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My favourite genre is science fiction. I love films with mysteries, puzzles, non-linear timelines, time travel, visual imagination and anything that makes me think. I'm open-minded to watch all sorts of films though - I also love exploring new things!
My top three films are:
1) Minority Report (2002)
2) The Lion King (1994)
3) The Prestige (2006)
It has been my dream to contribute to the film industry. I also have a degree in Software Engineering and I have been pursuing the intersection of creativity and technology. Previously, I worked at the multi-national company Vista Entertainment Solutions that makes the software that runs most of the world's cinemas. My most recent success was developing part of Living Ticket, a worldwide cloud service that delivers digital contactless movie tickets to millions of cinemagoers every day.
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Questions for discussion: (not every question will be applicable to every film)
- How accurate or inaccurate is this film?
- What is it like to live as this character in a personal sense? Consider lifestyle, goals, society, emotions, etc.
- What would you do if you were their doctor?
- What does this say about the medical/pharmaceutical/psychiatric system?
- Comment on ethical issues, tough choices, social attitudes, patient-doctor conflicts.
Could have been enjoyable
I had no prior knowledge of the Warcraft franchise so I found this film overwhelming. Although there was a good effort to make it accessible, there were still too many names, places and characters to remember. I understood the gist of the story but got lost on the details. It was decently enjoyable as a fantasy entertainment film apart from the unsatisfying ending, anticlimactic battles and hollow acting. This film had the potential to be an engaging and accessible introduction to the Warcraft universe but unfortunately the execution made it hard to understand.
Panique au village (2009)
Absolutely insane. I loved it.
This film is unlike the coherent, polished style of other animated films. The stop-motion and narrative are deliberately quite crude, reminding me of a child's improvised play session, and this quality makes the film absolutely unique and memorable. The three characters (Cowboy, Indian and Horse) are quirky, childlike, energetic figures who get tied up in many surreal adventures. You know this film is going to be strange when ordering fifty million bricks is just the introduction!
The Third Man (1949)
This film is a masterpiece of cinematography. Channeling earlier noir works, it features stark black and white contrast in restricted spaces to give characters a mysterious and isolated feel. The scenes at night and in the sewer are especially notable for the way they frame characters as insignificant in their settings, a theme reflected by Vienna's amoral and cryptic nature. However, the plot and pacing leaves much to be desired, as the first half really is just the author bumbling around asking the same questions over and over again. Even by the end, nothing much has really happened or been revealed - a classic case of style over substance, but the style is worthy of praise in itself.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
A great new addition to the Disney Animated Canon
I'm surprised by the negativity of a lot of the other reviews. They relentlessly mention how typical and overdone the storyline is. While Disney was clearly sticking to their tested formula, I wouldn't accuse the entire film of being derivative. Some parts will be obvious to anyone who has seen a Disney film before - the protagonist gets orphaned, will go on a fetch quest, will have to make a sacrifice; dead characters will come back to life and everyone will learn some sort of life lesson. The execution of the film, however, adds a unique flavour and setting that more than make up for the conventional story structure. The design and animation of the world is stunning - almost on par with Kubo and the Two Strings. The characters are memorable (if a little too goofy) and contemporary in style (which turns off a lot of older viewers, but if it worked for the genie in Aladdin, it works here). The message is quite pertinent to modern times, although it was badly handled at times. Overall, while Raya and the Last Dragon clearly adheres to Disney's formula, I think there is more that sets it apart from their previous works and ultimately deserves credit for its strengths rather than being dismissed as gimmicks.
Dark noir throwback
Is this the best screenplay of all time, as many claim? Probably not. It's a dark, riveting, mysterious noir film that makes good use of Jack Nicholson's smooth style. It's a depressing caper of a film that gradually builds up its morose revelations without any chance of hope or redemption. It's a testament to the power of unrestrained filmmaking talent reflecting all the hidden sins of the world. But it's not the best screenplay of all time.
Cidade de Deus (2002)
Hard-hitting but exhausting
Watching a film about child gangsters establishing a drug empire in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro was never going to be pleasant, but this film went far beyond my expectations. It's disturbing, bloody and brutal, made worse by the harsh naturalistic style that raises the tensions. The storyline is true to life - anyone can die at any moment and characters weave in and out of the picture as they are shot and replaced. The acting is naturalistic and energetic, which gives a dynamic presence to the characters. My main concern is that there were far too many characters, flashbacks and narrations to keep track of, which made the plot a bit messy.
Raging Bull (1980)
Compelling character acting
In this film, De Niro perfects his expert acting skills, first showcased in Taxi Driver. Here he plays the indefatigable, paranoid and aggressive Jake La Motta who ends up destroying himself. Over the course of the film, he grows more callous and alienates everyone in his life, portrayed in a stark black and white cinematography. The acting is great and the violence is intense, but we've seen this story before.
This film is one of the best deconstructions of the Western genre that also grapples with themes of violence and revenge that pervade even modern action movies. The usual tropes of good vs. Evil storylines are reversed and deconstructed to show that real life is full of ambiguity. The characters range from cowardly to sadistic to weary, unable to sustain a traditional Western narrative without the audience questioning whether it's really worth it. At the same time, the storyline feels natural and fleshed out, so the deconstructive element meshes well with the emotional core of the film. The quest of these men feels both necessary and futile at the same time.
Rollercoaster of fun
I loved every minute of this holiday special! For sure, it's just constant fanservice, references and memes but it does it so well. Who wouldn't like time travelling versions of the franchise's characters ending up in different scenarios and interacting with each other? Rey vs. Vader? Vader vs. Vader? Three Obi-Wan Kenobis? It's hilarious, entertaining and unpredictable. The framing story with Rey training Finn is heartwarming as well.
Exactly what I expected
This film is exactly what you'd expect from a screen adaptation of the Stargirl novel made by Disney and starring Grace Vanderwaal.
It carries over all the issues I have with the novel - the eponymous Stargirl is a supernaturally perfect "manic pixie dream girl" who is too good for this Earth. She exists only to inspire all the students to become quirky and aspirational non-conformists, almost like some sort of religious prophet. Her character is a little toned down from the novel, where she is actively disruptive and does things like saying "United Turtles of America" in the American Pledge of Allegiance. This adjustment makes the film a little more bearable to watch, but it also removes anything genuinely interesting or entertaining about her. Now the only thing that sets her apart is that she has a strange name and wears colourful clothes, which makes me wonder why anyone notices her.
Another issue of the adaptation is the acting and characterisation. Leo has been reduced to a stammering mannequin. Stargirl is just a mannequin. No offense to Grace Vanderwaal; she is a great performer but seemed perpetually dazed when acting. Maybe this is her way of showing how carefree and otherworldly Stargirl is, but to me it just seemed like she was constantly dissociating. Everyone's personality is toned down to the point of one-dimensional blandness.
The Disney production has shaped this movie into a strange style where the plot is constantly contrived and cheesy, yet it is shot as if we are supposed to take it seriously. There are many unrealistic moments that serve only to hit pre-defined plot beats without much of a compelling reason or build-up. Examples include Stargirl's sudden popularity/infamy, many spontaneous musical performances, obligatory romantic focus on protagonist Leo and inexplicable success in the speech competition. In a usual Disney sitcom this would be presented in a stylised comedic way, but here it is imbued with so much lingering pathos that it presents an identity crisis for the very film itself. Do you want to be a deep teen drama with relatable issues or a quirky comedy with over the top characters and events? Make up your mind.
If there's anything good about the film, it's the production values. The cinematography showed the scenery in gorgeous deep tones, the choreography was skillful (if misplaced) and the sets felt like the book's settings come to life with character. It's a shame that this skill was wasted on such an indecisive and contrived adaptation though.
Same humour, messy story
I am a big fan of the previous two World of Tomorrow installments so I was looking forward to this one. The animation is even better than before, the humour is quirky, the science fiction concepts are creative and the emotions are poignant. However, the story was a bit messy. By now there are so many clones of David and Emily that their interactions become a chore to keep track of, especially with all the time travel. The significance of personal memory becomes drowned in a convoluted quest with the Davids all trying to replace each other.
The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Saturday morning cartoon writ large
This film is the typical "Saturday morning cartoon" writ large, for better and worse. If you are a young boy, you will find gripping adventures, true courage, intense battles, compelling drama and imaginative settings. Everyone else will just see an hour-long toy commercial consisting of interchangeable robots shooting each other with the odd one-liner and a thin excuse for a plot. Luckily, although I am an adult, I do have the mind of a child so I was able to appreciate this adventure as intended, with all its coolness and thrills!
The Truman Show (1998)
Imaginative premise brought to life by Jim Carrey's performance
This film takes a premise that has often come into our imaginations - what if we're all in a TV show? - and brings the entire scenario to life in a dystopian near future. The constant tension between the inquisitive Truman Burbank and the odd happenings in Sea Haven create an eerie mystery that unfolds over the course of the movie. Everything around him is totally documented and controlled, a prescient depiction of reality TV and internet culture (Chris-Chan comes to mind as the closest real equivalent). This theme of paranoia, illusion and exploitation drew natural comparisons to deeper themes of life alienation. All of this was only possible by the great performance of Jim Carrey who found the perfect balance of goofy comedy and relatable everyman. This film's triumph is in presenting such provoking ideas in an endearing and entertaining package.
Flåklypa Grand Prix (1975)
Endearing and simple tale
This film has a simple story of a humble inventor, memorable characters, wacky animation and an intense race. It has a very cute and endearing style that will appeal to young children. Although it was technically accomplished for the time, it does not show off its special effects and just focuses on the silly personas (an inventor, an energetic bird and a morose furball) who try to win a race with a homemade invention. It feels like an innocent daydream come to life!
Slow burning crime drama
To be honest, this film started too slowly for me. There were far too many scenes of the eskiya (bandit) wandering around Istanbul and the young gangster escorting him and trying to figure out who he is looking for. These scenes were far too repetitive and made me lose interest. By the time he finds Keje, the plot finally picks up and the audience is plunged into the middle of an intertwined destiny revolving around the eskiya, the young gangsters, Keje, some rival bosses and a young love interest. From there it's pretty entertaining and shows a newfound sense of brotherhood and revenge. It's a shame the film takes so long to get to the point though.
Very hard hitting
This film is difficult to watch. It follows the life of a runaway 12-year-old boy as he tries to survive, take care of a baby, get revenge for his sister and escape out of Lebanon, all at once. There are other films about poverty and the underclass, but this one "hits different" as it focuses on a single outcast child with absolutely no support. We feel every challenge and obstacle as he tries to survive on a day-to-day basis with the little Ethiopian baby he is stuck with. The entire world around him is hostile - his parents are abusive, the people smuggler is a con artist, the convenience store owner marries a child, the authorities try to lock up anyone undocumented and so on. It's a heartbreaking and hopeless portrayal of life but there is also a core of bravery and humanity.
Middling and overrated drama
Perhaps I'm as cynical as Rick. In 1982, Chuck Ross submitted the screenplay of Casablanca under a different name to 217 agencies as an experiment to see whether they would pick up on it. There were a range of reactions. Some agencies recognised it, but many rejected the screenplay with negative feedback. They said the dialogue was unconvincing, it dragged on, the story was dull and so on. The whole experiment was supposed to be an exposé of the industry itself - clueless agents who would never recognise a famous Academy-award-winning screenplay for what it is. However, in my opinion, the naysayers were actually right. The film isn't terrible, but it does have the alleged flaws - it is dull, unconvincing, hokey, slow and trite. I don't see the appeal for others. Nothing blew me away, the character drama didn't inspire me and I don't feel the need to quote it weeks from now. As a historical drama, it is passable, but no masterpiece!
One of the best animated movies I've ever seen
I was genuinely shocked at how good this film was. The title seemed a bit silly and Sony Pictures Animation has a mixed record so I wasn't expecting much. Every aspect of the film is done perfectly - the characters are memorable, the moments are relatable, the action is rousing, the animation is stunning, the designs are sleek, the mix of visual styles is entertaining, the generational conflict is amusing and the humour is on point. In a complete 180 from The Emoji Movie, the treatment of social media, memes and technology is very up-to-date and clearly done by millennials who actually understand the topic. In the same way that Into the Spiderverse felt like a traditional comic come to life, this film felt like a Buzzfeed webcomic come to life. There are messages about family acceptance and human connection that go beyond the banal "phone bad" lectures of previous boomer flicks. This film is a masterpiece of the 2020s and of the millennial generation.
Ratchet & Clank (2016)
Fun reboot of the series but there's something missing
This game has all the hallmarks of the series and all the creative and technical talent as well. It's a joy to play, the settings are creative, there's a constant sense of humour and the weapons are really fun to use and upgrade. However, the story is lacking some charm and the characters are not so memorable (a flaw carried over from the 2016 film). There is some variety in the form of Clank sequences, hovership battles and hoverboard races but I still found this game a bit more repetitive and tedious than the other installments (Deadlocked aside).
Super Size Me (2004)
Visceral and well needed
This documentary was all the rage in my school when it was first released. "Have you seen Super Size Me?", everyone would exclaim when the topic of fast food was mentioned. It's charm lies in its simple, visceral, memorable premise - a Spurlock would eat only McDonalds for a month and then document the effect on himself. Sure, everyone knew that McDonalds was unhealthy, but seeing this effect was visceral and disgusting in a way that could not be ignored. Along the way, we get revelations about the medical effects, nutrition and even the effects on society. This simple film about fast food deserves its fame.
Wanda to kyozô (2005)
This video game is a masterpiece of minimalism, honing in on fine details to achieve a consistent artistic style. The fantasy setting is bare and barren, bringing to mind the ruins of ancient civilisations. The storyline leaves a lot to the imagination with many hints of a magical time gone by. The design of the colossi are gorgeous and complex, and they feel like real beings with a composition that sparks speculation - the mixture of fur, stone and architecture has an otherworldly feel to it. The design of the architecture also feels like a long lost civilisation has been abandoned in a cursed land. The soundtrack is rousing and deep. The gameplay is intense and fills the player with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. This whole setting has a deep, immersive mythological feel to it. My only gripes are Agro's controls and the lack of replay value.
Hitokui no ôwashi toriko (2016)
Team Ico seemed to have read the reviews for Shadow of the Colossus and made everything more extreme. The design and architecture was made much bigger than before! But the animal companion was made much more important and uncooperative than before! Whatever they were aiming for, it didn't work. Not worth the wait nor the frustration.
El secreto de sus ojos (2009)
Disturbing and gripping tale of crime
This film shows a skilled sense of direction from Campanella, leading the viewer through an obsessive tale of crime. The cinematography is top-notch, dousing everything in secretive shadows and dark earthy tones that suggest the past has more secrets than it is letting on. The acting depicts a strained anguish that expresses itself as a simmering rage against all the injustice around them. The storyline is fractured to let the viewer in on tiny bits of information at a time, much like the characters who have no clear grip on the circumstances controlling them. The football stadium scene is commendable for its masterful cinematography and narrative intensity, bringing closure to some of the plot but also opening Pandora's Box and opening up far more complications.
This film features some of the best racing sequences I've ever seen, with blood-pumping excitement, frenetic camerawork and authentic set pieces. It reminds me of Ford v. Ferrari which was another great racing rivalry film. The character types here involve an impulsive party boy and an arrogant professional, a dynamic which gets repetitive at times, slinging the same insults back and forth. Their unpredictable life journeys really flesh out their rivalry with a lot of excitement that makes the audience feel like they are really living in the 70s with all its thrills.
Relatos salvajes (2014)
This film - or a compilation thereof - is as wild as its title promises. It starts off with a fantastically strange tale in an aeroplane that sets the tone. From there, the short films get longer and more varied. The second tale is a dark moral dilemma showing the plight and power of everyday people. The third tale is the funniest one, showing road rage gone wrong. The fourth tale is my favourite, a realistic tale of an engineer getting back at an abusive towing company. The fifth tale shows a troubling tale of corruption among the rich and famous. The sixth and final tale was too insane for me and seemed contrived, which was a let down. Ultimately, a theme of intense revenge pervades all of these tales which expresses itself in a different way.