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806 reviews in total 
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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Lurid Melodrama, 14 November 2014

Kat's mom, Eve Connor, was an elegant woman who did not relish her married domesticity over the years, becoming miserable and unstable. When Kat was 17-years old, Eve suddenly just disappeared from their house without a trace. Her dad Brock was devastated and distraught. Kat though moved on quite easily with her raging hormones. love affairs and college. When Kat comes home from college on a break though, unsettled issues about her mom's disappearance simply refused to die down.

American indie film director Greg Araki directed this film with his own screenplay adapted from the novel by Laura Kasischke. The story is a strange mishmash of various genres, from family drama to police drama, to teenage angst drama. There is a heavy dose of sexuality here, with lead star Shailene Woodley actually having nude scenes.

Woodley carries the film well as the central character Kat. Earlier this year, she just broke through into mainstream consciousness in two big hit films, as heroine Tris in "Divergent" and as Hazel in "The Fault in Our Stars". She plays another teenager here, but with different adventures, mostly of the sexual kind. Her daring was quite unexpected for a serious young lead actress in this day, unlike the 80s or 90s.

Solid and sexy as Woodley was though, she was still upstaged by Eva Green playing her disturbed mother, Eve. This vitally sensual woman simply has a commanding screen presence that her other co-stars in any film would find hard to match. From "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Casino Royale", then recently in "300: Rise of an Empire" or "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", Eva Green always ends up as the star audiences will remember most.

The male actors play support to the ladies here. Playing the father Brock is the charismatic and reliable actor mostly known for his TV work, Chris Meloni. During the flashback scenes, Meloni and his toupee provided that little touch of humor this film needed. Thomas Jane plays the macho cop assigned to the Connor case, who gets a little to much involved. Shiloh Fernandez plays the libidinous boy next door who got Kat started on her sexual escapades, among other people.

For me, this film was two different films each of which could stand on their own, but these two are connected with a tenuous and awkward bond. One was about Kat and her issues. One was about Eve and her issues. Together though, the totality of the film comes across as an uneven and lurid family melodrama that is not exactly easy to digest. 6/10.

12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Suffocating Virtues, 13 November 2014

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a wealthy man, a former actor who now runs a hotel in Cappadocia. He also writes a column for the local newspaper, and is researching for his planned book about the history of Turkish theater. Nihal (Melisa Sözen) is his beautiful and much younger wife. Necla (Demet Akbag) is his divorced sister.

Also involved the family of Aydin's poor tenants who could not pay their rent for several months already. The friendly and gregarious Hamdi appeals for compassion, while his older brother, the impetuous jobless ex-con Ismail and his sullen young son Illyas, could not hide their contempt for their landlord.

This film is about the various conversations and confrontations between these people. These may begin as abstract debates about not resisting evil or boredom or donations, yet they all end up being very personal. There is no real plot, just a lot of seemingly random dialogue. Although, there are arguments that seemed endless and repetitive, these confrontations were eloquently written with very meaningful words for both sides of the issue. These long talky scenes were riveting despite their length and you hang on to every word they were saying. The performances of the actors of these flawed characters were faultless and so natural.

The cinematography of this film is so amazingly beautiful as it magically captured the unique topography of Cappadocia during the wintertime. There were several picture-perfect haunting scenes throughout, specially those about the Anatolian horse, the cemetery, the train tracks, the tree with the birds, the rabbit in the brush, the town, the hotel -- all covered with pristine snow. The close-ups of the actors were all so perfectly framed to achieve maximal drama. The use of mirrors to vary the camera shots were very good.

I admit that the 3-hour and 16-minute length of this film can be felt. However, you do not really mind this time running as you listen to intellectually-stimulating emotionally-rich conversation. This film is a masterpiece of world cinema by acclaimed Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, truly worthy of its Palme d'Or during the Cannes Film Festival this summer. This should be a shoo-in to at least be nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. 9/10.

Horns (2013)
6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Escalating Bizarreness, 12 November 2014

Ig Perrish and Merrin Williams were a perfect young couple in love, sweethearts since childhood. One day, Merrin was found dead in the forest, and Ig becomes the prime suspect. As the whole town, including his family and friends, turns on Ig, he began to notice horns growing out of this temples. People around him lose all self-control and become totally id driven and brutally honest. But despite these disturbing occurrences, Ig remained determined to get to the bottom of Merrin's brutal murder.

Daniel Radcliffe's multi-faceted performance is probably the only thing that keeps this over-the-top movie together. The rest of the cast, even Juno Temple as Merrin, did not really do anything memorable with their roles. Everyone seemed to be playing it too high-strung or too low-key, maybe that was the director's intention to keep the proceedings interesting. The eventual antagonist was particularly weak, with their final "battle" not too impressive despite the special effects, not exactly Grand Guignol.

"Horns" is one of those films you cannot categorize. It has elements of love story, crime drama, satanic horror and dark comedy. Director Alexandre Aja uses a lot of flashbacks to tell stories about the Ig's childhood with his gang and his relationship with Merrin. When the horns grow out of Ig's head, the film takes on a totally bizarre character that defies definition. The strangeness escalates further when flames, snakes, and even a pitchfork gets into the scene. It had an interesting first half, but unfortunately the second half becomes downright absurd. 5/10.

Leviathan (2014)
17 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
Corruption in a Small Russian Town, 8 November 2014

I went to catch "Leviathan" not only because it was already announced as Russia's official entry to the race for Best Foreign Language Film in the next Oscars. Furthermore, it is actually one of those being named as a likely nominee and even the possible winner.

Kolya is a regular man who lived in a small seaside Russian town with his younger second wife Lilya and a teenage son from his first marriage Roma. He was being evicted out of his home by the mayor. He enlisted the legal assistance of a junior army buddy Dmitry, who has since become a hotshot lawyer in Moscow. However, as Kolya becomes the unfortunate victim more and more, both in the political and domestic fronts, Dmitry's arrival may actually have brought more harm than good.

Despite the exotic setting, the events in the story could in fact have happened anywhere else in the world. The political corruption aspect of this film (about how the powerful had the poor under their thumbs) has been tackled many times in many Filipino films. The family problems tackled in the film (poverty, rebellion, betrayal) are also really nothing new. The whole film felt like a very Pinoy film, even complete with a religion sermon at the end.

Technically, there were some very beautifully-shot dramatic vistas of the sea and the beach, and the wreckage and decay moored therein, including a skeleton of a giant whale (the physical symbol of the Leviathan in the title).

The acting of the main characters -- Aleksey Serebryakov (as Kolya), Elena Lyadova (as Lilya) and Vladimir Vdovichenkov (as Dmitriy) -- were generally very good. My favorite actor though would be Roman Madyanov, who played the mayor Vadim because of the touch of humor he gave in his portrayal of the antagonist. All the characters in this film are flawed and not easy to like or relate to.

Maybe I was expecting too much because of the hype that came before or maybe the story is just too familiar for me, but this did not exactly feel too impressed by it all. It was only OK. The film honestly felt like two separate films with an awkward transition in the middle. A couple of major characters in the first half of the film totally disappeared in the second half. One suddenly reappeared at the end, while the other was not mentioned anymore at all. As with many European films, the pace of the storytelling was very slow, with very little happening in many scenes. There was a climactic twist of sorts, but it was not as big or surprising as I was expecting.

Big Hero 6 (2014)
17 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Baymax Saves the Day (and the Film Too!), 7 November 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The city is San Fransokyo, a hybrid between San Francisco and Tokyo. Hiro Tadashi is a bored child prodigy who graduated high school at 13, and whiles his time making fighter robots. His brother Tadashi is in college under esteemed pioneer Robert Callaghan, working on his own project -- a big white inflatable robot nurse named Baymax.

After Hiro develops a highly original, versatile and powerful mind- controlled microbot technology, Callaghan invites him into his program as well. However, that same fateful night, a big explosive fire breaks out at the school building with a highly tragic aftermath which would flip Hiro's world over.

With Baymax as his invaluable robot sidekick, Hiro would discover that there was something more behind that fire. Hiro uses his techy genius to upgrade the abilities of Baymax, along with four of his brothers' inventor friends -- Gogo, Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred -- to from a group of six superheroes who sought to get to the bottom of the mystery of the man in the Kabuki mask behind the whole thing.

It was only after the film that I found out that Big Hero 6 was actually a group of superheroes from Marvel Comics back in the late 1990s. This is the first Disney animated film that featured Marvel comic characters since the former acquired the latter in 2009. Disney was given license to change the appearances of the characters for the film version, Disney-fying them so to speak.

While watching the film, I got the vibe of Pixar's "The Incredibles", and even the rival company Dreamworks' "How to Train Your Dragon." But this film had its own memorable moments, mostly thanks to that adorable giant marshmallow of a robot, Baymax.

Baymax is really a wonder to watch. His face is nothing more than a two black dots connected by a line. However he can convey so much emotion with those. A lot of the credit I guess would fall on his animators who were successful to create a genuinely cute character who is not annoying (Olaf anyone?) The voice acting of Scott Adsit also gave Baymax his kind and compassionate character.

If not for Baymax, this whole film would be a generic superhero cartoon with little to remember it by. We did not really know the other four members of the team except that they were friends and classmates of Tadashi who had invented some awesome stuff. Hiro is the usual spirited Disney boy hero, but for a change this hero was no fool or weakling. His supreme intellect and engineering skills set him apart.

However, these may all be just nitpicking because as a whole the film was very entertaining and enjoyable for the whole family. The animated special effects were fantastically conceived, executed and great to watch. As a sucker for films featuring brothers, I loved that the story between Hiro and Tadashi was so touchingly told.

Since this is technically a Disney-Marvel film, do wait for an extra scene after ALL the end credits. The credits rolled for an interminable ten minutes before the extra scene, but these scene is a must-see and worth the long wait. This short scene features a cameo from a guy we see in cameos from most all Marvel films.

35 out of 72 people found the following review useful:
Sci-Fi with a Big Heart, 6 November 2014

The Earth in the near future is a shell of what it used to be. The plant life is dying. The very soil that used to sustain it is destroying it. There are some underground efforts headed by Prof. Brand (Michael Caine) called Lazarus to find an alternative world to settle in somewhere out there in the vast reaches of space. Three such potential worlds have been found beyond a black hole near Saturn.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a retired NASA engineer who had been chosen to pilot this effort to seek out and investigate these alternative planets. Despite the stiff objections of his 10-year old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy), he accepts the mission and lifted off together with his crew of three scientists, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi).

From there, we are brought on an unparalleled adventure of space, time and humanity by a master who is probably the most mentally-challenging writer and director in the film industry today, Christopher Nolan. Front and center in this spectacular sci-fi film is the timeless bond between a father and his daughter. The poetic story he has written is multi- layered and emotional, despite its scientific jargon and bleak settings.

As with his other projects, Nolan works with some of the best technical talents, many of whom are award-winners in their fields. Everyone on this team are guaranteed at least Oscar nominations for their work in this film, and they may in fact all actually win.

Film editor Lee Smith, sound engineers Gregg Landaker and Gary Rizzo and musical scorer Hans Zimmer together effectively create excitement and drama. The cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema is breathtaking especially in those wide landscape shots, both on earth and on those other planets. The visual effects are innovative as ever, particularly in the third act where a whole new dimension was created. Production designer Nathan Crowley had some nifty ideas for his futuristic props. The circular design of the mother ship Endurance was beautiful in its symmetry. The designs of the robotic sidekicks TARS and CASE are in no way similar those in Star Wars.

Matthew McConaughey continues his streak of acting excellence which was just capped by an Oscar earlier this year. Michael Caine was as good as he could be expected to be. However, I found his final speech too garbled to be understood well, and it contained an important plot point. Anne Hathaway's role is a bit of a puzzle for me. While she was actually managed to be credible as a scientist, she had a rather cheesy monologue that seemed out of place when it was delivered.

Three talented actresses portray the character of Murphy Cooper at different ages: Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn. Foy goes way beyond what she was required to do in her two previous hit films the "Breaking Dawn" films and "The Conjuring". Chastain is such a riveting presence as ever, and it was good to see her again after her long break after "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Mama.". Oscar winner Burstyn's singular big scene made me tear up.

In the second hour, I was surprised to see a special, heretofore uncredited, big name guest star portray one of the pioneer Lazarus astronauts, Dr. Mann. This was more than a mere cameo appearance, as his character had a critical role to play in one of the many twisting episodes of this story.

From "Memento", then "The Prestige" to "Inception", Nolan had gone for the extremes in terms of plot development. His work is not always easily comprehended on first watch. They are thought-provoking and demanding in terms of a viewer's patience and concentration. "Interstellar" joins this stellar list, and we are brought to yet another dimension of time and space. 10/10.

One Chance (2013)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Taking a Chance on a Dream, 5 November 2014

When I read that "One Chance" was going to be the life story of "Britain's Got Talent" winner Paul Potts. I knew I wanted to see it for sheer pop culture curiosity, but I was not sure it was going to be any good. This is especially since I had heard nothing about this film until I saw that it was going to be shown in movie theaters this week.

We follow the life of Paul, a bullied overweight loner since childhood whose only dream in life was to sing opera. But growing up in suburban Wales where the main industry was steel works, he did not get much support, except from his loyal mother.

In the course of this film, We see him meet a wonderful woman whom he eventually marries. However, we also see him repeatedly fail in singing and totally lose confidence about his abilities. Of course, we know this story will culminate in his memorable audition on Britain's Got Talent" in front of Simon Cowell and company.

Honestly I was expecting this film to be mundane predictable biopic following the unexpected rise of a loser to becoming a winner and star. However, surprise, surprise. This turned out to be one very delightful and entertaining inspirational film which would appeal to most audiences, not only Paul Potts fans.

I have not really known of either of the lead actors before watching this film, but the film's success was because of their charisma. James Corden got the child-like innocence and charming dorkishness of Paul down pat. We can't help but identify with his struggles, groan at his bad decisions and root for him to go for his dream. I am now a fan of Alexandra Roach who gave an utterly amazing heart-tugging performance of Paul's wife Julz. Her hypnotizing eyes radiates goodness and kindness. The two of them have such rich and believable chemistry between them.

Julie Walters is such a chameleon in her roles. As Paul's ever- supporting mother Yvonne, she is so natural and effortless in her remarkable performance. Colm Meaney is just right to play Paul's gruff and skeptical father. Mackenzie Crook plays Paul's offbeat boss. While he is too batty to be a real person, he provides the comic relief to lighten up the mood.

The first thirty minutes were positively glorious. My smile would not leave my face as the unfolding story made me feel very happy. The script was so witty and funny even as there were not so good things happening. The energy tended to bog in the middle third with the series of misfortunes which befell Paul. But that was necessary in order to make the triumphant third act more exciting and moving, even if we already knew how it would all end.

John Wick (2014)
6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Keanu's Back with a Vengeance, 4 November 2014

The career of Keanu Reeves seemed to have taken a nosedive after the success of the Matrix films. We would be hard put to name even one film after that. Last year, he directed a martial arts film called Man of Tai Chi, where he played antagonist to a less than charismatic leading man. That did not fly too high, except perhaps for some hardcore action fans. For this year though, the buzz for this film "John Wick" was simply too high to ignore.

The plot is ripped off the plots of many other old-fashioned action films, especially those from the 1980s. JOhn Wick is a retired hit man. He is still very depressed about his wife's death. One day, a group of thugs break into John's house and destroy his wife's one most precious gift to him. John finds out the perpetrator Iosef is the crazy spoiled son of his old boss, Viggo. John then goes on a deadly revenge rampage until no one is left alive.

Yes, there is not much about that script to be excited about. However, for their first directorial effort, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the stunt coordinators for Keanu Reeves in "Matrix", make a spectacular debut. Their action sequences were fast-clipped, very exciting and relentlessly brutal. Be it gunplay, knife-play or martial arts, Keanu Reeves made a perfect action hero.

A lot of this film's success also comes because of Reeves' excellence in dramatic acting. Okay, so there only few of those moments. We will remember fondly his devotion to his wife, which Reeves was able to project very well without words. He was sincerely in those touching scenes.

Kristy (2014)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
On the Hunt for Pretty Girls, 26 October 2014

I was not exactly expecting much with a title as nondescript as "Kristy". There were also no big name actors to speak of it seems. The news that there were alternative titles like "Random" and "Satanic" was not too encouraging as well. I was just in the mood for a horror film one lazy afternoon so I went and watched this. Turns out it was not exactly horror, but it was not bad at all.

The first frame of the opening credits was the first surprise. It showed the TWC logo. So the Weinstein Company was actually involved with this film! That was a surprise because the publicity was so low key, almost non-existent. It did give me some positive feedback about the film I was about to watch though, as TWC is known for its Oscar quality films.

The film opens with the scene of a girl being killed by a couple of men wearing hoodies and left in a grassy field. She had a big slash across her neck and a letter K carved on her right cheek. Photos and video of this crime was uploaded onto the Internet, announcing that it was the time to kill Kristy. To kill Kristy is to kill God supposedly. "Kristy" it appears is any girl they think is "pretty, pure and blessed", and therefore should be hunted down and killed.

One Thanksgiving, Justine was the only girl left in their college campus as everyone else went home. When she went to the gas station to buy some supplies, she encounters a strange girl in a pink hoodie with piercings on her lip. When she got back to her college though, she became the target of Pink Hoodie and her group of her hoodie-wearing hoodlums all wanting to see her dead.

Haley Bennett should be a bigger star some day. She looks great and she did very well in the lead role of Justine. She was able to portray the fear and determination of her smart, never-say-die character. This was no timid damsel-in-distress here. This girl was determined to survive. However, as Justine was alone and outnumbered, will she survive or not?

I was surprised to see that Ashley Greene (better known as vampy vampire Alice Cullen in the "Twilight" films) as the main antagonist, with internet username DrkViolet801. Her face was barely seen at all, hidden by her pink hoodie. They could have used another no-name actress and we would not have known the difference.

This film is not exactly horror though. If you like gore, there was not too much of that as well. I would call it a suspense-thriller, and a good one at that. I felt the use of music, along with the whistling and the whispering, was very effective in creating the thickly tense atmosphere necessary for this film to succeed.

With a lot of suspension of disbelief, I actually liked this film as it is. This is not any deep film to analyze or think too much about. Just sit back and enjoy your racing pulse as you watch it. By the way, there is an extra scene after all the closing credits roll up, if you still care to wait up and watch it. 6/10.

Whiplash (2014)
2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Good Job, 20 October 2014

Andrew Nieman is a shy freshman in the Schaefer Conservatory of Music in New York City. He does not have friends as he is always obsessively practicing on his drums. He catches the attention of a notoriously hard- driving teacher Terence Fletcher. Fletcher recruits Andrew to join his studio jazz band. There, Fletcher pushes Nieman to perfect playing of his instrument with an abrasive instruction style that teeters on military drill sergeant abuse, both physically and emotionally. Will Andrew make it through or will he snap under the pressure?

Miles Teller is a young star on the rise. He was in three other films this year alone, "That Awkward Moment", "Divergent" and "Two Night Stand." He is set to be seen as Mr. Fantastic in the reboot of The Fantastic Four next year, along with four other films. "Whiplash" proves that he is also a serious actor to reckon with. As the drums prodigy Andrew, Teller looks like he mastered playing that drum set for real for this difficult role. Unlike the piano, it is hard to fake playing the drums. His passion in playing is palpable from across the screen.

J.K. Simmons, whom many of us only know as J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker's boss, in the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, plays the irascible Mr. Fletcher, a teacher who is never satisfied with only good enough. He plays a hateful character who tended to exceed his boundaries as a mentor, but Simmons imbues Fletcher with other layers so we do not only see him as just the villain. Be it in his expletive-laden tirades or with just one penetrating stare, Simmons drips a malevolence we all feel.

"Whiplash" features some glorious jazz performances since this is about a jazz band. I personally do not like jazz so much, but the precision of the playing and the richness of the music is hard to resist. The perfectly-edited scenes showing the band as they played the most formidable-looking sheets of music had the vigor and energy of a sports match. That super-intense final scene alone will literally keep you at the edge of your seat. The audience in the theater where I watched erupted into spontaneous applause when it ended.

This is certainly not just another "Mr. Holland's Opus" or "Music of the Heart". Writer and director Damien Chazelle gives us the same basic student-teacher drama and beautiful music, but presented his story in a most unexpectedly disturbing, suspenseful, violent and even horrific way.

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