Dune – Review
Movie Review

Dune – Review

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Hollywood sci-fi treats are divided into two, namely blockbusters with giant budgets and minimalist indie/arthouse projects. Occasionally other variants appear, but the numbers are not large enough to produce a third camp. Monotone. Then came the second big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune novel.

This version of Denis Villeneuve is completely different from that of David Lynch (1984), who is better known for his behind-the-scenes conflict. Supported by sufficient funds to produce an MCU film (165 million dollars), Dune has a blockbuster body, but has an arthouse spirit. Maybe only 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) comes close to Dune’s form, as a high-budget sci-fi artsy (92 million dollars when converted to present value). Top Movie Site

But this is not pretension. Writing the script with Eric Roth (A Star Is Born, Mank) and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange), Denis Villeneuve puts the spiritual element in his story. Like the best arthouse filmmakers, he has a sharp sense of taste, to link the human inner process with the universe. That the two, though of vastly different sizes, are connected. Therefore, various shots containing vast landscapes, as well as giant spaceships that make humans look dwarfed, are not just an exhibition of beauty. The visual effects are amazing. Magnificent at the same time looks real, but it would be useless without a vision, which is owned by the director.

The greatest connection between nature and humans comes through a spice called melange. Located on the arid planet called Arrakis, melange has various functions, ranging from extending life, maximizing the power of the mind, to allowing travel at the speed of light. Mastering the melange is the same as controlling the universe.

It’s too long and complicated to explain the details of Dune’s mythology, but the point is, by order of the ruler of the universe called “Emperor”, the Atreides under the leadership of Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), were given the task of managing the melange in place of Harkonnen led by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). ). If Harkonnen acts arbitrarily on the Fremen (original tribe of Arrakis) Leto wants to cooperate peacefully. Of course it didn’t go smoothly, because without him knowing, there was a conspiracy behind the appointment of Atreides to take care of the melange.

Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the son of Leto’s relationship with his concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). Recently, Paul’s mind is being disturbed by a dream about Arrakis and the mysterious Fremen girl (Zendaya). A dream that feels more like a picture of the future than ordinary sleeping flowers. Best Movie

In addition to the sad aura that exactly represents the film’s atmosphere, it seems Chalamet’s stature is also the reason he was chosen. Small body. Thin. Not a person who will be seen as a champion by people. Seeing him standing among the massive expanse of nature, illustrates how helpless humans are in front of the universe.

Paul himself was helpless. At least in the beginning, before he was able to maximize his potential. It’s not just the physical potential that results from training with Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), because her mother, as a member of Bene Gesserit (a women’s association who trains body and mind to break human boundaries), also teaches how to use “voice”. A power controls one’s subconscious through the color of the voice.

When we first see Paul using his powers, Villenueve slips a few shots that feature things close to Paul. Although that power did not affect the surrounding conditions, the shots were not without function. As if Villeneuve confirmed that nature plays a role in these super abilities.

The further the groove moves, the more we find the impact of exploitation on nature. Instead of seeking harmony, the greed of the rulers who desire to monopolize the melange brings destruction and bloodshed. Both nature and humans were destroyed.

Therein comes the story of the savior. A messiah/mahdi. The Fremens called it “Lisan al Gaib”. Predictably, there is a religious element here (many Islamic undertones), outside of politics, tyranny, and the environment. The mythology is indeed very complex, so the 155 minute duration and split into two films can be justified. It may seem complicated at first, but thanks to a neat storytelling that knows when to start supplying new information, over time, the mythological maze will be easy to navigate.

Villeneuve’s weakness is only a matter of directing melee fights. Despite having names like Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho the swordsman from Atreides and Dave Bautista as Giossu Rabban who is Baron Harkonnen’s nephew, Dune’s row of swordfighting and bare-handed actions appear powerless. Villeneuve’s choice of angle also tends to be awkward, and also often makes it difficult for us to digest what is going on.

Luckily Dune isn’t action-packed sci-fi, so the weaknesses above aren’t that annoying. For some viewers, maybe the lack of action (even dividing the story into two parts makes Dune end before it reaches the climax), the long duration, as well as the slow tempo, make this film less friendly. But if you can accept that, along with the visual beauty and atmospheric musical accompaniment by Hans Zimmer (the composer’s best work in recent years), you will find a sci-fi treat, which defines “epic” not only through the scale of the story that is visible, but also in the realm of spiritual contemplation and feeling. Movie Review

V/H/S/94 – Review
Movie Review

V/H/S/94 – Review

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An anthology horror, where Timo Tjahjanto appears with the best segment, which exemplifies how to break the boundaries of madness in a short duration. Not the first time, because in The ABCs of Death (2012) he has done it, even in V/H/S/2 (2013) when collaborating with Gareth Evans (I haven’t watched Portals).

Fortunately, this is not Timo’s stage alone. Seven years after the disappointing third film (V/H/S: Viral), V/H/S/94, it still uses the found footage technique, becoming the most average-quality installment of all its segments, while bringing the franchise back to its core. Top Movie Site

Jennifer Reeder’s Holly Hell acts as a narrative frame that bridges each story. It is said, the S.W.A.T. raided the warehouse that became the hideout of a cult. There they find the damned VHS tapes, containing the four segments we’re about to watch.

Chloe Okuno’s Storm Drain features Holly Marciano’s (Anna Hopkins) coverage of the sighting of a mysterious creature named “Ratman”, which emerges from the sewers. Solid opener. Creature feature meets occult horror, which is made to show off the quality of qualified practical effects, and has the potential to be brought into the feature-length film to criticize America’s social inequality. The conclusion, which is reminiscent of the iconic moment from Scanners (1981), offers gore peppered with tickling black comedy.

Simon Barrett is also one of the returning V/H/S/2 filmmakers. Through The Empty Wake, Barrett presents a campfire story, about a girl named Hayley (Kyal Legend), who is in charge of guarding the wake (the ceremony before the funeral). None of the guests were present, but throughout the night, Hayley heard voices coming from the coffin.

Beginning with the development of tension slowly, before throwing a climax armed with well-packaged effects, The Empty Wake uses a narrative pattern similar to the first segment. Even the big theme is not much different. So, even though it is presented solidly, the impression of repetition is difficult to avoid. Best Movie

Following next was The Subject, a segment directed by Timo Tjahjanto, which immediately sparked interest from the first minute. The audience is taken to visit a secret laboratory, where a mad professor (Budi Ross) conducts experiments on the human body.

What a crazy segment. Timo knows how to keep the intensity up, even keep increasing it to the last point. The point of view is constantly changing, from torture porn through the perspective of the professor, to a first-person shooter like a horror game when the S.W.A.T team. led by Captain Hassan (Donny Alamsyah) invaded, then turned to brutal action, when one of the experimental subjects (Shania Sree Maharani) took the center of the story. Of course, when it comes to gore, Timo doesn’t hold back.

Like the previous two segments, The Subject also uses a lot of practical effects to bring its characters to life. But this is the best. The most total, the most imaginative. Timo had fun, combining the cyberpunk body horror film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) with video games like Observer (2017), while presenting some of the best horror creatures Indonesian filmmakers have ever made.

Maybe it’s a good idea to put The Subject at the very end. Terror by Ryan Prows, actually not bad. With militiamen preparing for their mission (involving shooting a man’s head repeatedly), despite its supernatural elements, Terror is a true horror portrait of the United States, with all the hegemony of white supremacy. Contains high relevance, but judging by what was previously present, this segment is too “tame” as a cover.

One of the problems of horror anthologies is related to the ups and downs of pacing. After the climax of a segment, the intensity automatically decreases when the next segment begins. The V/H/S/94 is not yet free from that deficiency. However, the quality of each title tends to be evenly distributed. Movie Review

Stillwater – Review
Movie Review

Stillwater – Review

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Wearing a hat, a bushy beard, driving an old truck, less sensitive to foreign cultures, calling american football “the real football”, having an eagle tattoo on his arm, Bill Baker (Matt Damon) is arguably the image of a conservative United States man. He didn’t vote during the election because he has a criminal record, but if given the chance, we know who he will vote for.

Stillwater is a story about a “very American” protagonist, but with Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, Spotlight) as director and screenwriter (alongside Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain, and Noé Debré), the film is presented in a “not-so-American” way. through a slow plot, and a long duration, as well as a dark conclusion that does not give a definite answer. Because there is no certainty of relief for the problems of the characters. Top Movie Site

Bill was a roughneck in an oil mine. He lived alone, going about the standard routine of working-class Americans. Until one by one the facts about his life are revealed, when Bill flies to Marseille, France. His wife died by suicide, while his only daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), is entering the fifth year of a total nine-year prison sentence, as a defendant in the murder of Lina, a girl of Arab descent who is also his lover.

Allison insisted that the culprit was someone else. Of course Bill believed it. When the lawyer refuses to continue the case due to lack of evidence, Bill is determined to take care of everything himself, even though he is in a foreign country where he doesn’t understand the language at all.

Bill, with all his typical American arrogance and ignorancy, is not a likeable figure. He doesn’t care if the investigation is deemed to be an invasion of privacy or is seen as not in accordance with local customs. When he met an eyewitness whose statements were full of hate speech against people of Arab descent, Bill was not bothered, arguing that he “had often encountered similar things at work”.

Thanks to the two points, we can sympathize with him. First, about motivation. Bill’s love for Allison was a certainty, but more than that, he was driven to prove his worth. “He’s a fuck up”, Allison said of the father, who to her was useless and repeatedly ruined her life. Bill is not trying to be a hero to steal the princess’s heart, but is reluctant to be a loser who is (back) powerless to save his loved ones.

Second, what if it wasn’t for Matt Damon’s acting, which humanized Bill, giving him a fragility that contradicts the machismo image of conservative American men. Damon is charming, because he looks casual, aka there is no need to explode in expressing frustration. Best Movie

Although it is quite unfortunate when some of the subtexts surrounding the issue of racism and homophobicism are limited to being a setting without meaningful exploration and impact, Stillwater has other strengths related to its storytelling. The plot is rich. At almost every point there is material to observe and/or reveal new facts. Even Stillwater often takes unexpected paths, without having to position it as a bombastic twist. For McCarthy, the surprise here is not a twist, but a part of the winding journey of life.

For example, when the timeskip appears for four months, the existence of which is quite against the standard. Most similar films will finish the story in a short period of time in order to maintain the intensity. Stillwater, in tune with his slow tempo, chose to take his time. Because, scrolling time is essential for the character process.

Time provides an opportunity for the relationship between Bill and Virginie (Camille Cottin) and their daughter, Maya (played wonderfully by the talented child actress, Lilou Siauvaud), to develop. Virginie is a theater actress whom Bill meets at the hotel, then helps her as a translator, before they end up living together. Over time, Bill finds a new family, new happiness, but is he ready to start a new life?

McCarthy’s directing tends to dampen emotional outbursts, even though the slow tempo can be draggy at some points, but overall, the pacing game is solid. Move steadily, even if slowly. It feels long, but once it’s over, I didn’t expect the film to run for 140 minutes. Stillwater is a typical film where the audience simply sits, observes, accepts, and then lets the character’s journey, which is full of dilemmas and moral ambiguity, sink in by itself. Movie Review

The Guilty – Review
Movie Review

The Guilty – Review

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About two years ago there was news of a female victim of domestic violence calling 911 under the guise of ordering pizza. The officer responded quickly, then followed the “acting” of the reporter, who was finally rescued. This means that the recipient of an emergency call is required to be able to think fast, be tactical, and be mentally stable. Imagine if in that situation, he suddenly became confused and anxious.

The Guilty, as a remake of the Danish film of the same title released in 2018, has such a scenario. The protagonist, Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a member of the LAPD who is on a night shift at an emergency call center. He seemed calm, tended to care less about incoming reports. Through several calls he has received, including from Sergeant Bill Miller (voiced by Ethan Hawke), we learn that Joe is involved in a case (details will only be revealed in the final round), for which the trial will take place tomorrow. Top Movie Site

The wait makes Joe haunted by anxiety. The inhaler never leaves his hand, and he has difficulty controlling his emotions, especially when a call comes from Emily (Riley Keough), who claims to be kidnapped by her ex-husband. Joe struggles to find Emily’s whereabouts, but the process is not easy. In addition to technical problems, psychological instability also affects.

The Guilty has the potential to explore issues regarding the performance of irresponsible officers while on duty. Not only related to the summons, also the case that Joe awaits trial. We see Joe make a number of decisions that have negative consequences, and there are incredibly dark and shocking situations in the plot (which we can only hear on the phone). Best Movie

But, in a “very Hollywood” way, Nic Pizzolatto’s script disarms the above darkness (ironically, because it was made by the author of True Detective who highlights the darkest side of humans), to turn it into a “meaningful” story with a hopeful conclusion, about a “broken people helping broken people” and penance. I don’t hate happy endings. Even more like it than the stifling ending. But in this case, the choice actually removes the weight of the narrative.

As a thriller, the existence of Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) is a guarantee. Although the majority is set behind a chair, where the audience only hears descriptions of events rather than seeing them directly, Fuqua is still able to deliver an explosive thriller without an explosion, thanks to its fast tempo, screams, and satisfying twists. It’s not (just) surprising, but the twist also explains some of the details that have emerged. There are “breadcrumbs” scattered throughout the duration.

When I write “shouts”, of course I’m referring to the acting of Jake Gyllenhaal, who unleashes his energy at every turn. Not wrong. After all, like the rest of the film, the method aligns with the film’s goal, which is to turn European psychological thrillers into Hollywood-style spectacles that are more welcoming to a wider audience. There is one scene, when Joe asks Emily to calm down while taking a deep breath. Simultaneously, Joe caught his breath. Whether consciously or not, Joe is also helping himself. Gyllenhaal’s acting is more subtle in that part, and for me, that’s the best moment.

The Guilty is indeed solid, both in the directing and acting departments, regarding its contribution to building intensity. But looking at the original film, as well as the storytelling potential that can be achieved, this film is like a student who can get an A if he studies hard, but chooses an easier path, relaxes, and finally gets a B. It’s sufficient, but could be much better. Movie Review

Riders of Justice – Review

Riders of Justice – Review

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Reflecting on the title and premise, Riders of Justice looks like another revenge movie with a member/ex-military/secret agent character, who hunts down a criminal organization, to avenge the death of his family members. But in the hands of Anders Thomas Jensen as the director and scriptwriter, apart from appearing fresh through dark humor, the film also handles the theme of “facing grief” more meaningfully than the majority of titles with a similar concept.

This grief is experienced by Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), a soldier serving in Afghanistan, when he hears the news that his wife, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind), has died in a train accident. His daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), survived, but was devastated, so she tried to find the reason and meaning behind the disaster. Because he rarely comes home, Markus has difficulty dealing with Mathilde’s grief, when he himself doesn’t know how to heal his grief. Best Movie

Until Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), an expert in algorithms, arrives, who is also a victim of a train accident. Through his calculations, Otto was sure that the incident was not an accident as the police believed, but the work of the Riders of Justice gang who intended to kill their opponent. Together with his two friends, Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), Otto helps Markus investigate the mastermind behind his wife’s death.

It’s true that there is revenge here, but Riders of Justice is closer to the realm of black comedy than action (there are only two action scenes in total). More reminiscent of Coen Brothers work than Liam Neeson’s starring titles. Bringing a tough soldier who never smiles, to work with three socially awkward nerds, of course often creates interesting situations.

Through his dark humor, which is funny thanks to the often unpredictable timings plus the perfect delivery of the actors, Jensen brings Riders of Justice several times almost over the line, when making things like harassment to disability as material. But it never felt offensive, because Jensen wasn’t making fun of it, but bitterly laughing at the trauma, while adding sympathy which resulted in a warm conclusion about the “beautiful togetherness” after the exclamation of the gunfight in the climax. Top Movie Site

When Markus sees revenge as a “rope” that keeps him alive, as a rail that gives him direction to keep going, Mathilde tries to make sense of his loss. He traced all the events that occurred before the accident, looking for cause-and-effect relationships in each case, hoping to find deeper reasons for his mother’s death.

However, even though there are times when things like crime can be patterned, then traced using statistical data as Otto did, life is still not an exact science that can be calculated. Answering the mysteries of life is different from answering exam questions that require a reason.

Riders of Justice is opened by a boy’s request to buy a blue bicycle. This simple incident created a domino effect that led to Emma’s death. Was the boy’s request a cause? Or does it need to be traced back, to the beginning of Mark and Emma’s relationship, when they decided to have children? Because if you refer to the science of causation, doesn’t it mean that if Mathilde hadn’t been born, the accident wouldn’t have happened either?

According to Riders of Justice, the questions above are not important. We don’t need to assume, “if only things were different”. We don’t need to (always) seek deeper meaning for events that are too painful to accept. We just have to learn to make peace, then accept it.

As usual, Mads Mikkelsen can be relied on in playing a character with a chaotic mental condition, which is controlled by anger, sadness, so that he tends to be destructive, including himself. Markus is a formidable warrior, but what this film emphasizes is not how great the hero is to dare to defy death for revenge, but how the machismo collapses, overcome by the fragility of grief. Movie Review

Midnight – Review

Midnight – Review

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“Change your clothes if you don’t want to die,” said Jong-tak (Park Hoon) to his younger brother, Jung-eun (Kim Hye-yoon), who was going on a blind date. Of course, the threat was just a joke, as a form of concern for Jong-tak, who was worried that if Jung-eun went out at night wearing a miniskirt (or other revealing clothes), it would endanger her.

But in fact, on the way home, Jung-eun remains a victim of Do-sik (Wi Ha-joon), a serial killer who hunts every midnight from inside his van. Midnight shows that the rampant violence against women has nothing to do with the way they dress, but purely because of the cruelty of the perpetrators…..and perhaps the incompetence of the authorities in investigating the case. Top Movie Site

On the same night that Jung-eun went missing, Kyung-mi (Jin Ki-joo) was on her way home with her mother (Gil Hae-yeon). Both are dumb and deaf. Unfortunately for Kyung-mi, after finding Jung-eun covered in blood, it’s her and her mother’s turn to be Do-sik’s prey.

Written by the director, Kwon Oh-seung, Midnight will remind Hush (2016) by Mike Flanagan which carries a similar concept. The difference is, this film has a wider scale, action-oriented approach than atmospheric thrillers, and does not place the killer in the shadow of a mystery. From the very beginning we’ve seen Do-sik’s face, and spent quite a bit of time with him.

Bringing the audience to recognize the killer, gives “a sense of security” which actually reduces the horror. Terror by an unknown figure is indeed more gripping, and Kyung-mi’s use of voice detectors, which act as a signal several times for Do-sik’s presence, would be more effective in stoking tension if her figure was left mysterious. Best Movie

But on the other hand, that choice also allows the film to explore the character of Do-sik, portraying him as a manipulative killer, armed with not only muscles, but also brains and psychological tricks. Wi Ha-joon, who recently stole the show when playing a policeman in Squid Game, handled his role well, making it easy for the audience to hate him.

The creativity of the script holds the key, thanks to the success of coming up with interesting ideas so that the conflict continues to develop, not stagnate, even though the last 10 minutes are a bit forced (how could Jong-tak the tough ex-marine lose track of Do-sik in an instant?), and quite a lot the portion is still spent by chase scenes in narrow alleys that we have (too) often encountered in South Korean films and dramas.

The fact that there are two characters who are mute and deaf, also adds to the dynamics. Kyung-mi and the mother can communicate without Do-sik understand the details. Ki-joo appears solid as a woman who refuses to fly the white flag, while at the same time reluctant to make her physical condition a weakness. Likewise Hae-yeon, who throughout 2021 showcased a wide range of acting through different characters, including in Law School and Beyond Evil.

Midnight’s conclusion swayed the public’s tendency to distrust victims, especially if they had difficulty understanding due to their physical limitations. As a result, the victim must risk his life to be trusted. Throughout the film, several times we also witnessed, the perpetrators managed to escape precisely because of the incompetence of the authorities. Again, it’s not all about the way you dress. Movie Review

Prisoners Of The Ghostland
Movie Review

Prisoners Of The Ghostland

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The collaboration between Sion Sono, dubbed “the most subversive Japanese filmmaker” with Nicolas Cage the master of Nouveau Shamanic, in a film titled as cool as Prisoners of the Ghostland. Sounds perfect and promises an impossible madness that ends in failure.

His first act seems to have succeeded in fulfilling that promise. Even from the early minutes, when Cage, the nameless hero who would later be called “Hero”, robbed the bank with Psycho (Nick Cassavetes). All sides of the bank are white, while the employees wear uniforms of different colors. Cage entered, brandished a gun, then shouted, “Banzai!”.Top Movie Site

Don’t ask why. Prisoners of the Ghostland is the kind of film where the audience will find it difficult to enjoy, if they ask, “Why is person A acting like that? Why is person B talking like that? Why does person C look weird?”, and so on. We can quite accept that after the tragedy in the robbery, Hero was arrested by The Governor (Bill Moseley), whose arrival was accompanied by a line of women in kimonos, who clapped while singing his name.

The Governor leads his area of ​​​​rule arbitrarily, also mixing Japanese culture and the wild west, which of course was chosen for aesthetic reasons, and not a form of criticism about westernization, colonialism, and the like. Again, it doesn’t really matter. No need to worry. We just need to know that The Governor asked Hero to find his granddaughter, Bernice (Sofia Boutella), who is suspected to be missing in Ghostland, a barren place full of mystery. That said, vile ghosts terrorized there.

If successful, then the Hero will be given freedom. As a guarantee, he must wear a special costume that has explosives in three areas: neck, hands, and testicles. When the impulse to hurt a woman arises, one of the bombs explodes immediately. Can you imagine what kind of spectacle this film is? Best Movie

The first act is very entertaining. The director’s trademark, supported by a script by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai, brings out absurdity and curiosity. Hardly any shots are wasted. Sono made sure that whenever our eyes were fixed on the screen, we were always shaken by its strangeness. Whether it comes from eye-catching properties, unique costumes, or the behavior of the characters.

Of course Cage is the leading figure, as a hero who is so badass, preferring to ride a bicycle basket rather than a luxury car when carrying out missions. At this point I realized, if Cage performs badly, it’s not his fault, but rather that the filmmaker didn’t know how to take advantage of the actor’s talent. When let loose, Cage, here vehemently shouting “TESTICLES!”, always quenches the thirst for entertainment seekers.

Unfortunately, as the duration goes on, it is Sono who seems to be holding back in his English film debut. As usual, Sono’s directing pays no attention to the whims of pacing or intensity building, and is completely focused on throwing whatever he can at the screen. Even though he can turn a boring moment on paper into a unique presentation (an exposition of the history of Ghostland’s creation is packaged like a performance art), Sono seems to run out of ammunition when confronted with a scene that should be interesting.

The action is mediocre, despite having samurai, cowboys, an army of “ghosts”, and of course Nicolas Cage. The execution is too serious and tame for a film that promises b-movie-style madness. The script is also responsible. Disorganized utterances without direction can (even should) be tolerated in a treat like this, but not with a braked wildness. Prisoners of the Ghostland is still unique, especially in the visual realm, but the collaboration of Sion Sono and Nicolas Cage shouldn’t be this harmonious. His first act seems to have succeeded in fulfilling that promise. Even from the early minutes, when Cage, the nameless hero who would later be called “Hero”, robbed the bank with Psycho (Nick Cassavetes). All sides of the bank are white, while the employees wear uniforms of different colors. Cage entered, brandished a gun, then shouted, “Banzai!”. Movie Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Review
Movie Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Review

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings won’t have as significant a cultural impact as Black Panther, because its representation of Asia is still very limited. Even if you are familiar with wuxia films, especially those starring Jackie Chan, directed by Zhang Yimou, or produced by Shaw Brothers, what director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, Just Mercy) has to offer is not new at all. But are they all mandatory?

The things above do hinder the achievement of potential, but looking at the climate of superhero films that are still too Western-centric, what Shang-Chi has to offer is still a breath of fresh air. Top Movie Site

Shang-Chi, who now goes by the name Shaun (Simu Liu), hides his identity as a kung-fu master, living a simple life as a valet with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Until a reunion occurs between Shang-Chi and his younger brother, Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who now runs an underground fight club in Macau, as well as their father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), the leader of the Ten Rings, an organization named after ten magic ring, which grants him superpowers as well as immortality.

Created by Cretton with Andrew Lanham (The Glass Castle, Just Mercy) and Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984), the script still offers a familiar formula around a dysfunctional family, which then leads the process of finding the protagonist’s identity. Since he was trained as an assassin since childhood, does that mean it’s a destiny he can’t let go? We already know the answer to that question.

The script does not move from a formulaic narrative, nor does it explore the theme more deeply, but the portion of the drama, especially regarding family relationships, is able to appear solid thanks to Tony Leung. In the hands of the legendary actor, Wenwu is not a villain we will hate, but understand. Leung not only gives the charisma of a murderer who has lived for thousands of years, but also the fragility of an ordinary man who loses his love, loses his greatest reason for having a conscience. He’s not a world destroyer. But in order to restore his destroyed “world”, Wenwu was willing to destroy the world. Watching Leung made me think, “If I were put in his situation, would I do the same thing?”. Best Movie

In the realm of action, Cretton combines three elements, namely massive CGI-laden battles typical of the MCU, Jackie Chan’s chaotic fighting, and martial arts as an expression of taste and philosophy as often used by Zhang Yimou. The last two types appear most impressive. Simu Liu and Meng’er Zhang (such badass) help Cretton maximize the creative setting of the action (buses, skyscraper construction), which also emphasizes choreography, while reducing the amount of manipulation through editing.

The influence of Zhang Yimou’s works is felt right at Wenwu’s first meeting with his wife, Ying Li (Fala Chen), and when Shang-Chi is trained by his aunt, Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh). Rather than fighting, those moments are more like an exchange of feelings. Yeoh, armed with the experience of starring in martial arts titles for nearly four decades, moves beautifully, but is not weak, like an entity that has rid itself of the worldly phase.

But Shang-Chi is of course still an MCU installment with all its signature ingredients (for better or worse). Humor that even though tends to be hit-and-miss still provokes some laughs, expansion of the universe through a series of cameos and hints that the protagonist will play a big role in the future, as well as massive action set-pieces that still have a place, although in the latter half, the film is closer immerse yourself in a fairytale feel, as the setting moves into a fantasy world full of mythological animals.

The CGI at the climax is a bit inconsistent, which may be due to the budget allocated to wrap up the final fight, when Shang-Chi switched to the kaiju genre. On the one hand, this choice strips away the emotional intimacy that wuxia elements bring, but on the other hand, it also emphasizes that the face of Asian films is not just martial arts, as is the stigma that is often attached to it. The things above do hinder the achievement of potential, but looking at the climate of superhero films that are still too Western-centric, what Shang-Chi has to offer is still a breath of fresh air. Movie Review

No Man Of God – Review

No Man Of God – Review

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What is the main problem with films based on real-life killers? For various reasons, many storytelling under the guise of “psychic exploration” actually fall into the realm of glorification. As one of the most popular names, it is clear that the glorification of Ted Bundy’s actions is often brought up, and does not escape similar problems. He is a monster with cruelty that is seen as attractive, cool, “sexy”.

We need a different “voice,” and through No Man of God, director Amber Sealey has that voice. The voice of a female filmmaker, who saw Bundy’s brutality in raping and killing 30 women (a number he admits, though the exact figure may be more), is pure disgust that shouldn’t be celebrated. Top Movie Site

The script by Kit Lesser (pen name C. Robert Cargill, author of Sinister and Doctor Strange), is based on transcripts of Bundy’s conversations with FBI agent Bill Hagmaier from 1984 to 1989. Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) is a young agent tasked with profiling assassins, conduct interviews to find out what’s on their minds. Bundy (Luke Kirby) becomes his newest target.

Since being arrested in 1975, Bundy has always refused to admit his actions. But unlike previous agents, Hagmaier tries to treat Bundy like a “normal” human being. Not the devil, not the mentally ill. After some time, their relationship grew closer, to the point that Bundy referred to Hagmaier as a friend.

The big misconception that writers often do is make Ted Bundy a monster figure. A bigger-than-life creature full of elusive darkness. That’s where the glorification takes place, whether intentional or not. No Man of God, on the other hand, positioned Bundy as an ordinary human. Not special.

Bundy felt he was special. As Hagmaier believed after their first meeting, Bundy was reluctant to confess, but implied he wanted the FBI to know that he had committed all the murders. He wants to be seen as great, extraordinary, big, dominant. No Man of God’s achievement lies in successfully disarming the killer myth. That behind his confidence and intimidating aura, Bundy was nothing more than a rotten man. A pathetic loser, lost in confusion, loses control of himself as the day of his execution on January 24, 1989 approaches. Best Movie

Bundy is not special, and because of that the action can be done by anyone. Including Hagmaier, who is described as religious. He regularly prays, even a cross hangs in his car. But the deeper he dives into Bundy’s psyche, the clearer it becomes that humans are still humans. Servant of God or not, when his mind falters (or can be called “faith” if you use a religious perspective), that dark desire can rise.

Unfortunately, the No Man of God script has never been so deep in digging into the protagonist’s head. We know he’s found an understanding of Bundy, we know slowly the temptation to walk the “path of darkness” begins to creep in, but exactly what that psychic dynamic looks like, which point acts as a trigger, tends to blur. The audience is only invited to “know”, not really “understand”.

Lasting about 100 minutes, No Man of God spends the majority of the time presenting chatter in a cramped interrogation room (perhaps some of you will think this film is based on a theatrical performance). Sealey is keen to adjust the dynamics through his direction, adjusts the tempo so that the intensity is consistent, knows exactly what to highlight “what” and “when” through his camera.

Sealey’s directing is like a rail. Tends to be subtle, aiming to keep the film on track, then letting the two main performers take center stage. Kirby’s version of Bundy reminds me of people who like to talk “tall”, are good at acting, act cool, in order to hide their real small figure. Meanwhile, Wood looks good showing a man who believes he is good, pious, but is actually very fragile. Yes, there is a parallel between the two sides.

One of the most notable moments was when in the middle of shooting for a religious-themed event, where Bundy was being interviewed about his motives for killing, Sealey turned his attention to the face of the show’s assistant. A woman. He was silent, but his face was filled with anger. His hands gripped the clipboard tightly, as if to channel suppressed emotions. Maybe that was Sealey’s honest reaction, when he saw his fellow filmmakers glorify Ted Bundy’s actions. Movie Review

Kate – Review
Movie Review

Kate – Review

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A female assassin with a tragic past, sheds blood in a stylish yet brutal revenge action against an enemy organization, while protecting the boy whose family member she killed, while her mentor/boss tries to persuade her to hold back as a form of caring, but we know there is a secret that lies behind her. hidden.

That’s the outline of Kate‘s plot…..and a series of other titles that we’ve been seeing more and more lately. But I’ve always looked at the film themed above like a slasher. The paper-thin formulaic plot is not a problem, as long as the character with the status of “the slayer” looks stunning, and has a myriad of creative ideas about killing the target’s life. Best Movie

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a sniper who always hits the target. The identity of the target is determined by Varrick (Woody Harrelson), a mentor and father figure, who has raised Kate since her parents died. Everything went smoothly, until Kate expressed her intention to retire. He will quit after completing the final mission, with Kijima (Jun Kunimura), a yakuza boss, as the target.

Before pulling the trigger, Kate felt dizzy. The shot missed, the mission failed. Apparently he was poisoned, and only has 24 hours to live. It is suspected that the culprit was Kijima, as a form of revenge for the death of his sister. Kate begins to search for the whereabouts of the yakuza boss who later disappeared, in order to take revenge before death.

Yes, Kate is not about a race against time to find an antidote. Our hero has accepted the fact that his life cannot be saved, but he doesn’t accept it if the perpetrator gets away with it. A badass premise, although of course this journey also brings Kate to rediscover her heart, through a meeting with Ani (Miku Martineau), Kijima’s nephew.

Do not expect the condition of ACS (acute radiation syndrome) to give a meaningful handicap. Kate repeatedly vomited, staggered, her body was full of rashes, plus the wounds from the fight, but that only appeared on the sidelines of the action. When it’s time to beat up the enemy, Kate is like a superhuman. “Poisoning” is just a tool used by Umair Aleem’s script to open and end the story. Change that to the murder of a lover, the kidnapping of a child, or the death of a dog, and it makes no difference. That’s the outline of Kate’s plot…..and a series of other titles that we’ve been seeing more and more lately. But I’ve always looked at the film themed above like a slasher. The paper-thin formulaic plot is not a problem, as long as the character with the status of “the slayer” looks stunning, and has a myriad of creative ideas about killing the target’s life. Top Movie Site

Why Japan? Why take the risk of being accused (ridiculously) of bringing up the issue of white women massacring Asians? I’m sure, either Aleem or the director, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter’s War), are obsessed with popular culture in the Land of Sakura. Kate running on rooftops while passing giant screens playing the Tokyo Ghoul anime, driving cars decorated with LED lights, visiting clubs where female rock bands perform, are some examples of expressions of this obsession.

The things above add a touch of style, although not enough to give Kate a stand out color (visuals, character design, narrative techniques, choreography, etc.) Gunpowder Milkshake, have it). Even when the yakuza put all their strength into the climax, Kate still didn’t maximize the madness potential she could achieve.

But let’s go back to the statement at the beginning of the article. Is the protagonist of this film stunning? Of course. Mary Elisabeth Winstead looks convincing as a hero who refuses to collapse and is able to defeat dozens of yakuza even in a dying condition. What is the way to crush a sadistic and creative enemy at the same time? Reasonable. Regarding creativity, there may still be room for exploration, but watching Kate spill blood in the middle of a white room, where we can clearly see all the cuts and stabs, accompanied by neatly arranged choreography and dynamic camera systems, Kate deserves to be declared “passed the test”, Even if you fail to get an A. Movie Review

PIG – Review
Movie Review

PIG – Review

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Since Joe (and The Frozen Ground) eight years ago, critics have repeatedly attached the “return to form” emblem to Nicolas Cage’s performances. Following next are Mandy (2018), Color Out of Space (2019), to Willy’s Wonderland which will be released in early 2021. As if the praise is not sincere, but only so that the review sounds “sexy”.

That streak of strong acting amongst that pile of bad direct-to-video titles proves that Cage never left (at least since Joe). But Pig is different. Michael Sarnoski’s directorial and writing debut brings us to see another color of Cage, stepping out of the “Nouveau Shamanic” style. Pig is a film that deceives various expectations, both regarding the actor and the genre. Top Movie Site

Cage plays Rob, a truffle collector who lives alone in a remote cabin in the middle of the woods. Well, not really alone, because there is the beloved pig, who helps Rob collect high-quality truffles, to sell to Amir (Alex Wolff), who supplies them to various fancy restaurants.

Until one night Rob had an uninvited guest who stole his pig. With the help of Amir, the search for Rob begins, which helps to reveal secrets related to his past. Rob wasn’t just a loner, middle-aged man. Sounds like the premise of a revenge story that will go crazy in the second half when Nicolas Cage releases all his anger? I thought so too, and that’s where Pig cheats expectations.

Sarnoski uses a medium tempo, tends to be slow at some points, but the progress of the plot is not dragging, where each phase takes place as needed. We visit a world that is different than it seems, with individuals who are different than it seems, in a film that is also different from what it seems. Pig provokes curiosity every step of the way.

Cage becomes a magnet, which shows how the greatest mystery is the human heart. Especially in the early half, his eyes were not filled with anger. Not that it doesn’t have. That anger (as well as other basic human emotions) has been erased by exhaustion. Fatigue that was preceded by deep sorrow, before turning into indifference. Best Movie

Rob is a nihilist. Why care about existence, if one day we too will die, be buried, drown, like people from tens of thousands of years ago? He didn’t care so much, he didn’t want to take a shower, or at least clean his bloodied face, even when sitting in an expensive restaurant. “For what?”, he might think.

In the same restaurant, Sarnoski once again played with the expectations of the audience, who probably thought that Rob (finally) would lose his temper. But instead of muscles, Rob uses brains. Rather than physically, he chose to lead the opponent’s psyche. Later, when the inner turmoil is impossible to control, Cage does not throw tantrums as we often encounter. His tantrums are more controlled.

The third act is the culmination of Sarnoski’s efforts to tear apart the formula for an alternative film with a sad theme, which usually appears dark and is also dominated by pessimism. The conclusion is hopeful, which may be accused of being naive by some. For me, Pig is not naive, but rather an attempt not to lose heart, in the midst of any dark and difficult conditions. Movie Review

Malignant – Review
Movie Review

Malignant – Review

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Since the first sequence that hit the gas, then the opening credits decorated with industrial music, I realized that this film would not bring the audience to see the “haunted house horror director” version of James Wan. If Furious 7 (2015) is the process of applying vigilante and revenge themes similar to Death Sentence (2007) to the blockbuster realm, then Malignant is like the result of Wan’s learning during a career of almost two decades.

The bloodshed and over-the-top approach of Saw (2004), revenge stories such as Death Sentence, elements of supernatural horror such as The Conjuring and Insidious series, even action as he learned in Aquaman (2018), all of Wan spilled. Top Movie Site

You don’t have to wait long for Malignant to increase the intensity, because a few minutes after the introduction to the protagonist, Madison (Annabelle Wallis), terror immediately appears. Madison’s marriage to Derek (Jake Abel) fell apart after she suffered multiple miscarriages. The husband blamed Madison, who is now pregnant for the umpteenth time. There was even a domestic violence action that day.

That night, a mysterious figure invades their home. Doesn’t look like a human. More like a black shadow, with an unnatural gesture. Derek dies horribly, while Madison survives, but has to lose her womb again. Some time ago, another series of murder cases occurred, and it is suspected that the same perpetrators were involved. Surprisingly, Madison could see all of the murders, as if they were on the spot.

The majority of Wan’s horror stories start slowly, because it takes time to introduce the characters, as well as investigate mystical phenomena. Malignant is different, because all the details of the background are saved, in order to produce a turning point towards the end of the plot. Best Movie

It’s easy to guess the big picture of the twist, moreover, Akela Cooper’s script (to write The Nun 2), which was written based on the original story that he had brainstormed with Wan and Ingrid Bisu (the first time the director’s wife received a film writing credit), did not give any credit. audience room to doubt the assumptions that arise.

Not because I’m lazy. The narrative is indeed slack in the second act, which appears like a slasher (plus a bit of giallo flavor, including the depiction of a mysterious murderer with black gloves) with a stagnant story, but these weaknesses can be made up for when one question after another begins to be answered. The big picture of the twist is predictable, but not with the details in it.

The answer (reminiscent of a British urban legend from the 19th century which I can’t mention in order to avoid spoilers) may sound silly, but seriousness is not the director’s goal. Wan seems to want to have fun, throw surprises, apply stylish camera setup and frantic editing like in Saw before, also uses his character’s unique design to create a unique yet bloody action at the climax. Annabelle Wallis’ acting is also in line with Wan’s vision for Malignant: Over the top. Movie Review

Plan B – Review
Movie Review

Plan B – Review

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Plan B is in line with movies like Booksmart (2019), Unpregnant (2020), or the television series Never Have I Ever. The protagonist is an outsider teenage girl who has a crush on a popular man, a loyal friend who cares about the devil in the world, the awkwardness of first sex, a popular white girl as a rival for love. Sounds cliché.

In the hands of Natalie Morales as director and scriptwriter, Plan B is like a journey, where we stop at some familiar checkpoints. How we arrive at each checkpoint is unexpected.

Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) is a teenager of Indian descent who is foreign to things around sex. Maybe one of them is because of the poor education in schools. In a biology class, the teacher shows an old educational video that compares the female reproductive system to a car. “Women must maintain their virginity, because no man wants to ride in a used car.” That’s the message. No wonder Sunny opened a biology book only when masturbating using pictures of male anatomy. Top Movie Site

Only Lupe (Victoria Moroles) wants to be our protagonist’s friend. Opposite to Sunny, Lupe is a rebellious teenager. Dyed hair, pierced nose, black lipstick coloring his lips who like to smoke marijuana vape. Lupe suggests Sunny to hold a party at home, to attract the attention of Hunter (Michael Provost), the idol of his heart. The party starts, Sunny gets drunk, then loses her virginity.

Unfortunately, the first sex didn’t live up to Sunny’s expectations. Even now she is haunted by fears of getting pregnant. So Sunny, accompanied by Lupe, goes on a journey to get plan b aka emergency contraceptive pills. The journey seems easy, but of course a road trip brings the character to meet various obstacles, including encounters with various unique figures.

The less you know about “what” and “who” the better, because Morales offers a variety of scenarios to make this familiar journey full of twists and turns. The events that triggered Sunny to think that she could potentially be pregnant, until her fight with her best friend (which seemed a must for this kind of film as a second and third act transition), all came unexpectedly. And most importantly, funny. Especially Lupe’s figure. Best Movie

Watching it here, I’m sure Victoria Moroles’ career will skyrocket soon, at least on the indie and festival circuits. His appearance is funny, natural, and doesn’t get caught up in the stereotypical style of rebellious teenage characters (Morales’ writing also contributes greatly to this), which is identical to the angsty impression and deadpan acting style. Moroles are more expressive and warm.

Whereas Verma displayed understandable naivety. It was natural for Sunny to be so afraid of sex. He is a product of a conservative society, which views all forms of sexuality as taboo in the name of morality. A social order that actually corners women. Who is the most harmed by the inconsequential educational video above? Woman. Who will suffer the most when the sale of contraceptive pills is made difficult? Woman.

We see different fears when men and women are exposed to the risk of pregnancy. The man is worried about sin, which is finally cured because he believes that God is forgiving. On the other hand, if pregnancy does occur, it will be the public who will be the most vocal in judging the woman, who is certainly not as generous as God. What for men is an earthquake, for women it could be the end of the world.

Improving the education system is a major factor, but it certainly takes a long time. Plan B, through its touching finale, offers a simpler, but effective, initial solution. The solution lies in the hands of parents. This sentence from Lupe’s father (Jacob Vargas), perfectly sums it up. “It’s not my job to judge you, but it’s my job to be your dad no matter what”. Movie Review

ANNETE – Review
Movie Review

ANNETE – Review

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Nine years after Holy Motors, Leos Carax is back, still with the surrealism of the “tortured self-destructive artist who wears green outfit”, in an experimental musical. Of course this is not La La Land (although the sequence of waltzes in the storm is like a dark version of Sebastian and Mia’s dance at the planetarium) nor A Star is Born (although both talk about men’s envy at their partner’s success).

But doesn’t the musical touch upon surrealism to some extent? People suddenly sing together, dance above the clouds as an expression of romance, all of that is not the face of reality. Through Annette, Carax seems to borrow the freedom of speech of her genre, to facilitate her own unique style, to bring the story and music by Ron Mael and Russell Mael from the rock duo Sparks (the three of them co-wrote the script). Top Movie Site

“So may we start?”, read the lyrics of the opening song, which was then answered by the patrol police briefly, “Don’t try to start”. Is this a jab at the “favor” of the apparatus in repressing artists’ statements? I don’t know, but it’s true, our protagonist is an artist. If Henry (Adam Driver) is a comedian, then his fiancé, Ann (Marion Cotillard), is a famous soprano. Their relationship shocked the public. Even the media labeled “Beauty and the bastard couple”.

Appearing wearing a bathrobe on stage, Henry provoked the audience’s laughter through his temperament and material filled with anger and sadness. While Ann is revered for the tragic role that requires her to always die at the end of the show. Maybe this is where Henry begins to feel, why is his suffering seen as a joke, but Ann’s “death” actually makes him loved?

Even after the birth of their daughter, Annette (played by a creepy doll, because apart from aesthetic choices, the baby will have to go through many extreme things), Henry’s anxiety only grows. When Ann’s popularity consistently rose, Henry’s career actually took a nosedive due to his tendency to go crazy on stage. Best Movie

I’m not going to divulge what happened next, except that the further you enter this 140-minute maze, the peculiarity of Leos Carax also gets thicker. Is the duration too long? Maybe, and compared to the director’s previous work, Annette’s focus tends to be less awake. When at Holy Motors Carax explores an idea, this time there are several.

Ambitious, and of course, pretentious. Issues such as “life imitates art”, male insecurity, to the process of children liberating themselves from their parents to become complete individuals, can be presented using a more accessible style. But the choice of style is also a manifestation of the director’s aesthetic independence. And if you’re like me who admire the absurdity of Holy Motors, Annette has a charm that is hard to resist.

Actually, even from a conventional point of view, this film is quite a capable musical. Catchy rock opera songs, to imaginative musical sequences (the “ship in a storm” scene which is the material for the poster results in a massive and dramatic tragedy), all can be found. In the lineup, Driver and Cotillard are more than just ideas (a frequent occurrence in many surreal shows). Especially Driver, who handles almost any situation (and emotion) at 200% intensity. Movie Review

Tribhanga – Review
Movie Review

Tribhanga – Review

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While watching Tribhanga, I repeatedly asked myself, “What is this film trying to convey?”. Sometimes, Renuka Shahane, as a director and scriptwriter, seems to want to rebuke all kinds of conservative views without mercy, but other times, she tends to be tolerant. It was only after a while that I misread the narrative. Top Movie Site

The title refers to the standing position in a traditional Indian dance taken from Sanskrit. “Tri” means “three”, “bhanga” means “position” or “attitude”. Tribhanga tells the story of three generations of women, who take different positions and attitudes in their lives. Whatever attitude and position women take (which is always faced with the stigma of a conservative society), it doesn’t matter as long as it’s their own choice. That’s why this film is impartial. The only thing that goes wrong is when choices are made forcefully.

Anuradha “Anu” Apte (Kajol) is a big Bollywood star who often provokes controversy. Her words are harsh, known to like to change partners, and is also a single mother. His daughter, Masha (Mithila Palkar), married a man from an ancient family, and is now pregnant. Then came the shocking news. Anu’s mother, Nayantara (Tanvi Azmi), falls into a coma due to a stroke.

Anu’s relationship with his mother, who is known as a famous writer, is not good. Because of this difference of opinion, Anu did not call his mother “mother”, but “Nayan”. Before his coma, Nayan was writing his autobiography, with the help of Milan (Kunaal Roy Kapur). Along with the writing process, we are invited to visit the past through flashbacks, which specifically explain the reasons for Anu’s dislike of Nayan. Best Movie

More generally, the flashback highlights generational trauma while interpreting empowerment. Shahane, who seems to mix autobiography (she’s also an actress with a writer’s mother) and fiction, doesn’t offer an easy answer. There were times when I stood beside Nayan, admiring her determination to pursue independence. But Anu’s heartache was clearly understandable. The child will not care how great the mother is through her work and activism. Whether the child feels loved, that’s the main thing.

Making the audience understand, that Anu’s refusal to understand Nayan, and vice versa, Nayan’s failure to understand Anu, was Tribhanga’s goal, and it was successful. Understanding is different from justifying. Understanding means not turning a blind eye to the possible reasons behind a mistake.

Then what about Masha the youngest generation? She symbolizes hope for a new era, where generational trauma ends. When the child’s psyche is free from the “sins” of the parents, while the parents, who finally free themselves from their past trauma, can give total affection, so that the child gets independence from an early age.

The acting of the three actresses also reflects this dynamic. Mithila Palkar is brighter, kinder, open to all possibilities. Kajol was at the center of the conflict, with unresolved anger, so sarcasm and swearing flowed from her mouth. Meanwhile, Tanvi Azmi is calmer, wiser, because she has made peace with herself, admits every mistake she has made.

Personal closeness to the material makes Renuka Shahane understand the emotional points that must be displayed. One big fight between Anu and Nayan appears very heartbreaking, representing the moment when all feelings can no longer be contained. Similarly, the closing scene, which depicts a whole, when the three female protagonists do what they love the most, in one space with their loved ones. That’s where they are whole, either as individuals or part of the family. Movie Review

Man In Love – Review
Movie Review

Man In Love – Review

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The remake’s stigma as a form of lack of creativity is shallow thinking. While the existence of “cashgrab remakes” is undeniable, there are a number of things that can be achieved from remaking old works. Call it modernization, the process of cultural transfer (especially if made by another country), experimenting with different visions, or correcting the shortcomings of the original version.

Man in Love, as a remake of the South Korean film of the same title which was released in 2014, is simply cashgrab. What can be explored from the drama of the formulaic tearjerker? It turned out to be a lot. Chih-Chung Chien and Lyra Fu as scriptwriters, know the pluses and minuses of the original film, then maintain (even strengthen) their strengths, while improving their series of weaknesses. Man in Love is like a successful remedial. Top Movie Site

The whole story is still the same, namely about the love of Ah Cheng (Roy Chiu) the debt collector, to Hao Ting (Ann Hsu), a girl who was “inherited” by her father’s debt. Instead of charging, Ah Cheng promised to write off Hao Ting’s father’s debt, as long as he was willing to go on a date. Although initially forced, after a while Hao Ting’s heart melted by the thug’s sincere kindness.

Exactly the same. Some of the shots used by the director, Yin Chen-hao, are also similar to Han Dong-wook’s. In the first two thirds, the modifications are indeed more subtle. For example, Ah Cheng and Hao Ting’s first meeting. From the first time their gazes connected, we knew Ah Cheng was already in love. As a result, the incident when he ordered his men to forcefully take Hao Ting’s father who was in a coma, only seemed like a bluff.

Compare with the Korean version. The lack of clarity about the male protagonist’s feelings, as well as the longer duration of events, make him look just as ruthless as an ordinary debt collector. This point is important, because the essence of Man in Love is, the process of falling in love with a good man, who is trapped in a bad environment, so that he becomes bad too, and does not know how to express love. Giving extra background related to Ah Cheng’s reason for pursuing a profession as a debt collector, helped strengthen the impression that he was actually a good person.

Those extra things are the main advantages of the film. Either extra sentences, or additional scenes, which, although short, have a big impact. One of them was when Ah Cheng expressed his intention to marry Hao Ting. How he understands what is precious to his idol, confirms the tenderness of heart as well as the sincerity of Ah Cheng’s love.

Ann Hsu’s appearance, who is good at handling the gradual gradation of Hao Ting’s feelings (from a cold and curt face, then a smile that he began to show even though he was still shy), was not much different from Han Hye-jin’s interpretation. It’s a different story when you compare Roy Chiu and Hwang Jung-min. Both are able to steal hearts, through similar but not the same acting. Best Movie

We know that Hwang Jung-min is an expert in playing the “chaotic” character, who at first glance is not friendly, but once he flashes a smile and sparkling eyes, he is able to break down the walls of the audience’s emotions. His style is in line with the typical South Korean tearjerker that slices amidst warm nuances. Meanwhile, Roy Chiu approaches Taiwanese cinema gangster figures who keep tragedy behind their machismo.

That is, in addition to “medication”, Man in Love also performs cultural transfer. This point feels right in a funeral scene. The differences in the funeral traditions of South Korea and Taiwan require modifications, but still have to maintain the substance and emotional impact. Here, Yin Chen-hao and the team have not only managed to defend, but strengthen. The moment was presented more touching. More sacred.

In the third act, modifications increase, and again, making this remake appear superior to the original work. The application of a neater non-linear story structure (resulting in a twist if you haven’t watched the Korean version), the omission of less important parts so that the narrative is more focused, to more grounded character motivations (example: the reason Hao Ting is furious at Ah Cheng) . Man in Love may still be a cliché tearjerker, whether it’s in the realm of romance or family drama, but it’s also proof of why all remakes shouldn’t be flattened and seen as a form of creative laziness. Movie Review

Together Together – Review
Movie Review

Together Together – Review

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Love. Intimacy. Are they all about romantic relationships involving courtship/marriage and/or sex? Quoting the KBBI, one of the meanings of the word “intimate” is “very close; intimate; deep (about friendly relations and so on)”. Yes, the definition of intimacy is broader than what many people often mean when they say, “They are very intimate”.

Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) seem intimate. They both said to each other, “I love you” without the intention of making love. Because with the age gap of about 20 years, as stated by Anna, it will be like Woody Allen films that imply pedophilia.

So where did their closeness come from? Matt wants to have children, but doesn’t feel like getting married. He had been in a relationship for eight years, with the woman he hoped would become the mother of his children, before it finally foundered. Maybe Matt is tired, or is traumatized by a romance that involves heartache. In the end she opted for surrogacy, in which Anna became a surrogate mother. Anna had previously given birth during high school (her baby was adopted by someone else), and since then her relationship with the family has been strained. Top Movie Site

Matt and Anna agreed to maintain a professional relationship under the contract. Not easy, because of differences in personality. Even though he doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship, Matt has a tendency to romanticize. He wanted this pregnancy to be meaningful, and expected the same from Anna. On the other hand, Anna tends to be more cynical. For her, this pregnancy was just a business agreement, so there was no need to leave any impression.

Of course in the end they can overcome their differences, then come closer and complement each other, right? True, but not in the “boy meets girl then both fall in love” formula. Rather than a rom-com, Together Together is more accurately called a friend-com. Nikole Beckwith as director and scriptwriter, explores connection without being trapped by clichés.

Accompanied by the sweet and captivating music by Alex Somers, we see the process of two individuals forming a bond, which is not based on similarities, but differences. According to Beckwith, if handled properly, differences do not divide, but instead unite. Complement each other, complement each other.

The process is not instant. Together Together emphasizes that the bond, which is then expressed through intimacy, arises after two individuals share moment by moment that takes various forms, ranging from showing concern, doing activities together with one goal, sharing thoughts, arguing, or just watching television series together. Movie Review

The chemistry of the two players played a major role in strengthening the moments. Ed Helms masterfully brings to life the figure of a clumsy man who is stiff, but whose heart is filled with kindness. Meanwhile, Patti Harrison, with her flagship deadpan, is a likeable figure who tries to understand the meaning behind a connection. This kind of character-driven presentation requires a “fluid” script, and Beckwith manages to provide that. The writing is interesting, dynamic, even though at some points the episodic approach used to compile the journey of the two characters, somewhat disrupts the flow of the plot.

In addition to romance, Together Together also breaks other notions. Regarding gender, the question was discussed, “Why are single mothers often labeled bad while single fathers are considered great?”, as well as the role of surrogate mothers who are not just “care for the fetus”. Best Movie

CODA – Review
Movie Review

CODA – Review

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CODA stands for “child of deaf adults”, or children with deaf parents. In music, the coda is the ending. Finishing, also completes the composition. This remake of the French film La Famille Bélier (2014) tells the story of family unity, as well as how the end of a phase marks the perfection of the family.

Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is the youngest daughter, and the only one who can hear in her family. That’s why Ruby must always be present when her father, Frank (Troy Kotsur), and her brother, Leo (Daniel Durant), set sail to fish. The condition of the fishermen themselves is not good. The fish caught are priced too cheaply, the additional costs imposed by the local council are increasing. Top Movie Site

Music is Ruby’s escape. He joined the school choir team, and opportunities began to open up. Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez) as a teacher recognizes Ruby’s talent, then offers her to try an audition to enter Berklee. Ruby will also duet with her eye-catching student, Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), at the choir team’s recital. But the reality is far from smooth.

Ruby struggles to divide her time between music and being a translator for her family. If he had been accepted at Berklee, who would have filled the position? Not to mention the mother, Jackie (played by Marlee Matlin, the youngest winner in the “Best Actress” category, as well as the only deaf performer to win an Oscar to date), also opposes Ruby’s intentions.

CODA is a film with no true/false. As a child, of course I can empathize with Ruby’s frustration when her parents oppose her life choices. But like Ruby too, CODA made me understand things that people with normal hearing never feel. Naturally, Jackie was haunted by a pile of worries. His life is filled with people’s ignorance, which labels deaf friends as “weird”.

On the other hand, Mr. V wasn’t wrong either. In order to be accepted at Berklee, Ruby had to practice regularly. All parties have their own rights, desires, and interests that cannot be blamed. Including Ruby, squeezed in between. Ruby has spent her entire life as a translator, but can anyone translate her heart? Best Movie

Sian Heder (Tallulah) as the director and scriptwriter, raised the complexity of the problem, inviting the audience to see it from the perspective of the characters, in order to provide a comprehensive understanding. Complicated, winding, but still includes laughter. Interestingly, in addition to provoke laughter, CODA’s humor can make the audience say, “That’s right”.

Call it when Frank explained, “the reason God created the smell of farts” as well as the prohibition of listening to music while eating together, while playing Tinder is actually allowed. These are all jokes, but not empty jokes. It’s like CODA is educating in a fun way.

Even though he talks about music, Heder doesn’t use much accompaniment music, leaving a natural atmosphere, as if it’s impressive, that CODA is a presentation as it is. Even so that the audience understands the condition of a deaf friend, Heder had time to insert a complete silence, which lasted longer than most films that try to have a similar impact.

Rather than a bombastic sound, CODA stomped through the silence. One silence that addresses the film’s biggest question. Ruby does not have the privilege of other children’s characters, who are able to dispel parents’ doubts about her talents, by showing and/or listening to those talents directly in front of them. How does Ruby convince her parents that she is good at singing? Another question, “How does the film have an emotional impact if it doesn’t show the (formulaic) scene?”.

The third act explores the questions above, which Heder answered, through unexpected moments, which successfully stirred feelings. Heder’s directing sensitivity is extraordinary, especially regarding maximizing reaction shots, as a basic filmmaking technique, which is so basic, it is often used only to fulfill obligations.

Heder’s version of the reaction shot does not (only) aim to manipulate the audience’s emotions, it also describes the heart of a deaf friend. What is it like to be among the frenzy of appreciating a loved one’s accomplishments, when we can’t understand them?

The appearance of the lineup of players strengthens the narrative. Jones is the protagonist who makes it easy for the audience to connect emotionally, but for me, the other three performers, Kotsur, Matlin, and Durant (all deaf) are the strongest. Matlin interprets the bitterness that is often misunderstood, Kotsur bombards the hearts of the audience in a scene that involves singing, while Durant steals the attention as an older brother who wants to prove his capacity for his sister (the smile that he tries to make when watching the recital even though he can’t hear, is really a form of acting. touching subtitles).

It’s all about mutual understanding. Understand that each family member has advantages and disadvantages. Understand that there is not only one way to express affection. Understanding that a family must complement each other, but without forgetting each other’s identity as individuals. In the end, the abandoned ego is the most beautiful coda that completes a family. Movie Review

Caveat – Review
Movie Review

Caveat – Review

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Have you ever felt the urge to love a film, whether it’s because it was made with good intentions, great potential, or the occasional quality moment? Caveat made me feel that.

Damian McCarthy as director and scriptwriter, is clearly talented. Later, with increasing experience and capital, he could be in the ranks of top horror filmmakers. Caveat which is his debut has not brought McCarthy to that position, but it is enough to pave the way as a stepping stone. Best Movie Site

The story centers on Isaac (Jonathan French), who is offered a job by Barret (Ben Caplan), to look after his niece, Olga (Leila Sykes), who lives alone in a remote area. Her mother disappeared, her father committed suicide, while Olga had a mental disorder, which could suddenly put her in a catatonic state.


Arriving at the location, Isaac was surprised because there was some information that Barret had not previously shared. First, Olga’s house is not located in any remote area, but in the middle of an empty island. Second, because Olga was uncomfortable in the presence of other people, Isaac was obliged to wear a vest with chains. The tantalizing payment and compassion for Olga made Isaac finally agree, even though he had doubts.

McCarthy used the early minutes to impart information. What rooms are there? What locations and items have the potential to spread terror? How far would the chains that bound Isaac limit his movement? The tempo is slow, but as the title suggests, it effectively warns the audience. Anticipation arose.

An ugly mechanical bunny doll that often suddenly beats a drum it carries, paintings of hideous women, dark dungeons, unkempt houses, all the provisions needed to produce the typical terror formula of haunted house horror are at hand, and Caveat runs smoothly from the start. Movie Review

Isaac slowly noticed something wrong there. When he (and us) finally got to witness the horrific scene for the first time, Caveat felt like it was going to be the best horror of the year. I will not divulge the details of the scene, of course, McCarthy is good at scaring. He left the camera for a while to highlight an object (longer than most jump scares) so that the audience could clearly see what appeared on the screen. Because the object is indeed terrible. McCarthy doesn’t need to manipulate the viewer’s mind, so that we misinterpret “shock” for “fear.”

Then after a while, the next terror didn’t set in, and I realized how much McCarthy was faced with a budget constraint. He has a lot of brilliant ideas about set-pieces. I can guarantee that. Evidently, every time a jump scare, apparition, or any other form of terror is present, the execution is always scary. But mystical terror, as simple as it sounds, costs money (special effects, makeup, etc.). Without it, like Isaac with his chains, McCarthy seemed to be confined.

This is where the gaming experience comes in. Horror filmmakers with high flying hours will know how to cultivate intensity in the midst of limitations. McCarthy wasn’t a kid yesterday afternoon. Since 2009, he has spawned six short films. But feature-length films are a different medium. There are tens of minutes of duration to fill, and McCarthy is struggling to do it.

Adding an element of mystery is the way he chooses. It made Isaac doubt the truth in the house. Is it true that Olga’s father committed suicide? Is it true that Barrett is an old friend? Is Olga a poor girl as well as a victim, or is she a dangerous person? Attracting the audience’s attention through questions between the pauses of terror is actually the right decision. Unfortunately, Caveat failed to appear attractive, due to the weakness of the script.

The manuscript does not provide adequate investigation. Instead of being invited to be involved in investigating the mystery, the audience is just left waiting, while flashbacks appear periodically, to provide answers. A flashback that takes us out of Olga’s house, thereby stripping the film of the claustrophobic atmosphere. When Caveat tries to appear ambiguous, I don’t care enough to be compelled to think harder, because I’m not involved in the mystery.

The second half takes Caveat into the cat-and-mouse realm, making it feel like he has two different stories forced together. It’s not enriching, it seems to override the main terror. But then again, every time McCarthy shows his mystical face, Caveat always manages to make the hairs on his neck stand on end. Top Movie

Little Fish – Review
Movie Review

Little Fish – Review

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This adaptation of Aja Gabel’s short story is reminiscent of Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). It’s a romance about how the power of love overcomes memory loss. Even the opening and closing scenes both have the same background and principles. The difference is, Little Fish appears more realistic. Maybe in the end, not everyone was happy, but there was hope.

The magic memory eraser machine was “replaced” by the NIA (Neuroinflammatory Affliction), a virus similar to Alzheimer’s, which causes the sufferer to lose his memory. It could be periodically, it could be suddenly. The virus quickly spreads, creating a global pandemic, people are anxious, chaos is everywhere, many places are quarantined. Movie Review

Sound familiar? Of course it’s just a coincidence, considering that the short story was made in 2011, while the film has started pre-production since early 2019. It seems to show that mass panic due to invisible things that can attack, then kill at any time, has always been one of the collective fears of mankind.

Our protagonists are Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), a husband and wife who have been married for less than a year. Immediately there was interest from the first meeting, and that was natural. Because I myself only need a few minutes to be captivated by them. O’Connell has showcased subtle acting since Starred Up (2013) and ’71 (2014), while Cooke is a master at stealing hearts, as in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), as well as through emotional performances in Sound of Metal (2020) . Both of them repeated the same achievement in this film. Best Movie Site

They made such a lovely, happy, healthy couple. An impression confirmed by a moment. Emma awkwardly asks for sex, which Jude gently refuses, because at that time, Emma had not officially ended her relationship with her lover (though more accurately called “friends with benefits”). Emma cared about consent, while Jude didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

At first, the NIA did not really affect it, so it infected Ben (Raul Castillo), their best friend. Ben forgets how to play music (the second thing he loves the most), then one day, forgets Samantha (Soko), his lover, and the thing he loves the most. Isn’t our reality the same? The pandemic feels far away, like a dream, before the people closest and dearest are caught in the trap.

The climax is when Jude is infected, starts to forget the little things, and will eventually forget about Emma. At this point, I hope Mattson Tomlin’s script (Project Power) is willing to shed some light on the NIA. What causes the virus? How is the transmission process? The omission of these details may be aimed at keeping the focus on the protagonist’s intimate space, but a more virus-related image, even if only at a glance, can help the viewer become more involved in the world. Even so, Tomlin, especially through his lines, presents an in-depth reflection on life in the midst of a pandemic (Example: “When your disaster is everyone’s disaster, how do you grid?”).

Speaking of intimacy, therein lies the advantage of Chad Hartigan (This Is Martin Bonner, Morris from America) as a director. Little Fish is so touching, thanks to Hartigan’s ability to compose moments that can translate abstract feelings. Exactly how feelings like love and memory leave beauty in the hearts of their owners. Wrapped in dreamy music by Keegan DeWitt, and cinematography by Sean McElwee that often uses dim light, Hartigan brings Emma and Jude’s personal space to the hearts of the audience.

According to a doctor, the brain of NIA sufferers will form false memories to bridge the lost memories, as a form of self-defense mechanism. Jude experienced it. Differentiating which memory is real and which is fake is getting harder and harder by the day. Some memories are not real, and eventually all that is real will be erased, but after spending almost two hours with Emma and Jude, we are made sure that their love is real. Very real.

Like all of us human beings, Emma and Jude may just be two “little fish” struggling in a big pond, or even an ocean. But that doesn’t mean their lives are insignificant. At least for each other, their lives, along with all the love and memories, are the most significant. Amidst the vast ocean of uncertainty, these two small fish continue to swim towards the future. Whether or not there was a past didn’t matter, as long as they were together. Top Movie