Wednesday, November 24

Movie Review

Review: Little Big Women (2021)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Little Big Women (2021)

In some other stories, death might be the end; but, not in this one. Death is what set this Taiwanese drama in motion. Grief that follows is the force that stokes up Joseph Hsu Chen-chieh's family melodrama, Little Big Women, as it navigates between the sea of distresses and unspoken longings. Grief is also an unlikely power that reunites an ordinary family with a not-so-ordinary story and unravels secrets from the past that have been swept under the rug. (more…)
Review: Space Sweepers (2021)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Space Sweepers (2021)

South Korea's film industry hits another new height with their first space opera, Space Sweepers, directed by blockbuster specialist, Jo Sung-hee (Phantom Detective). Assembling a band of cheeky space misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy style, this sci-fi bonanza puts together unprecedented ensemble of casts in a dystopian space adventure. The star-studded casts to thrive among the stars ranging from Song Joong-ki (the director's collaborator in A Werewolf Boy and star of popular drama, Descendants of the Sun), Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden), Jin Seon-kyu (Extreme Job), and Yoo Hae-jin (A Taxi Driver) with a special performance from Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy). (more…)
Review: Malcolm & Marie (2021)
Movie Review

Review: Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Euphoria's creator, Sam Levinson, brazenly brings at least two major elements from his acclaimed HBO series to his new film, Malcolm & Marie. First, he extends the admiration towards his Emmy-winning front woman, Zendaya, for another provocative role in a clash against John David Washington. Additionally, he also brings along the series style-over-substance tendencies and injects it into this exhausting relationship friction. (more…)
Review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
Movie Review

Review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Judas and the Black Messiah recounts the real life saga involving young-and-rising Black Panthers leader, Fred Hampton, operating in Illinois, with his eventual betrayer, William "Bill" O'Neal. The story is framed to juxtapose the infamous biblical betrayal as it wears the hint as explicitly in the title as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The story of an eloquent Black revolutionist killed by the establishment after manipulating a fellow Black man inarguably exudes the #BlackLivesMatter message strongly. It's a provocative political biopic radiating that couldn't have been timelier. (more…)
Review: June & Kopi (2021)
Focus: Indonesia, Movie Review

Review: June & Kopi (2021)

From an unlikely place, here comes a classic story of dogs becoming human's best friend in Netflix-bound Indonesian family drama, June & Kopi. Unlike Hollywood with dozens of doggo movies (ranging from Air Buds to Marley & Me) or Japan with Hachiko Monogatari (1987), Indonesian cinema has a little to none in terms of pet stories, let alone dogs, in the repertoire at least in the last three decades. Noviandra Santosa's new film, co-written with Titien Wattimena (Salawaku, Aruna dan Lidahnya), comes like a breath of fresh air with not only one, but two dogs headlining the film. This doggo-drama comes with a saintly message even when the execution isn't always at the top level. Related Post: Review: The Secret Life of Pets (2016) The story revolves around a married couple,...
Review: Saint Maud (2021)
Movie Review

Review: Saint Maud (2021)

Having failed to save the life of a patient under the care, Katie (Morfydd Clark) succumbs into a dreadful stage of depression. She resorts to Roman Catholicism as a means of coping and begins to call herself Maud in the process. As she becomes a pious believer, she starts to find her confidence back and enrolls in a palliative nurse care program where she's tasked to look after a terminally ill patient, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle)—an atheist choreographer from the US. That's where Saint Maud takes a sharp turn from an observation of faith and depression into a hybrid of body horror with psychological thriller answering to some hurtful stigma about depressions. (more…)
Review: The White Tiger (2021)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The White Tiger (2021)

An honest social commentary doesn’t always have to feel punishing all the time—take Ramin Bahrani's The White Tiger for example. Like his work, 99 Homes, unraveling the harsh reality of the 2008 housing crisis in the US, his Netflix bound film points out everything that is wrong in India—crooked law system, corruption, religious discrimination, misogyny, forced marriage, and, as the center-piece, modern slavery—in a story about a slave cunningly exploits all the flaws to build an empire. However depraved and morally corrupted the system is, under Bahrani, the story is always about the human within the system—hustling and struggling to rebel against the chaotic order. (more…)
Review: Affliction / Pulang (2021)
Focus: Indonesia, Movie Review

Review: Affliction / Pulang (2021)

Seasoned Indonesian director, Teddy Soeriaatmadja (helming the Trilogy of Intimacy, consisting Lovely Man, Something in the Way, and About a Woman) returns with something that feels odd and out of place to his repertoire with Netflix bound movie, Affliction (also titled Pulang). Unlike his previous films that emphasize grounded, intimate drama with careful pacing and subtle yet moving performance from the lead, the director, also writing the script, now experiments with a new narrative drive: horror. By casting his own wife, Raihaanun (27 Steps of May) whose on-screen presence always illuminates, in the process, the film might have a shade or two of the director's signature prowess, but the end-result feels nothing like it. (more…)
Review: Yang Tak Tergantikan (2021)
Focus: Indonesia, Movie Review

Review: Yang Tak Tergantikan (2021)

Herwin Novianto presents a slice-of-life family drama revolving around the life of a dysfunctional family and their struggle in Yang Tak Tergantikan (trans. the irreplaceable one). Occupying the center stage of the narrative is Lulu Tobing in another subtle performance portraying a divorcee living independently with her three young-adult children. She's the beating heart of the story, co-written Gunawan Raharja (Aisyah: Biarkan Kami Bersaudara), that feels grounded and intimate without having to dip into sheer complications. (more…)
Review: One Night in Miami… (2021)
Movie Review

Review: One Night in Miami… (2021)

On the night of 25 February 1964, the greatest boxer ever walked the earth, Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, Race) won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. In the aftermath of his career-turning moment, Clay celebrates the victory with three friends—all are prominent Black figures in the 1960s, musician Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton), NFL star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton), and the controversial Black activist as well as Clay's mentor, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, High Fidelity series). Four legends in One Night in Miami marks the directorial debut of Regina King, adapting a stage-play by Kemp Powers (Pixar's Soul) who also writes the screenplay. The celebration isn't merely a celebratory party or anything resembles it; instead, the four legends emba...
Review: Sobat Ambyar / The Heartbreak Club (2021)
Focus: Indonesia, Movie Review

Review: Sobat Ambyar / The Heartbreak Club (2021)

Heartbreak is arguably the second most universal thing after love. To say that everyone who knows how to love knows how broken heart feels like might be an innocent understatement; but, after all, it's universally a feeling that people try to avoid. For the late Didi Kempot (1966 - 2020), however, heartbreak is a source of inspiration in writing his folk songs. Dubbed as 'The Godfather of Broken Heart', the Indonesian singer had written hundreds of sentimental songs to ironically dance to. The singer was a folk sensation back in the 90s who found the career resurged in the recent years. Sobat Ambyar (a.k.a. The Heartbreak Club), directed by Charles Gozali (Finding Srimulat) and Bagus Bramanti (writer of sleeper-hit, Yowis Ben), is a light rom-com inspired by the finest and the bluest ...
Review: Babyteeth (2020)
Movie Review

Review: Babyteeth (2020)

There's something unusual in Shannon Murphy's directorial debut, Babyteeth, even when its premise about a terminally ill teenager finds a new breath in love is overly familiar, if not overused. The film, which went on winning 9 awards in Australian Academy Awards (AACTA) including Best Picture, exudes sentimentality in delivering the narrative, but never succumbs into the maudlin side-effects of it. There's little to none overindulging sappy moment even when death always lurks closely behind the protagonist's back. The story, written by Rita Kalnejais adapting her own stageplay, doesn't quite believe in seizing the day before the moment's gone forever, but it rather exuberantly celebrates what makes life worth living. (more…)
Review: Sylvie’s Love (2020)
Movie Review

Review: Sylvie’s Love (2020)

Back to New York of the 1960s era full of groove and the jazzy feelings exuding in the air, Sylvie's Love recreates the bygone era with precision—not only in look, but also in style. Presented like a Technicolor version of a black-and-white Hollywood melodrama with all the flairs and zeitgeist, this romance however takes a completely different route. It's vibrant for a reason: to defy the common portrayal of the era's main theme—a whitewashed pursuit of dream and love—with a story about Black lovers looking out for their own dream and love in a world that hasn't always been simple for them. (more…)
Review: Herself (2021)
Movie Review

Review: Herself (2021)

Director of Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady, Phyllida Lloyd, returns with a more modest, unpretentious drama about resilience and empowerment titled Herself. Unlike his previous films, nothing is particularly spectacular about the plot or the background of the protagonist, Sandra (portrayed magnificently by Clare Dunne, who also co-write the story with Malcolm Campbell), except for her struggle and determination. The protagonist's self-emancipation is the center-piece and it's the driving force that gives herself a purpose: to provide a house for her children by herself. (more…)
Review: Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Movie Review

Review: Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman begins with a sense of urgency, a hasty afternoon full of mixed feelings between excitement and fear. Sean (Shia LaBeouf), an engineer, hastily leaves the bridge construction he's been eagerly working on and rushes home. Martha (Vanessa Kirby) can barely hide her emotions as she leaves her office's baby shower celebration. She's pregnant with a girl and she's due on that fateful evening. The smell of unease exudes in the air and, even, last-minute tension arises and cools down almost rapidly as the labor's arriving. Nobody has been prepped for whatever comes after and, apparently, nobody saw that coming even when it arrives with excruciating details. Related Post: Review: Critical Eleven (2017) The story, muddled with emotional tug of war, is...

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