Movie Review – The Shanghai Job (aka S.M.A.R.T Chase)

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EXPECTATIONS: Something unintentionally funny.

REVIEW: Christian Bale, Tim Robbins, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, David Carradine. What do all of these actors have in common in terms of their filmography? I’ll give you a clue: China-market. All of these actors have starred in films for the China-market with varying levels of success. Whereas Bale, Robbins have great box office successes with films like The Flowers of War and Back to 1942, some have been in box office failures like David Carradine in True Legend.

And now we have Orlando Bloom. More known for his looks and nonthreatening presence that makes him the perfect idol for teenagers, he has never been known for his acting prowess. Despite the kick-start to his career with the two franchises (Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean), he has been struggling to maintain his position in the spotlight with box office failures like Kingdom of Heaven, The Three Musketeers and Elizabethtown.

Now he’s gone into the China-market with his latest film, The Shanghai Job (known as S.M.A.R.T Chase in China). The film was a box office flop in China despite the well-known cast and the presence of Bloom, but box office takings do not indicate the quality of the film. Now that the film is released On Demand and DVD/Blu-Ray, will the film entertain and please fans despite the rough origins?

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Orlando Bloom stars as Danny Stratton, a washed-up private security agent, who is given the rare opportunity to escort a valuable Chinese antique (a Van Gogh painting) out of Shanghai, but he ends up ambushed en route, while he was talking to his girlfriend Lin Dong (Lynn Hung).

A year later, he has lost his girlfriend and his reputation has dwindled over time. When he gets hired to do another job, he sees the same people who ambushed him and now realizes that in order to get his reputation back, he has to steal back what was stolen with his Security Management Action Recovery Team members (Simon Yam, Hannah Quinlivan and Leo Wu) by his side. But little do they realize that they are about to step into a major conspiracy that will endanger them as well as the people they love.

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Does The Shanghai Job provide ample entertainment despite the dull synopsis and its reputation of its low box office takings? Unfortunately, not really. The film isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s just not any good at all.

The film is terribly routine with its storytelling and direction. There are no moments of creativity or inspiration whatsoever. Not with its action scenes, not with its filmmaking and definitely not with the acting. The cinematography is just neon lights, which has been done over and over since the films of Nicolas Winding Refn and the John Wick films. The director of the film is Charles Martin, who has directed episodes of Skins and Wallander, so it comes as to no surprise that the film feels like a pilot to a television series, which could explain the lack of cinematic inspiration.

Scenes that are meant to pump the audience up with thrills and tension are efficient enough, but the characters and storytelling are so dull that there really isn’t any of that. It becomes very hard to care about what happens on screen. And with the norm of action films, the climax should have a lot of impact in comparison to the action scenes proceeding it, but the climax ends with a whimper, as it just involves a few fisticuffs and a game of catch. No joke.

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With lines of dialogue like “love is an illusion” or many references to time (and if that doesn’t get to your head, we head watches ticking constantly), it does become quite laughable at times and you feel a bit sorry for the actors who are saddled with this type of material.

The acting is a very mixed bag from all involved, but the fault with that is both equally theirs as well as the script. Orlando Bloom is fine as Danny Stratton, as he loosens up a bit to be charismatic and humourous in the role, but the script doesn’t do him any favours with the dull attempts at humour and the choice to dye his hair back to blonde again is misguided. Thankfully, he is committed to doing most of his stunts, as it is clearly him doing the fight choreography and jumping out of balconies.

Simon Yam is just Simon Yam as Mach, Bloom’s partner as well as Lin Dong’s uncle. He is professional enough to not to embarrass himself but again, does nothing to stand out with his character apart from one character trait where he has a inkling for cutting limbs off people for access.

And then there’s Leo Wu. Whether using his drone to provide support for his teammates (or providing lazy narrative shortcuts, you be the judge) or looking out for the girl that he likes (or stalking her, again, you be the judge), he comes off as bland. The only thing that makes him stand out is his handling of the English language, which is just hilariously bad and it ruins the urgency of the action scenes.

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On the female end of the ensemble, Hannah Quinlivan comes off as petulant as J. Jae, who annoys every time she shows up. She’s supposed to be a security agent but she comes off more like a overly privileged, rich person who suddenly didn’t get what she wanted.

Lynn Hung is fine as Lin Dong, as she handles her role with dignity and grace, but her role is essentially a damsel-in-distress and nothing more, which is a real shame. It also doesn’t help that she and Bloom share no chemistry whatsoever. And the same goes for Wang Ruoxi as Nana, who is literally a plot device that just happens to like pet names like Baby and again, there is no chemistry between her and Wu.

And then there’s Liang Jing as the villain. Immediately, we know she’s the villain because she has very long fingernails. And that’s about the only thing that stands out about her character. Jing tries to vamp it up but none of the actors seem to respond to her properly, making her scenes fall flat. And as her henchman, Shi Yanneng’s talents are wasted due to the filmmakers not realizing his true potential.

There really isn’t much more to say about the film so it feels suitable to end this review like the climax, by going out on a whimper. Despite having Orlando Bloom trying to branch out away from his image, The Shanghai Job robs any chance of that happening with its dull storytelling, cardboard cutouts of characters, tension-free action and lame attempts at humour.

You know you got a problem with your film when the best thing about it is the Katy Perry song “Roulette”, that accompanies it.

Quickie Review

PROS

Orlando Bloom tries his best

The song “Roulette”

CONS

Inconsistent acting

Dull characters

Suspense-free action

No creative inspiration in the filmmaking

Lack of cast chemistry

Mediocre storytelling

SCORE: 3/10

Cast: Orlando Bloom, Simon Yam, Leo Wu, Hanna Quinlivan, Lynn Hung, Liang Jing, Wang Ruoxi, Shi Yanneng
Director: Charles Martin
Screenwriters: Kevin Bernhardt

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Movie Review – The Disaster Artist

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EXPECTATIONS: Something funny, mesmerizing and heartwarming.

REVIEW: “You’re tearing me apart!” When one hears this line these days, aside from thinking that the person saying it is crazy beyond belief, what film do you think comes to mind when one says that line? Would it be the classic 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean? Or would it be the 2003 cult classic film by multi-talented (You in the back, don’t laugh!) filmmaker Tommy Wiseau? Chances are that it’s the latter.

For those who don’t know about The Room, it is a 2003 film that has gained cult classic status (Or is it classic status?) due to how incredibly awful it is. The filmmaking, the acting, the production values, the plot all amount to something that is so terrible, that it actually becomes brilliant by how hilarious and strangely mesmerizing it all is. It’s as if Wiseau shot for the stars but not only did he not make it up there, he fell so hard that he crashed through the planet Earth, tumbled through the core, crashed out from the bottom of the Earth and came upon the stars anyway.

And now we have The Disaster Artist, a film by director/actor James Franco that is based on the book of the same name, co-written by Greg Sestero, who acted in The Room. Unlike the source it’s based on, it received critical acclaim due to the heartfelt and hilarious portrayal of the events that happened behind-the-scenes. With talented screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now) and a wealth of acting talent, it looks to be a good one.

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In 1998 in San Francisco, the film starts off in an acting class (headed by Melanie Griffiths of all people) and we see Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) an aspiring actor who’s having stage fright. He is then wowed by a performance from his eccentric and fearless fellow acting student Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Hoping to learn from the mysterious Wiseau, Greg and Tommy strike up a friendship due to their shared passion in acting and James Dean (who has been portrayed by James Franco before) and eventually move to L.A. to try and make it as actors.

When they both struggle due to lack of experience and/or drive, Greg suggests they should make their own movie. Tommy, who is wealthy, although the source of his income is as much of a mystery as his origin (he claims to be from New Orleans, despite a blatant European accent) and his age (he claims to be 19), backs the movie and also writes the script, direct, and stars. With production on The Room underway, Greg and Tommy’s friendship begins to fall apart due to Wiseau’s direction, in many senses of the word.

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In order for The Disaster Artist to truly work as a film, it needs to have two things down pat. Firstly, we have to empathize with the lead character and his/her ambitions and motivations. Secondly, we have to get into the spirit of the character, regardless of how much we know about him/her. Fortunately, the film sticks the landing and provides a funny and sincere look at the making of The Room as well as the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero.

It becomes very clear that the involvement of scriptwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber were a big asset to the project because the sensitivity and heart that they have contributed to their previous projects like The Fault in Their Stars, The Spectacular Now and Our Souls at Night is very much present in The Disaster Artist. We understand the ambitions of Wiseau and Sestero and we understand the insecurities of both of them as well.

And what clinches it is the chemistry between the Franco brothers. Despite being nothing like the people they are portraying, their brotherly love translates really well into the film and make the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero convincing, affable and even lovable.

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James Franco is a wonder as Wiseau, as he takes all of the eccentricities and oddities of Wiseau and portrays him as a three-dimensional human being whom we can laugh with as well as empathize with. He nails the accent and the look while also keeping the enigmatic presence in check. Dave Franco is great as Sestero. At first glance, it may be a thankless role of being the straight man reacting to all the craziness, he does it really well and provides a great proxy for the audience.

Speaking of proxies, Seth Rogen is a great one, playing Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor and eventually the ghost-director. He points out all the problems with the production and he does it with hilarious aplomb. The supporting cast which include our very own Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Charlyne Yi, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffiths and many more; make the most out of their variable screen-time, displaying moments of pure shock and disbelief, earning many laughs.

That’s not to say that the film shies away from the darkness of Wiseau like his arrogance, his terrible working habits like showing up late and treating his cast badly (including the non-catering of basic human necessities like water) and his jealousy over Sestero; the film delves into that side and bares it all. For example, Franco literally bares it all in a scene where he treats one of his co-stars badly due to her appearance and the scene culminates into a free-for-all between him and his crew and it becomes quite captivating and compelling. It’s clear that the making of The Room couldn’t all have been peaches and cream and the scene makes that perfectly clear.

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Although The Disaster Artist maintains a great reverence for The Room, the film can be seen as a funny comedy about how such true-to-life absurdities can be a catalyst for such a terrible, yet mesmerizing piece of art. But the film can also be seen as an experience about what can be defined as art and the sheer commitment to accomplish making said art and it is clear that Franco believes in that.

There’s a scene in The Disaster Artist with Jacki Weaver’s character commenting on why she continues showing up to the set despite her advanced age and terrible working conditions, she says “The worst day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else”. On that note, The Room was worth the pain, as there is nothing more noble than not only finishing what you started, but to own it, despite what people think.

But enough about my review. Anyway, how’s your sex lives?

Quickie Review

PROS

Great performances from the cast

Reliance on character pays off, resulting in a heartfelt piece

Never shies away from the flaws of the subject

CONS

May be a bit too esoteric for some

SCORE: 8/10

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This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, Hannibal Burress, Jerrod Carmichael, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Zac Efron, Nathan Fielder, Ari Graynor, Melanie Griffith, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Mantzoukas, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Megan Mullally, Paul Scheer, Sharon Stone, Jacki Weaver
Director: James Franco
Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, based on the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell

Movie Review – Paddington 2

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EXPECTATIONS: A sequel equal to the wonderful original.

REVIEW: I don’t know how the first Paddington film became as good as it is. Considering that the trailers made it look awful and the late cast changes in regards to who provides the voice of the titular bear, I was actually expecting the worst. But to everyone’s shock, it turned out to be one of the best family films of that year. Or even one of the best films of that year.

Full of charm, heart, British wit, visual invention and a refreshing lack of postmodernism and pop culture references, Paddington was a genuine and welcome surprise for all. So when there was news that a second film was going to be made, I was excited beyond belief. With all the cast and crew from the original returning (bar Nicole Kidman, of course) and with Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson and others playing new characters, will the film live up to the original?

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After the events of the original film, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has nestled in nicely with the Brown family (consisting of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin and Julie Walters) and has become a hit in the neighbourhood.

Still communicating to his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) via letter, Paddington plans to get her a special birthday present in the form of a pop-up book. Realizing how expensive and valuable the book is, Paddington works as a window cleaner to earn the money.

And just as he is close to achieving his goal, a ragged thief steals the book from the antique store owned by Samuel Gruber (Jim Broadbent). Failing to catch the thief, Paddington ends up taking the fall for the crime and is sent to prison.

Will Paddington ever get to send Aunt Lucy the perfect birthday present? Will the Brown family ever catch the thief and clear Paddington‘s name? Will Paddington survive his time in prison?

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To get off track of this review a tiny morsel, over the course of my life, I’ve never tried marmalade before. But if I were to try it, it would have an immense lot to live up to in comparison to this wondrous film.

Everything that made the original such a joy is back in the sequel. The extravagantly colourful cinematography by Erik Wilson is more bold than ever to the point that this film has the most beautiful looking prison I’ve ever seen. Dario Marianelli (who replaces Nick Urata) unsurprisingly provides a magically stirring score that adds to the storybook vibe of the film.

And the script by director Paul King and Simon Farnaby (who reprises his small role as Barry) never forgets the lightness of tone and sweet humour and storytelling that made the previous film so successful. They give the characters ample screentime and moments that are all satisfying arcs that foreshadow a fantastic punchline or an emotional moment.

Even some of the more daring humour packs a punch i.e. when Mrs. Bird despises a particular occupation. And once again, the film thankfully does away with the modernities to keep its storybook vibe intact (i.e. no mobile phones) and keeps the classic elements like phone booths and steam trains. Speaking of steam trains, the action sequences are terrific in terms of thrills and visual humour that is reminiscent of Wes Anderson or even Harold Lloyd.

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But let’s not forget the wonderful cast. The regulars are all enjoyable to watch and they clearly haven’t lost a step. Ben Whishaw is again spot-on as Paddington, as he provides the perfect balance of sincerity, sweetness, heart and conviction. Sally Hawkins is a hoot as she conveys Mary’s unhinged thirst for adventure while Peter Capaldi is clearly making the most out of his screen-time as the lovably annoying neighbour Mr. Curry.

Even the supporting actors of various amounts of screen-time (including Jessica Hynes, Joanna Lumley, Sanjay Bhaskar and others) add much joy to the film. There’s one particular cameo which I will not spoil that had the audience laugh out loud when he showed up.

But the new actors coming in are the stand-outs here. Brendan Gleeson, who’s no slouch to comedy or family films (as In Bruges and the Harry Potter films clearly indicate) and he is an incredibly good sport as Nuckles McGinty, the prison cook. He clearly knows the material and adapts his performance to it perfectly, making a surprising companion (Or is he?) to Paddington.

And there’s of course, Hugh Grant. One of the most self-deprecating actors on the planet, in Paddington 2, he takes it up another step as washed-out theatre actor, Phoenix Buchanan (A true stage name, if there ever was one.). In the film, he basically plays multiple roles (ranging from a ragged hobo to a nun of all people) and he relishes every single one of them. Whether he is equipped with small throwaway gags (like missing a cravat) or dressing up in silly costumes (like a dog costume), Grant nails the part with gusto.

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As for its flaws, I honestly can’t really think of any. Apart from some gags I missed out because I was laughing so much and some of the CGI/green-screen effects in the action scenes being quite noticeable, those barely even qualify as nitpicks.

Overall, Paddington 2 is a wonderful sequel that the whole family will enjoy and it will certainly bring a smile to one’s face. Now I’m off to go and try marmalade for the first time before Paddington gives me the hard stare. Just kidding!

Quickie Review

PROS

Fantastic cast

Vibrant storybook score

Colorful cinematography

Retains sense of humour that made the first film successful

Great new characters

CONS

Gags may be missed due to massive amounts of laughter

Some iffy CGI/green-screen effects

SCORE: 9/10

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This review can be also seen at THE IRIS. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris, Peter Capaldi, Tom Conti, Joanna Lumley, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Eileen Atkins
Director: Paul King
Screenwriters: Paul King, Simon Farnaby, based on characters created by Michael Bond

Movie Review – Love and Other Cults (Japan Film Fest 2017)

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EXPECTATIONS: Something edgy, funny and transgressive like Uchida’s previous work.

REVIEW: Director Eiji Uchida is back with another Third Window joint after the recognition gained from the pitch-black yet sweet Greatful Dead and the first collaboration with the controversially scabrous Lowlife Love. Having earned accolades with his daring and darkly comic works, he has had two successful collaborations with Third Window Films via Adam Torel and his latest film, Love and Other Cults is one of them.

The story encapsulates all of Uchida’s pet themes about the upper/lower/middle-rent media industry and lost souls yearning for a sense of belonging and with a mix of young talent and veteran actors in the midst, it looks to be an absolute screamer. Will the film live up to the hype it has gained?

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Newcomer Sairi Ito stars as Ai Shima (also known as Ananda), an innocent looking girl who basically crashes through life, colliding from home to home, adopting one persona after another, while looking for somewhere to belong.

Throughout her tumultuous quest, she ends up in a variety of weird situations including her landfill/apartment with her religious nutjob of a mother, a cuckoo cult that would make you beg for the Kool-Aid, an actual family that is not an euphemism, a bunch of chemically and recreationally imbalanced dropouts and of course, the vibrancy of the horizontal/vertical refreshment industry. Oh yeah, there’s some Yakuza involved in there too, I forgot to mention that.

And it is around the moments, Ai always has her fellow high school friend by her side in varying capacity, Ryota (Kenta Suga). The two fall in love at first sight, if you could call it that, but Ryota isn’t exactly the knight in shining armour. His circle of friends includes orange-haired aspiring Yakuza scumbag Yuji (Kaito Yoshimura), and his brute protector buddy Kenta (Antony) They work for small-time crime boss Kida (Denden), though Kenta tries to keep any serious criminal activity at a bare minimum.

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Keeping the punk-rock sensibility of his previous films, director Uchida also steers the story at a brisk pace at a 95 minute runtime. But with the huge amount of characters and relationships, is the director able to explore all of them thoroughly? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. Thanks to the editing by Masashi Kumino and the sharp script by Uchida, the two are able to juggle all of the character arcs swiftly and effectively, making every scene count.

And the dark humour adopted by Uchida like his prior films still hits the mark very well, sending up the character dynamics (like how Kenta and Reika first meet), expected comedic setpieces (like the revenge scheme enacted on Ai) and audience expectations (like a massage scene between father and daughter) in a gleeful and anarchic fashion.

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But major credit goes to the actors, as well as the casting director who actually cast suitably aged actors for the roles. Newcomer Sairi Ito runs through the entire gamut of emotions and personas of her character like a pro, as well as portraying the loneliness and angst of her character in a subtle and convincing fashion. Kenta Suga does well as the quiet, brooding Ryota while Kaito Yoshimura is great as the despicable, yet vulnerable Yuji. The biggest standout however is Antony as the brute protector Kenta.

Known as a comedian in Japan, he easily plays the imposing part of the character easily, but it is the nuanced humanity he brings to the role that makes him a character easy to sympathize with. He is also part of the best relationship in the film, between Kenta and the knowledgeable Reika, played by Hanae Kan. The two have matching chemistry and the bond is so sweet, that I would love to see a whole movie just from these two alone.

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The supporting actors all add spark and energy to the film like Ami Tomite, who plays a rebellious girl who barks a lot more than she bites; Hana Matsumoto as the adoptive sister of Ai who gradually begins to regret her rash decision; Reona Hirota as the nutjob mother of Ai, who switches religion as if she’s deciding on what to eat; and of course Denden, as the crime boss who genuinely enjoys his social status as a senior and has the best entrance for a gangster on film ever.

Apart from some loose details about the characters and narration gaffes (How does Ryota know about the family Ai resides with?), the only problem, which is a big problem, is the ill use of a certain character that is subject to a film trope of sexual assault. It is really off-putting in of itself but the way the arc of that character ends is a serious fault of the film that had me on a bit of a sour note, despite the overall quality of the film.

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Overall, Love and Other Drugs Cults is another hit from Eiji Uchida thanks to his uncompromising and anarchic punk-rock direction, the bizarre ensemble of characters, the great array of performances and the gleefully black humour. I just wish that Uchida, or all film really, would just cut it out with the sexual violence on film just to drive a story through.

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Quickie Review

PROS

Fantastic cast and crew

Uchida’s energetic direction and black humour

Efficient storytelling and character development

Brisk running time

CONS

Some loose details with storytelling and character development

Use of the sexual assault trope

SCORE: 8/10

Cast: Sairi Ito, Kenta Suga, Kaito Yoshimura, Antony, Hanae Kan, Denden, Nanami Kawakami, Yoshimasa Kondo, Leona Hirata, Matsumi Maiguma, Ami Tomite, Atsushi Shinohara, Tarou Yabe
Director: Eiji Uchida
Screenwriters: Eiji Uchida

 

Movie Review – Claire’s Camera (San Diego Asian Film Festival 2017)

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EXPECTATIONS: Not sure, to be honest.

REVIEW: The work of Korean director Hong Sang-soo is, unfortunately, a blind spot of mine that I desperately need to rectify. The only film of his I have seen is In Another Country, which starred Isabelle Huppert and was a charming, frothy comedy about the amusing failings of human behaviour.

So when I heard that director Hong was reuniting with Huppert on their second film on another frothy, fluffy light comedy with Korean actress Kim Min-hee (fresh off her critically acclaimed performance from Hong’s last film, On the Beach at Night Alone), despite my lack of knowledge of Hong’s work, I had to say yes. Does the film live up to the director’s sterling reputation and entice me to discover more of his prior work?

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Kim Min-hee stars as Man-hee, a film sales assistant who, in a very amusingly dry scene, is suddenly fired by her boss Yang-hye (Chang Mi-hee) for reasons unknown, except for the fact that she is dishonest. And all of this happens in the smack-dab middle of the Cannes Film Festival.

Left adrift in a beach (where else?), she meets Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a Parisian teacher who is in town to support her friend’s film. Unbeknownst to Man-hee, Claire happens to know Yang-hye as well as director So Wan-soo (Jung Jin-young) by taking pictures of them with her Instamatic in a serendipitous fashion.

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To reiterate again, I’m a neophyte of the work of Hong Sang-soo and in the case of his film, Claire’s Camera, not much of a plot or even an actual event happens at all here. So, why did I have the biggest smile on my face from beginning to end? Basically down to two reasons.

Firstly, it’s the charisma of the actors involved. Seeing actresses Kim Min-hee and Isabelle Huppert free and unburdened from their emotionally draining performances from On the Beach at Night Alone and Elle, the two look like they’ve having the time of their lives, just appearing in a film and being naturalistic as possible.

Isabelle Huppert, who’s probably never given a bad performance, does very well as Claire, who she convincingly conveys a mysterious allure that makes the other characters very receptive towards her. Her artistry with her Instamatic and her backstory drives her to never take the sights and sounds of life for granted.

Kim Min-hee can convey joy and vulnerability in a matter of seconds and she does very well as Man-hee, especially in the scene where she finds out that she’s fired, delivering lines like “Let’s take a photo of us to commemorate my firing” in an amusingly dry way.

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Secondly, the interactions between the characters. Knowing Man-hee’s backstory (including the reason of her firing as well as a sexist backlash) her interactions with her Korean co-stars (like the dryly amusing Chang Mi-hee and the loutish Jung Jin-young), as well as between the co-stars themselves are always blunt but still somehow passive in their emotions.

Whereas her interactions with her and Claire, although they are not speaking in their native tongues, it becomes clear that they always say what they mean and adds a sense of intimacy and closeness. It also helps that their interactions (in English) are amusing and likable to the point that you can believe that they can actually become soulmates, thanks to their tangible chemistry.

And even for devotees for Hong Sang-soo, there are plenty of references to his previous work (the most blatant being a movie poster of his) or even his private life involving Kim Min-hee on (Jung Jin-young, being an obvious doppelganger of Hong himself).

Overall, Claire’s Camera is the cinematic equivalent of milk ice tea. It doesn’t really add up to much substantially. But it’s sweet, looks nice, goes down smooth and if the drink it’s made really well, it might end up being quite the memorable thing.

Quickie Review

PROS

Fantastic leads

Amusingly dry and improvised sense of humour

Has a substantial sense of intimacy between the characters

CONS

Not much of a plot or story or deeper meaning

SCORE: 7/10

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kim Min-hee, Chang Mi-hee, Jung Jin-young, Shahira Fahmy
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Screenwriters: Hong Sang-soo

 

Movie Review – Bad Moms 2 (aka A Bad Moms Christmas)

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EXPECTATIONS: Something approaching the entertaining quality of the original.

REVIEW: Ahh yes, the cinematic comedy sequel. These past several years, we have gotten many sequels to comedies, whether they were made by popular demand, the means of nostalgia or the fact that Hollywood has been running out of ideas.

Although we have some gems like 22 Jump Street, the Kung Fu Panda films, Men In Black 3, Scream 4 and others, which are at least good in their own terms, we also have very bad examples like Zoolander 2, Dumb and Dumber To, Cars 2, The Hangover Part II and others, which were either tired retreads, misunderstandings of what made the originals cherished or just awful on all factors.

So when I went into Bad Moms 2 (aka A Bad Moms Christmas), I went in with an open mind. All the factors that made the original enjoyable are back but I wanted something a little bit more than just a retread. Something inspired that would bring the film to another level. Does the sequel manage to do that?

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Under-appreciated and overburdened moms Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are back and they all have their families under control: loved and tended for. But there’s one thing that happens every year that they dread: the festive spirit of Christmas.

As if creating the perfect holiday for their families isn’t hard enough, they’ll have to do it while hosting and entertaining their own respective mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) when they come to visit. Time to get the Christmas spirit…from the liquor bottle!

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Now I have to admit, in the first 10-15 minutes of the film, it was beginning to look a hell of a lot like a retread of the first Bad Moms. It was still amusing stuff and the cast haven’t lost a beat, which isn’t a surprise since the last film came out just last year.

Hell, in retrospect, all of the positives and negatives of the first film are replicated here, whether its the talented cast, the mega-happy conclusion, the overuse of slow-motion montages and the cartoonish execution undermining the film’s thematic potential. I could have easily just copied and pasted my review of the original film and that would be the end of it.

But there is one thing that makes this sequel a good continuation of the original: the new supporting characters played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon. Such inspired casting would be either underused or ill-advised, but writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore realize their comedic potential.

By giving them ample screen-time (separately as well as together as an ensemble), the actresses end up stealing the show from the leads. And despite the exaggerated portrayals, Lucas and Moore give them enough emotional grounding to see where the characters are coming from, that people can relate to.

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Hines nails the delicateness, the clinginess of her character perfectly while Sarandon is great as the unruly mother of Carla, who’s either buzzed from drugs, alcohol or something else we might not want to know.

But the real stand-out is Baranski, who perfects the ice queen stereotype as if she made the damn thing. Having enjoyed her work since The Birdcage and Bowfinger, she effortlessly nails questionable material (either racial or cliched) just from her delivery alone.

And of course in a Bad Moms sequel, there’s a new flirtation device. Basically taking over the role from Jay Hernandez (who now plays the punching bag of Baranski’s character), Justin Hartley plays Ty, a fireman who’s also a stripper. Hartley is a great sport in the role and the interactions between him and Hahn are some of the funniest parts of the film, due to how sincere they play the scene out.

This is gonna be a shorter review than the norm, but one thing is for certain. If you liked the first Bad Moms film, then you’ll like Bad Moms 2. It’s just that simple. And while it could’ve been a tired retread, the additions of Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon kick the film back into high gear.

If there’s one spin-off with potential out there, it’s in this film.

MILA KUNIS, KRISTEN BELL, and KATHRYN HAHN in A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS.

Quickie Review

PROS

Cast all give great performances

Themes are still relatable and have emotional grounding

CONS

Too many montages

Overlong and sappy ending

SCORE: 7/10

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This review can be also seen at THE IRIS. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, Jay Hernandez, Justin Hartley, Peter Gallagher, Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony, David Walton, Wanda Sykes
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Screenwriters: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Movie Review – Brigsby Bear

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EXPECTATIONS: A funny SNL debut entry into film.

REVIEW: When you hear a film that is green-lit and it is basically a vehicle for an SNL star, chances are that one would expect the film to be bad. Films like A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar and The Ladies Man are all garbage. Although some of them do gain a cult following over time like Hot Rod and MacGruber, there are also some that are genuinely funny like the Wayne’s World films, Mean Girls and others.

So when I heard that a SNL alumni was making his lead debut in a film about a magical bear in a television show, I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. It certainly didn’t help that the lead actor, Kyle Mooney, appeared in Zoolander 2, a film that I loathed and he played the most annoying character. So annoying that I wished his character would die and **SPOILER ALERT for Zoolander 2** when he did, I literally stood up and cheered.

Speaking about my crippled state of mind, besides my initial reservations, it helps to have an open mind about film before going in because there are projects out there that have the potential to surprise you and I hoped Brigsby Bear would do the trick. Will the magic work on me or will the film struggle to reach the bare necessities?

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Kyle Mooney stars as James, an imaginative young man, who only knows in this world are his mother and father (an amusing pair with Jane Adams and Mark Hamill), the walls of the underground bunker they live in and the many VHS teachings of Brigsby Bear, a folksy talking bear whose catchphrases include “curiosity is an unnatural emotion” and “trust only the familial unit”.

But when reality unexpectedly throws him out of whack, James has to face the real world; a world he cannot understand and a new family he doesn’t know. To make things worse, he finds out that Brigsby Bear doesn’t exist on the outside, so he takes it upon himself to finish the adventures of Brigsby Bear for good with a video camera in tow.

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With themes like child kidnapping, fitting in the real world, loneliness, you would expect this film to be a full-bore drama, but in the case of Brigsby Bear, it is only part of it. The rest is quirky, whimsical and humourous. Now this may sound like the makings of a recipe of sick, but director Dave McCary and lead actor/screenwriter Kyle Mooney make Brigsby Bear an absurdly charming and heartwarming, if flawed piece of work.

The main reason the film truly works is Kyle Mooney. Having doubts over him, my reservations were washed away by his stellar work. He brings the perfect mix of childlike wonder, deadpan delivery and sincerity to the role that even when he says unwitting things like wishing his sister was abducted with him so they would’ve had fun together, it becomes pretty easy to laugh at him as well as alongside him.

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The fish-out-of-water scenarios that James goes through do provide ample laughs, particularly during a scene where he goes to a teenage party, where he mingles with the youth. The supporting cast all do good work with their roles like Ryan Simpkins as James’ sister, Mark Hamill as James’ father and Kate Lyn Sheil in a small role as an actress in the Brigsby Bear show.

In fact, one of the best scenes in the film involves Mooney and Sheil meeting up for the first time and the interactions between the two are both dramatically compelling and amusing. The mix of remorse and morose humour is executed perfectly, showing the film at its best.

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But when the story progresses to the point when James starts filming the rest of Brigsby Bear, the film unfortunately becomes predictable to the point that it feels like its going through a laundry list of indie cliches such as the bonding scenes between the characters and even Greg Kinnear‘s character as the cop who secretly wants to be an actor; it just feels like tropes we’ve seen many times in indie films.

And the storytelling does suffer from some problems like how the two tones of seriousness and humour betray each other or worse, how the film never has as much conflicts and obstacles for James to go through. It makes the journey a little bit too easy in comparison to what James has on him as baggage, which is what makes the scene between Mooney and Sheil a relief from the predictability.

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Overall, the film is a good effort for actor/screenwriter Kyle Mooney and director Dave McCary and I hope they do better work in the future, as Brigsby Bear is a heartfelt, warm and peculiar piece of work that could have been great. But hey, a little magic is better than having no magic at all, right?

Quickie Review

PROS

Kyle Mooney gives a great performance

The supporting cast give life to their roles

Appropriate amounts of whimsy are well-executed, particularly in the first act

CONS

Crawls back to predictable indie cliches

Tonal shifts hinder the experience

Not much conflict for the lead character

SCORE: 7/10

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This review can be also seen at THE IRIS. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Kyle Mooney, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Claire Danes, Ryan Simpkins, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, Alexa Demie, Beck Bennett, Chance Crimin, Jane Adams, Kate Lyn Sheil, Andy Samberg
Director: Dave McCary
Screenwriters: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney

Movie Review – Pop Aye

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EXPECTATIONS: A sweet, gentle buddy comedy/road trip film.

REVIEW: Although I am a fan of all film genres and tropes, the specific genre trope that I have an affinity for is the human-fantasy friendship trope. Whether it’s between a human and a horse (War Horse), a human and a robot (The Iron Giant), a human and a mutant super-pig (Okja) or a human and a Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro), a strong bond is a strong bond, no matter how bizarre the circumstances are.

In the case of Kirsten Tan‘s directorial debut, Pop Aye, it’s between a human and a elephant. Unlike Tony Jaa‘s action epic The Protector where the man kills billions of people to get his elephant back from mustache-twirling bad guys, the main lead in Pop Aye reunites with his eponymous childhood pet and tries to take him back to his village. Will the film be as touching as the prior examples or will the film need to be put down?

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Thaneth Warakulnukroh makes his acting debut as Thana, a middle-aged architect, who is bored at work as well as at home with his wife Bo (Penpak Sirikul). One day, as he wanders the Bangkok city, he spots an elephant which turns out to be his childhood pet, Pop Aye.

Faster than you can say “Don Quixote”, he buys Pop Aye and then decides to take the elephant back to the village where they grew up together and into his uncle Peak’s (Narong Pongpab) care. Thus, they embark on a road trip through the rural Thailand to their hometown of Loei Province, Isan.

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Okay, maybe the last statement in the introductory paragraph was a bit mean-spirited but there are many examples out there that are downright terrible like Marley and Me (which is as incorrect as the grammatical error of a title) and the recent film A Dog’s Purpose (why kill off one dog when you can kill off five?). Those films are inferior examples because of the filmmakers insistence in getting every single tear out of the audience that it borders on grievous bodily harm.

Thankfully, Kirsten Tan‘s Pop Aye is on another level in comparison, as Tan provides an amiable, bittersweet and surprisingly surreal piece of work. The subtle and contemplative tone and the script by Tan makes the film more than the sum of its parts.

One of the things the film gets right is the titular character itself, Pop Aye. Named after the cartoon but renamed for copyright purposes and played by Bong and two other elephants, Pop Aye is as contemplative as he is charming. His reactions towards the many bizarre characters in the road trip are funny. But he really stand out when you see his final shot of the film, as he stares into the horizon.

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In fact, the humour in the film is quite sharp. Whether its showing a sex toy to prove a point, seeing the interactions between Thana and Bo or the great spaghetti western-like score by Matthew James Kelly, the film is not without its levity. But overall, the film is basically a low-key character study for Thana.

Thaneth Warakulnukroh gives a great performance as the lead, as he lends the right amount of gravitas, melancholy and restrained jubilation. Penpak Sirikul (last seen in The Hangover Part II) lends a surprising amount of humanity to the role of Bo, who could have easily be seen as a materialistic person.

Other surprises come from the supporting cast, such as Yukontorn Sukkijja as Jenny, a transgender woman whom Thana meets in a nightclub. Her enigmatic presence, her brief exchanges of dialogue and her sharp wit understandably makes her a stand-out to Thana as well as the audience.

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But the biggest surprise is Chaiwat Khumdee as Dee, a vagrant who is content with where he has ended up life. His optimism and modesty and Khumdee’s performance make Dee the best character in the film. His character also offers an opposing view in comparison to Thana, as both have cherished memories that may not be as idealized as they think.

Speaking of what is expected, there are a few surprising curveballs in the narrative that lend a lot of depth to the film, as the journey is more than just revisiting the past, but is more along the lines of sheer remorse.

The film does drag a little bit in terms of its pacing and the destination the film gets to is a bit slight compared to the journey preceding it but overall, Pop Aye is a film that stands out from the pack of human-fantasy genre trope and is worth looking out for.

Quickie Review

PROS

Great performances

Subtle storytelling and filmmaking

Narrative curveballs surprise and lend a lot of weight to the story

Beautifully shot and scored

CONS

The ending is quite slight

Slow pacing

SCORE: 7/10

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This review can be also seen at THE IRIS. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Bong the elephant, Penpak Sirikul, Chaiwat Khumdee, Yukontorn Sukkijja, Narong Pongpab
Director: Kirsten Tan
Screenwriters: Kirsten Tan

Movie Review – Girls Trip

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EXPECTATIONS: Some girls, some tripping (in more ways than one) and some fun.

REVIEW: Director Malcolm D. Lee is a filmmaker whose work has been quite the mixed bag. While he has good pieces of work like the action/comedy cult hit Undercover Brother, The Best Man films and the incredibly underseen coming-of-age film Roll Bounce, he also has terrible pieces of work (which is one way to put it) like Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (one of many examples that made me almost hate Martin Lawrence) and Scary Movie 5 of all things (a perfect example of kicking a corpse and setting it on fire).

And now we have his latest work, Girls Trip, which has a very talented supporting cast who have done wonderful work, although I have no familiarity of seeing any of Tiffany Haddish‘s work before this, and an incredibly simple premise with tons of comedic possibilities. Is this film worth the trip or is it better to stay home and be tripping?

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The film follows the story of four lifelong friends (known as the Flossy Posse) as they go to a getaway to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. First, we have Regina Hall, who stars as Regina Pierce, a famous self-help author with the perfect marriage, the perfect career and the perfect life. In the public eye, anyway. She decides to fix the dying friendship and invites the other three on a girls trip.

Then we have Queen Latifah, who stars as Sasha Franklin, a journalist who currently manages her own blog, which focuses on dishing out dirt on celebrities. And we have Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays Lisa Cooper, a nurse/single mother whose life with her two children while living with her mother is probably more sterile than the workplace she works in.

And last but definitely not least, we have Tiffany Haddish, an office worker who recently got fired (in one of the film’s best scenes) but she happens to be a very committed purveyor in the horizontal and vertical refreshment industry. As well as a healthy connoisseur in the art of fine alcohol. Or in this case, 200 year-old absinthe.

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So basically the story is a bunch of people go on a trip to party and hijinks ensue. There is a plot involved in there but to be honest, it is quite inconsequential and perfunctory. Like most comedies, the laughs (if any) just plummet when the plot is involved so there really is no point. What matters is whether the film is funny or not? So is it?

Girls Trip is an R-rated raunchy comedy done right and it is thanks to the clever script by Erica Rivinoja, Kenya Barris (creator of TV series Black-ish) and Tracy Oliver and of course the outstanding leads. There are plenty of R-rated comedies such as this out there but most of these are done wrong due to three essential arms: characters we can relate to, cast chemistry and a strong script.

Two examples that get it wrong are The Hangover, the film that apparently started this whole ensemble partying thing and is grossly overrated; and this year’s similarly themed Rough Night. In the case of The Hangover, I found it very unfunny because I didn’t have any engagement with the characters and it just came off as annoying.

In the case of Rough Night, that film failed to be engaging not because the characters were not relatable but the chemistry between the four leads were not only non-existent but it is almost as if they have never met before.

The script for Girls Trip is jam-packed with great moments. To name some, it includes the scariest “shower” scene since Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho; the laugh-out-loud treatment (or straight-up abuse) of fruits and certain meats that would make men repeatedly cross their legs and of course a nightclub scene where the film’s title takes on more than one definition. It also features the best “human kebab” since Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It is at that moment where I thought I’m glad that this movie wasn’t in 3D.

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But to bring all that wondrously dirty humour to life, we have to, once again, relate to the characters. The four leads are all fantastic in their roles and if it weren’t for them, the film would’ve sunk dearly. They all share great chemistry and the script gives them characterizations and enough moments for them to shine.

Regina Hall, who has proven to be a capable comedian thanks to the Scary Movie entries (satirizing the ghetto role with ease, except in the last one), gives her best performance as Ryan, since her character has a conflict of whether to stand up for herself at the risk of her career and the reputation she has worked so hard for. While her character is seen to be the “straight and responsible” role of the film, thankfully the role never restricts her from having fun and reminds everyone why she was such a hoot in the first place.

Queen Latifah is reliably sticking to her character type as Sasha, as she plays her character as headstrong, with an almost no-nonsense attitude towards the falsities of life (Sorry, this is a family site). It is the pairing of Latifah and Hall that grounds the film and lends it heart so that the plot kicks in, while the laughter dies down a bit, at least it is in support of the characters, which is what the audience should stay and root for.

Jada Pinkett Smith is thankfully against type (well, at least compared to her entertainingly vamp and icy role in the TV series, Gotham) as the socially repressed Lisa, whose fiery reputation in the past seemed to be behind her. But fortunately, she ends up putting her behind on her past as her reputation ends up being reignited as she goes on the trip to look for a fling. The scenes where she tries to get back in the game, so to speak, are hilarious since her character is more on a mothering level, rather than a smothering level (in more ways than one) as her friends what her to be.

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And now we have the wild card (in more ways than one), Tiffany Haddish. She is given the lion’s share (or lioness, in this case) of the vulgar humour and she is completely fearless and handles it like a pro. Many of her antics will remain in one’s head for a very long time and when it comes out on home video, her antics will live on in history as animated gifs in social media forever. This is the role for Haddish that is surely to break her out into the spotlight. Thankfully not in more ways than one.

The supporting cast are all fine in their roles. Kate Walsh is very amusing as the token white woman (Yes, I went there); TV show Luke Cage‘s Mike Coulter comes off looking solid (in more ways than one) as the nth-timing husband of Ryan; Larenz Tate is blandly likable as the old college friend whom Ryan has an inkling for and Kofi Siriboe is a good sport as Malik, the man with the third “arm” that Lisa has an inkling for. Malik, I mean, not the arm. I think.

We also get cameos from music artists like Diddy, Common, Mariah Carey as well as filmmaker Ava DuVernay, singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and actor Morris Chestnut. There’s even an amusing cameo from Mike Epps as a street hawker.

The film isn’t without bumps on the way, as it does run a bit too long (more than two hours) and the script could afford to be more creative or subversive with its comedic tropes, like the antagonist character Simone (Deborah Ayorinde), who is played out in a boring and predictably safe fashion.

The film also switches from well-executed raunchiness to moments of drama involving friendship conflicts and a climax that involves female empowerment and knowing your own self-worth, but the transitions aren’t always well-executed.

But those flaws can be easily brushed off (or in this case, danced off) as Girls Trip is a film that is a hilarious time at the movies thanks to the energetically raunchy script, the wonderful cast and the dynamite chemistry; the latter being the longest arm, I mean, the strongest arm of all. In more ways than– Okay, I’ll stop now.

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Quickie Review

PROS

The four leads have a winning chemistry and all give hilarious performances

The four leads are personable, relatable enough for us to root for

Many moments of inspired raunchiness

CONS

Overlong running time

Plot overrides humour

SCORE: 8/10

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This review can be also seen at THE IRIS. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh, Kofi Siriboe, Deborah Ayorinde
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenwriters: Erica Rivinoja, Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver

Movie Review – Meow

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EXPECTATIONS: Something that will surprise me, like Stephen Chow’s CJ7.

REVIEW: Benny Chan is known as one of Hong Kong’s most commercially successful directors. With huge classic hits like A Moment of Romance and Big Bullet to his recent blockbusters like The White Storm and Shaolin, he is quite dependable to rely on for action spectacle.

But when Chan branches out to different genres, that is when his films go from decent to disastrous. One of the examples is the sequel to Gen-X Cops, Gen-Y Cops, a film so bad that it made the original look like The Wild Bunch. Filled with abysmal acting, ridiculous events strewn together to resemble a plot and a script that makes Paul Rudd (yes, that Paul Rudd) say the most awful lines (some even in Cantonese!).

Another example is the sci-fi/fantasy flick City Under Siege, which was considered to be Hong Kong’s answer to X-Men, but it turned out to be a disaster, with the expected terrible script, awful acting and unintentionally hilarious make-up effects that would make the Toxic Avenger look like an art installation.

But the two films have one essential factor in common that made them entertaining, despite the terrible quality of each of them: they were both unintentionally funny. They were never comedies, but the films were such disastrous examples of filmmaking, that they might as well have been classified as one.

So when I heard that Chan was making a family comedy about alien cats invading planet Earth, I was both equally appalled and intrigued. Appalled at the fact that Benny Chan would direct such a thing that Wong Jing would shill out any day of the week and intrigued at the fact it could be an enjoyable disaster like the other two entries.

But one thing is for sure: it helps to have an open mind. Does Meow live up to my expectations or even exceed them to become an enjoyable surprise like Stephen Chow’s CJ7? Or will it crash-land and burn up before it even starts the opening credits?

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In the distant corners of the universe, a planet of cats known as Meow exists where its creatures are more civilized than Earthlings. Thousands of years ago, the king of Meow has been sending messengers to planet Earth, hoping to prepare for an invasion. However, over the years, every messenger sent to Earth never returned, which forced the king to put aside his plans.

In the present day, the king decides to re-ignite his plan and selects the bravest and mightiest warrior of Meow, Pudding, as a vanguard to Earth. However, during the journey, Pudding loses a divine Meow device that can resist the particles of Earth and loses his divine powers.

As a result, the lean-built Pudding becomes a giant fat cat Xilili (due to a contrived reason). It is then adopted by a family, which consists of Go-Lee Wu (Louis Koo), his wife (Ma Li), their elder son (Andy Wong) and younger daughter (Jessica Liu). Xilili has no choice but to hide in the Wu household before finding his device to invade Earth.

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Most people have written articles, which say films that consist of pervasive violence and adult content can turn people into psychopaths. To them I say, nay, because it is films like Meow that can turn people into psychopaths. Apart from Kung Fu Yoga (which I thought would never be surpassed as the worst film I have seen so far this year), watching Meow was one of the most insufferable and emotionally harrowing experiences I have ever been through.

To think that most of Benny Chan’s films have unintentionally funny moments in his serious films, it would be feasible to think he would be good at comedy. But in the case of Meow, it shows that he does not have a comedic bone in his body whatsoever. The script is so incredibly stupid and mindbogglingly misguided, that even infants would be insulted.

Who in poo-perfect hell thought that a scene where an alien cat plans to murder a family with a kitchen knife, would be suitable for family entertainment? The only time the film was inching close to laughter is during the dramatic scenes. Like during a scene where one of the main characters trips over, I laughed wholeheartedly. But even with those moments, it was not enough to compensate for the rest.

During the film, I thought to myself, what was going through the minds of Louis Koo and Benny Chan that they would be involved in this film, But alas, it was said in a behind-the-scenes feature that it was Louis Koo’s idea to make a film about cats, due to the fact that he does advertisements for a health and beauty franchise (Mannings) that has a cat as a mascot. And it was Chan’s idea to make it into a feature film about cats in space. If that’s the case, then Louis Koo should get double the blame for his contribution of the cinematic equivalent of ultraviolent dysentery.

In order to find comedies funny, you have to have some sort of engagement with the characters. Clearly, no one involved in the film knew that since the actors in the film all probably thought that to get laughs out of the script is to deliver the lines as loud as humanly possible. And boy, it is like a bunch of needles piercing through your ears and into your brain.

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Louis Koo overacts miserably as Go-Lee Wu (He plays a goalie! Get it?), as he suffers through fart jokes (some literally in his face), pratfalls and lots and lots of screaming. Ma Li (or Mary Ma, as she is credited) loses all of her comedic chops from her prior films like Goodbye Mr. Loser, as she is stuck playing an unlikable harpy while the supporting cast all overact like loonies, that I actually sided with the cat wanting to kill the family. They are all that insufferable to watch.

The only actor in the film that is somewhat tolerable is Michelle Wai. Wai is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated actress in HK, as she has always displayed stellar work, even in the smallest of roles eg. her drug addict role in Insanity. In the case of Meow, she does fine in an unfairly written role as a school teacher and she almost goes out of the film unscathed. She almost acts like a normal human being to the point that I yelled at the screen, pleading her to take me away from the loonies! And yet when the film reaches the end credits, she overacts like all the other loonies. So close.

There are a lot more things to say about Meow, like the xenophobic moments (one character that is meant to be a portrayal of a Thai person is shockingly racist AND homophobic), the ham-fisted approach in conveying a lesson to the audience that filial love trumps all, plot holes (like how does the family afford all the cat food and supplies if they are struggling financially due to Go-Lee Wu being in massive debt?) and even lapses in basic logic (Cats don’t even land on their feet in this film!), but it’s just not worth it.

When parents teach children how to behave themselves, there are some lessons that are taught, which are already known, without prior education. Like how one should not run with scissors or one should not talk to strangers. And now the lesson of not watching Meow should be one of those lessons. Meow is an atrocious piece of garbage and everyone involved in this film should be thoroughly ashamed.

Quickie Review

PROS

You’re kidding me, right?

CONS

**doing a Gary Oldman impression** EVERYTHING!!!

SCORE: 0/10

Cast: Louis Koo, Ma Li, Jessica Liu, Andy Wong, Michelle Wai, Louis Yuen, Grasshopper, Lo Hoi-pang, Lam Chi-chung
Director: Benny Chan
Screenwriters: Chan Hing-ka, Ho Miu-kei, Poon Chun-lam