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811 reviews in total 
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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)
6 out of 10 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.

39 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Proud Showcase of Mexican Culture, 19 October 2014

Musical Manolo, scrappy Joaquin and smart Maria are three close childhood pals. Maria gets sent to Europe to study. Joaquin gets seriously into training as a military officer. Manolo is discouraged by his father from his musical aspirations, forcing him instead to take up bullfighting, which is the traditional Sanchez family occupation. When Maria returns to town after several years, Joaquin and Manolo vie for her heart.

Meanwhile, the two lords of the underworld, La Muerta (mistress of the Land of the Remembered) and Xibalba (master of the Land of the Forgotten) take a bet as to who Maria will end up with. On the Day of the Dead, the deities interfere with the outcome, leading to an adventure which will bring the characters from the land of the living to the land of the dead and back.

The most striking feature of this film is the animation style. The human characters are made to look like wooden puppets. This artworks were so ingeniously crafted such that each character is distinct from each other. The three main human characters all look very good and noble. The supporting characters are rather on the ugly, distorted side in their rendition, and these may need getting used to.

The background artwork is no less spectacular. The highlight of the whole film are those scenes in the Land of the Remembered, showing it as a happy bustling and festive place. The colors were so vibrant and rich. The multi-layered designs were so intricate and meticulous in their endemically Mexican-inspired details.

Another wonderful feature of this film is the musical score, written by Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla. This musician has been awarded the Oscar two times before for films "Babel" and "Brokeback Mountain." The soundtrack also employs the most unexpected pop songs, sung Mexican style of course. Hearing a familiar song being sung makes me smile and even sing along. The sensitive singing voice of Diego Luna (as Manolo) makes songs as diverse as Radiohead's "Creep" to Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love" sound so good.

I believe this film had a lot of educational value in it for the young audience it targets. There are a lot of Latino values being tackled here about friendship and family, the status of women, the respect for the dead, etc., which are likewise universal as well, more often than not. It also introduces us, both kids and adults alike, to the vibrant Mexican culture, especially about their Day of the Dead.

The pace of the film was slow at first, but once you get into its groove, you will surely enjoy the eventful ride. My two sons with me, as well as the much younger kids in the theater with us, all seemed to enjoy the film very much as you hear a lot of gleeful laughter at the some of the shallower jokes. This was despite the rather macabre subject matter and several grotesque-looking (albeit in a comical way) characters. It also had humorous moments that only adults would chuckle at.

Aside from Diego Luna, the line-up of voice actors surprisingly included Zoe Saldana as Maria and Channing Tatum as Joaquin. I would not have guessed. Other familiar names such as Ron Perlman and Christina Applegate are also on board. The most unexpected name I saw on the list though was that of Ice Cube as the sunshiny fluffy underworld character named Candlemaker. Some well-known Latino actors like Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo and Placido Domingo voice the more mature characters, like Manolo's dad and ancestors.

Overall, "The Book of Life" is a very unique animated feature film. The basic story is based on Mexican folklore and traditions, so the animation style had the colors, designs and style of Mexico. The different look and unfamiliar references may turn off some less adventurous viewers, but really it should not. This is one very educational and very entertaining film for all ages. Writer and Director Jorge R. Gutierrez was able to successfully expand on his experience on Nickelodeon's frenetic award-winning animated series "El Tigre:The Adventures of Manny Rivera" (which he also created) and here proudly showcased his beloved Mexican roots on a much bigger platform. 8/10.

0 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An Adequately Entertaining Alternate Origin Story, 18 October 2014

This re-imagined origin of the blood-sucking vampire Dracula is based on a real historical character Vlad the Impaler. He is a valiant prince of Transylvania. The cruel Sultan Mehmed of Turkey demands from Vlad 1,000 male children to join his ruthless army, and that should include Vlad's only son. Pushed to the wall to defend his son and people, Vlad was forced to turn to the dark side. He sought the powerful intercession of the Master Vampire to turn himself into a monster which could strike extreme fear in his enemies in order to overcome and defeat them.

This film has a historical graphic novel look and feel, like many popular films nowadays, much like the "300" films. The computer- generated effects were quite well done. The battle scenes were quite stylishly shot, without excessive blood and gore. There are also some nifty-looking fantasy shots, like the Master Vampire's memorable tongue scene. The vampire transformation scenes were also quite effective.

Luke Evans has a nobility in his look and stance that makes him a good choice for this interpretation of Vlad. Vlad here is a good man who had to sacrifice his own soul to the devil in order to save his family and country, and Evans was able to give a balanced portrayal of this conflicted character. He recently had an intense turn in the small slasher film "No One Lives", and that intensity also served him well here as Vlad. We had seen this Welsh actor in more mainstream hit films like the last "Fast and Furious" film, as well as the last "Hobbit" film, so his career is well on the rise.

The rest of the supporting actors did their best on what basically were one-dimensional roles. The beautiful wife MIrena as played by the ravishing Sarah Gadon is ever loving and loyal. The Sultan as played by a sinister Dominic Cooper is brutish and violent. It was very good to see two members of the Game of Thrones cast in this film. The formidable Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister on GoT) played the Master Vampire as pure evil. Young Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark on GoT) played Vlad's son Ingeras.

As a whole this film was adequately diverting and entertaining, though not exactly outstanding in any particular way. I do hope this Dracula gets the sequel it promised at the end of this film. I admit I am curious on how this new Dracula would fare as a good guy in more modern times. 5/10.

Left Behind (2014/I)
63 out of 115 people found the following review useful:
Evangelical Intention Lost in Cheesy Confusion, 13 October 2014

"Left Behind" is about the Steele family. Mother Irene becomes very deeply religious and active in church in recent years. Unfortunately, this caused spirited daughter Chloe, as well as her pilot husband Ray, to drift apart from her. When Chloe comes home to surprise her father for his birthday, he was called to fly a plane from New York to London, among his other ulterior motives. That same day, a distressing event occurs where millions of people simultaneously suddenly disappear, leaving their clothes and things behind. Those people left behind scramble to make sense of what happens, as Ray struggles to land his damaged plane safely back to New York.

Academy Award winner Nicholas Cage once again majorly disappoints with his hammy and florid performance in this film as Ray here. He had a moment in the end where some genuine emotion came through, but it felt too late and too brief. It was good to see '80s sweetheart Lea Thompson back on the big screen again as Irene, but she was barely there. Cassi Thompson did her best to carry the film on the ground as Chloe, but her efforts were negated by the lines she was made to say and the stunts she was made to do.

When the passengers were boarding the plane, I felt like I was watching a cheesy episode of the "Love Boat". Of course, there was going to be a sexy and flirtatious stewardess Hattie (Nicki Whelan). There was a hotshot TV journalist Buck Williams (so this is what Chad Michael Murray is up to nowadays), a Moslem guy, an angry midget guy, a sleazy businessman, a nerdy Asian (!) conspiracy theorist, a nervous drug addict lady, an even more nervous gun-toting mother (Why did you accept this role, Jordin Sparks?). I guess you can see the chaotic over-the-top acting circus.

In fact, this whole film had an 70s-80s TV movie look and feel about it. Even the opening credits looked from that era. If "The Remaining" had a horror approach to depicting the Rapture, "Left Behind" played like a bad B-action film, down to its fiery, explosive, down-the-wire, narrow- escape type finale.

The Christian agenda was obvious from the start, and I did not mind that. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing how they would tie it into the story. However, even as a Christian film, I felt this film did not do its job well at all. Oddly, it made Christians appear unnaturally nutty or weird. Worst of all, its evangelical message was lost in the confusion and the cheese. 2/10.

Gone Girl (2014)
3 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Rosamund Pike's Breakthrough: She Was Fearless and Fearsome, 9 October 2014

Five years ago, laidback Missourian Nick Dunne married gorgeous and smart New Yorker Amy. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find their living room a big mess and his wife missing. Media hype hounds and persecutes him as police detectives turn up evidence that indicating that Nick killed Amy. Nick denies these allegations, but there seems to be no more way out for him.

I was not a fan of Ben Affleck as an actor. I thought his best role was that of the ham actor in "Shakespeare in Love" because he was basically playing himself. In this film though, Ben Affleck actually does a great job essaying this role of Nick. His character needed to teeter between guilt and innocence, and Affleck effectively handled this tricky balance. We should not know how we should feel for him in the first act. But by the last act, the audience, especially the men, would feel his helplessness.

I was also not a fan of Rosamund Pike. I thought she was just a pretty face but rather dull, icy and without passion when she acts. All that totally changed with her riveting performance as Amy. It is difficult to describe her performance without dropping a spoiler, so I have to stop right there. Suffice it to say, this performance is her breakthrough as a serious actress. It was fearless, and fearsome.

David Fincher is an amazing director. I have been a fan since "Se7en". He had an amazing filmography since directing iconic videos of Madonna ("Express Yourself") and Paula Abdul ("Straight Up") back in the 1980s, including films like "Fight Club", "Zodiac","The Social Network", "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and now this one. This guy just keep on improving in his aesthetics. I have not yet read the book by Gillian Flynn , who also wrote the screenplay, but the storytelling skills of Fincher were flawless in this film. It kept on surprising the audience up to the very end. His fluid style makes us look beyond certain plot details which may seem questionable or even absurd. He raises serious issues about the intricacies of a married relationship and sensationalization of crime by the media.

"Gone Girl" is the first film of the year that is seriously in contention for the major Oscar awards of this year. In fact, nominations for the top 5 awards: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay (Adapted) are all sure things as early as now, with the statuettes themselves a reasonable reality. 10/10.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not Bad, but a Needless Sequel, 8 October 2014

Dolphin Tale 2 continues where the first Dolphin Tale film (2011) left off. This one is still set in the Clearwater Aquarium, a center for sick and disabled marine life. The central character is still Winter, the titular dolphin of the first film with the robotic tail.

Winter became stressed and out of sorts when his companion Panama dies of old age. Regulations dictate that a female dolphin should have a female companion. However, this companion could NOT have a clean bill of health in order to fit the criteria of dolphins allowed to stay in the center. If such a companion cannot be found, Winter will have to be transferred.

With the dolphin story so threadbare, we have to watch the kids Sawyer and Hazel undergo their own little subplots to fill the time. Sawyer had to decide whether he would accept a scholarship to attend a marine academy at sea. Hazel had her petty jealousy of a trainee getting close with Sawyer and her bratty arguments with her father.

I had the feeling that this was actually a needless sequel. The first film told a compelling story of how the center had rehabilitated a disabled dolphin, and told it well. But this one really had trouble prolonging the action to fit a respectable running time for a feature film. A lot of the content felt like filler.

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