Tuesday, 24 December 2013

47 Ronin (2013)

Like A Christmas Carol in the west, the Japanese never seem to run out of adaptations and re‑tellings of the Chushingura. Marking Hollywood’s first attempt at the classic, 47 Ronin is designed primarily as a lavish spectacle and fantasy-adventure for a generation of western audiences whose exposure to Japanese history and literature is mediated by titles from the 6th and 7th generation video game consoles.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Midsummer’s Equation (真夏の方程式) (2013)

Summer. On a beautiful island fraught with tension between the natives and a team of developers keen to develop its natural resources, a detective begins to conduct a fresh investigation into an old murder case after his retirement, and is mysteriously found dead. A member of the team decides to pursue the matter...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Oldboy (2013)

A man is kidnapped, taken from his family, and imprisoned in a hotel room for 20 years. During that time, he is framed for the murder of his wife. His daughter is given up for adoption. The day he is set free, his former captor proposes a challenge: find out who kidnapped him and why it was done – and he will have his just revenge.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Monday, 4 November 2013

Ender's Game (2013)

I have many gay (and gay-affirming) friends, some of whom have vowed to boycott Ender’s Game. I’d like to say that as a film critic and student of the arts, I believe in the death of the author, that a work of art needs to stand on its own merits, that all artists are mad, bad, and dangerous to know anyway and if we began with Orson Scott Card, we’d end with a long list with everyone else on it. I don’t apologise for watching Ender’s Game and I’d recommend people watch it.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Lovelace (2013)

The only two true things you will learn from Lovelace are this: In the 70s, people watched porn on dates, and polygraphs were considered scientific instruments

Gravity (2013)

Gravity is easily Sandra Bullock's best action film to date. Okay, make that her best film to date.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Byzantium (2012)

Viewing Neil Jordan’s Byzantium through a looking glass, one sees Another Interview With A Vampire

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Colony (2013)

That's a natural disaster/exploding buildings escape sequence that Michael Bay hasn't filmed before!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Monday, 23 September 2013

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Library Wars (図書館戦争) (2013)

Good science fiction takes a single aspect of what we recognise in current society and refracts it through a prism of an alternate setting in order to question what we take for granted as natural in the social order.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

We're the Millers (2013)

Though we didn’t ask for it, We’re the Millers could well revive the National Lampoon Vacation series

Monday, 9 September 2013

Cold Eyes (감시자들) (2013)

A police surveillance unit stakes out the streets to identify and bring down an uncommon team of heist criminals whose expertise in subterfuge comes from being schooled in the art of surveillance themselves. Whose methods will ace the operation, whose subterfuge will reign supreme?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2 doesn't measure up to the inspired genius and lunacy of its predecessor but it's still great fun

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Before Sunset (2004)

Last week, we began viewing Richard Linklater’s Before... series in reverse order, starting with Before Midnight. What could one possibly profit from this exercise, you ask?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Only God Forgives (2013)

"What if David Lynch went to Bangkok and made a surreal Bangkok Dangerous with Royston Tan as his DP?"

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Thirteen Assassins (十三人の刺客) (1963)

Having first watched the 2010 Takashi Miike remake and realising he would also embark on redoing the original Hara-kiri/Seppuku, Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 The Thirteen Assassins was on my to-watch list. This is a review of the original, in light of the remake.

RED 2 (2013)

Not as scrumptious a popcorn flick as its predecessor even though RED 2 has a bigger budget, bigger locations, and a larger story

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Before Midnight (2013)

This is an experiment. Here at A Persistent Vision, I’ve striven to review each film as a self-contained entity, in relation to its genre, and occasionally in the context of an oeuvre. But today, I’m going to view the Richard Linklater series in reverse order, beginning with Before Midnight, and review each film on its own. It’s certainly a way to approach a series of films, and hopefully something different and yet coherent.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Jobs (2013)

It may be about the journey and not the destination – but Jobs doesn’t quite succeed on either count

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

The talents of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder combine to a deliver a promising but misfiring blockbuster

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Everything that's wrong with Man of Steel, in 4 lines

Everything wrong with Man of Steel in just 4 lines of dialogue from 2 scenes.

General Zod: We will build a New Krypton without the bloodlines that have failed us!
Jor-El: And who will judge the bloodlines? You, Zod?

INT. GENESIS CHAMBER/SHIP [containing artificial wombs for unborn babies] General Zod: Stop! Don't destroy the ship! You're destroying Krypton!
Kal-El: Krypton had its chance!

Full review to follow shortly. Stay tuned!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Dead Man Down (2013)

Dead Man Down is a noir film, a revenge flick, a romance, or a romantic comedy depending on which character you ask

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

First look at The Amazing Spiderman 2

Courtesy of Disney, we received an e-poster this morning in our mail.

It's a profile picture of Andrew Garfield in his Spiderman costume from the upcoming sequel, which is due for in May 2014 for an early Summer release.

It's interesting to note that the rubbery texture of Spidey's costume as been de-emphasised and its colours are far warmer in tone. The s spider emblem has changed from black to silver, and its legs are much shorter, far less menacing.

We'll just have to wait for more clues from Disney to see if this costume change is emblematic of a change in tone in Part 2... or whether the Green Goblin will lead Peter Parker to an even darker corner.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A farewell and a welcome

Dear readers

Near the end of January, I received word from Fridae concerning the cessation of the weekly Fridae Movie Club newsletter and all movie reviews, as it develops its next business model. Last week, the official notice went out to subscribers of the newsletter as well as our friends and collaborators - the exhibitors, distributors, and marketers from the film industry.

I have had an eventful and memorable experience at Fridae as its resident film critic from October 2009 to January 2013, keeping in mind that Fridae Movie Club counts amongst this region's best read online movie newsletters, operating in one of the highest movie-watching countries in the world.

What does this mean for this blog?

You may have noticed that I haven't updated it since May 2010, with the Iron Man review capsule. That was when Fridae.com switched domain names to Fridae.asia. I looked at the number of reviews I had to go change the links on this blog as well as IMDB, and decided I'd deal with it some day. When it was more convenient.

In between writing film reviews for Fridae, I found myself writing scripts for the second season of The Noose, stand-up routines for local comedians, and even plotting a return of The Video Renegades with my long-time creative collaborator, Marcus Lim.

Our work at The Noose was cancelled mid-season (we suspect not because we were a team of really good writers trolling the establishment) but won some awards the next year. The second project is a story that bears telling elsewhere as a cautionary tale regarding the cowboy town nature of Singapore's entertainment scene. The third project? Marcus and I had re-presented Misgivings at The Substation, making their shortlist of the month again. We had half a dozen short scripts written and ready for a burst of production when Marcus had a fatal swimming accident.

I found myself deciding again and again that I'd deal with all these movie review capsules one day. But not now, please.

That day is now. I'll be backfilling capsules for the reviews I wrote for Fridae from May 2010 to January 2013. If and when Fridae takes down the entire movie review and lifestyle section, I'll post the full reviews here.

When that is done, I expect to continue reviewing films on this blog - either as an independent (so you get to read full reviews here) or under another enterprise (in which case, you get more capsules and links to the full review hosted on its original site). Until then, there won't be reviews for every film that gets released - just the ones that really interest me as a typical moviegoer with limited means - but the good news is I'll have the time to explore DVDs and film retrospectives entirely of my own devising.

This will be an exciting journey, and I hope you're all on board.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Jesus Henry Christ (2011)

The scoop: Dennis Lee, like his elder brother Ang*, continues the trend of Asian filmmakers producing quintessentially American films.

Imagine The kids are all right done and C.R.A.Z.Y. with far younger, irresistibly cuter kids. And directed by Ang Lee. You’d come close to Jesus Henry Christ, an affirming alternative family film by Dennis Lee. The writer-director’s creative output may well lead many to question if he is indeed Ang Lee’s younger brother. After all, they are both Asian directors who understand American culture and family better than most Americans, and make gently humorous prestige indie films about dysfunctional American families.

A thematic follow-up to his debut film Fireflies in the Garden, Jesus Henry Christ again explores the themes of genius and dysfunctional families. Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) is immaculately conceived in a petri dish and brought into the world by his feminist, hardline liberal soccer mom Patricia (Toni Collette). Blessed with a photographic memory and a genius only seen once a century, if at all, the precocious 10-year-old embarks on a quest to find his biological dad – who turns out to be Slavkin O’Hara (Michael Sheen) one of those nutty professors who has raised his daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein) to be free of society’s gender codes and norms and wrote a book about it and went on Oprah to promote it.

In the hands of a lesser director, this maelstrom of liberal bait would be a recipe for disaster, or a very annoying film. Dennis Lee however manages to mine great comedy from this material. Beneath its twee Sundance veneer and collection of self-parodying liberal stereotypes (there’s a clearly Caucasian man who speaks, dresses and thinks like a stereotypical angry black man!), there’s a fine family film which pokes gentle fun at a parade of families conservative and liberal, mainstream and otherwise, while at the same time celebrating the good intentions behind every family unit.

That he manages to achieve all this while delivering some very dark comedy where people often do mean things to each other for the laughs, where often bad things happen despite or maybe because of our good intentions, is a sign of Lee’s growth as a director since his debut feature. The cast too is to be commended for their very rare chemistry, which brings out the positive side of a difficult script with very offbeat humour.

Reviewer's note: I watched Jesus Henry Christ in June 2011 when it had its world premiere in Singapore as part of the (failed) ScreenSingapore festival. The film was not released commercially in this territory or it seems in any other, aside from a very limited Stateside release followed by an immediate DVD and Netflix launch.

*: Ang Lee. Well, that's a running joke I kept going with Dennis in our interview in 2011. Which I'll post here one day if my readers (whoever they may be) insist.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Grandmaster (一代宗师) (2013)

Wong Kar Wai's very own Ip Man biopic.

The gimmick: stripping away the urban legends, pure fiction, and historiography of the Ip Man story, we're left with a telling that puts the "grandmaster" in his social and historical context.

Watch for: A very philosophical film grounded in the sensibilities of Chinese pugilistic society during the Sino-Japanese war years. Skip if you're hoping for an action epic.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 30 January 2013.

Shame (2011)

A man addicted to sex and porn finds himself unravelling when his sister stays over.

The gimmick: Shame forgoes the usual niceties of character development, plot, and narrative structure for a depressing psychological study fuelled by Raw Acting.

Watch for: Carey Mulligan, whose character and performance punctuates the one-note storytelling of the film. Watch only if you liked Hunger.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 30 January 2013.

Quartet (2012)

A retirement home for elderly musicians puts up an annual show. Now it has to put up with its latest diva and put her in the show.

The gimmick: Another "behind the curtains" drama crossed with a retirement home comedy.

Watch for: positive spin on ageing without sugar-coating the fact that it can be a wretched business. Also: lots of cameos from actual retired musicians.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 30 January 2013.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch hunters (2013)

Hansel and Gretel kill their witch, grow up, and kill more witches for a living.

The gimmick: Modern horror aesthetics prevail. Expect plenty of gore, evisceration, and decapitation. Punctuated with F-bombs.

It's a film with an aesthetic, searching for the right script. I haven't seen such unimaginative writing, nor such an offensively anti-female, unironic fantasy film for a long time.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 30 January 2013.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Master (2012)

After WW2, a wandering veteran drifts into the company of a leader, who may or may not be a thinly veiled stand-in for L Ron Hubbard, and his following, who may or may not be a stand-in for the Scientology cult.

Gimmick: Not so much of a roman a clef than an allegory for the spiritual malaise and the search for conformity and certainty in America in the post-war era.

Watch for: A script that surprises, frustrates expectations; Joachim Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in very opposite roles, with very opposite acting styles.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 23 January 2013.

The Expatriate (2012)

Aaron Eckhart plays a former CIA man who gets headhunted by an Overseas Corporation up to Conspiracy Shenanigans and then literally headhunted when he shows up to work.

The gimmick: This is like Taken with a conspiracy thriller angle, and less ham.

Watch for: paint by numbers conspiracy thriller that's better than it deserves, thanks to very competent casting and direction.

Read my full review at Fridae, first published on 23 January 2013.