nobleman-in-distress mould.

Inscribing their marks as quintessential pieces of Commedia all'Italiana, both films are salacious, amoral and pathologically funny, although the second one only logically contends to take a leaf from its predecessor's book. But essentially they are not connived as far-fetched escapist fares with a shamelessly patronizing smugness, their gypsyish antics are genuinely devised to imbue a positive vibe out of their quotidian misfortunes, despite that they can never hit the right note of the gender politics, yet, what do you expect from a buddy movie?

an eccentric hybrid between film and stage play, an interplay between theatricality and cinematic artifice, 17 November 2016
7/10

Taiwanese celebrated theatre director and playwright Stan Lai's first foray into filmmaking, a bare- bones stage-play piece exclusively takes place inside a theater, where due to a schedule misapprehension, two plays, SECRET LOVE and PEACH BLOSSOM LAND, which form the amalgam as the title, both book the stage to rehearse at the same day, sets up an awkward co-existent situation, meanwhile, a wandering woman (Weihui Li), is aimlessly looking for a man whom nobody seems to know.

SECRET LOVE is a contemporary romantic drama, a pair of star-crossed lovers: Bingliu (Jin), from Eastern-northern area and Zhifan (Lin, the mega-star of Taiwan-and-Hong Kong cinema who would enter a full retirement within 2 years), from Easter-southern region meet in Shanghai during the turbulent times, subsequently their fate is bluntly sundered by the liberation of PRC in 1949, they lose contact of each other. Only several decades later, when a bed-ridden Bingliu finally realizes that both him and Zhifan are in the same city all these years because they both escape from mainland to Taiwan after the liberation, he advertises a missing person notice on the newspaper, in hope of seeing her once again. A belated tête-à-tête will wind up striking a poignant chord with audience when they exchange common pleasantries, a pungent scent of dolor and time-lost transcends the mawkish context channeling through Jin and Lin's terrific elderly presences.

In a diametrically different note PEACH BLOSSOM LAND is a period comedy, loosely based on the story written by East Jin Dynasty man-of-letters Yunming Tao, where a fisherman Tao (Liqun Li) is prompted by the cuckold of his wife Spring Flower (Ting) with their landlord Master Yuan (Gu), attempts a dangerous adventure against the turbulent waters and finds himself in the off-the-map Peach Blossom Land, a Shangri-La where people live in peace and harmony, completely cut off with the world outside. But he cannot forget about his old life, so when he returns home years after, presumably dead, the life of Spring Flower and Master Yuan is not exactly what he imagines. All three actors are theater old-hands, their performances are overtly stagy but divertingly engaging and funny with antics.

Lai conspicuously alternates between the two rehearsals with interruptions and squabbles but apportions even weight to both, cherry-picks key acts to give both stories a consistent narrative arc and leaves out all the flotsam and jetsam in between. And a humorous segment comes when they have to share the same auditorium, space is encroached, lines are wrongly-delivered, but in a master stroke, Lai manifest that those two tonally polarizing plays in fact have one thing in common - a universally felt longing of one's home, like the wandering woman, there is a sense of lost beyond any retrieving.

This unique film is a low-budget gem in Asian cinema, whenever the rehearsal is suspended, Christopher Doyle's camera prowls in the dim-light theatre like an ungainly intruder, replete with curiosity but cannot see through all the murkiness. To this day, Lai's Manichean avant-garde piece has preserved its renown as an eccentric hybrid between film and stage play, an interplay between theatricality and cinematic artifice.

wackily retro and refreshingly nihilistic, 16 November 2016
7/10

Shane Black's third feature film, after his tent-pole stint in IRON MAN 3 (2013), THE NICE GUYS returns to his home turf L.A. as in his palatable debut KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005). A retro-70s odd-pair comedy couples a stone-faced heavy Jackson Healy (Crowe, sizably ballooned in his physique, whether intentionally or otherwise) and a goofy private eye Holland March (Gosling), who are set to look for a runaway girl Amelia Kutner (Qualley), but soon discover several deaths happened to those who are connected to a porno movie made by Amelia, in defiance of her mother Judith (Basinger), a honcho in the United States Department of Justice.

Black is conversant with the genre ropes, apportions much physical endeavor to Healy, socking low-lives, close-range combating with pro assassins, and leaves the brain work to an ostensibly lackadaisical March, a single father perennially tailed with a premature teenage daughter Holly (Rice), who feistily teams with the duo in their children-improper outings (including a licentious party thrown by an AV producer), and coolly transforms into a dauntless heroine in the process of solving this desultory mystery.

Yes, the plot is half-heartedly baked, there is no need of audience to connect the dots, a timely cue always routinely pops up to keep the story rolling, no matter how far-fetched it seems (a cash- delivery mission is interleaved in a slapdash flurry without rounding off its suspicious corners), and an crucial character can be conveniently dispatched right after beans having been spilt, just because her mission is completed, or maybe because she is a gorgeous, idealistic fruitcake, doesn't deserve a happy break?

However, what brings home to viewers is Black's deft execution of a roller-coaster ride (almost) without brakes, under a minutely reconstructed milieu and location faithful to the ethos. Black pranks routine action shticks with unexpected but absolutely droll twists, e.g. the duo's put-on- an-impassive-face retreat in an elevator when body count is mounting thanks to a then- disembodied hit-man Johnny Boy (Bomer, in a thankless uglified villain mold), peppered with wry Nixon jokes and wacky dream scenes; he also invigorates bravado with cracking gallows humor, for instance. when they are held at gunpoint by a vixen Tally (DaCosta), like father, like daughter, Holly can be madcap on some odd occasion.

The Gosling-Crowe interplay stimulates pleasurable chemistry and rapport under Black's devil- may-care rein, especially Gosling, seems to have an inherent knack at comic timing, and the newcomer Angourie Rice, skillfully straddles both pockets of precociousness and greenness, altogether they form a unique two-dads-one-daughter triad (without a palpable gay context).

For nostalgist, THE NICE GUYS also marks a L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) reunion of Crowe and Basinger (who is another Botox victim borne out of the insecurity of aging) almost two decades later, Crowe can still lead a picture with his rotund but still agile figure, while Basinger can barely find a decent role to boost her waning career. The film doesn't fare well in the box office front, which might hinder the prospect of a sequel so to speak, maybe the 70s milieu is chiefly appealing for the reminiscent and cinephile, lesser to today's Millennials core audience, also justice doesn't fully prevail in the end, and an almost nihilistic overtone doesn't enhance its popularity either.


Page 1 of 112:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]