Review Brightburn (2019)

While overstaying the welcome a bit too long, Brightburn still delivers its visionary premise of a superhero origin story turning into a visceral horror.

A visionary horror director turned into one of the most sought after superhero director, James Gunn (with gigs ranging from self-defining Slither and Super to Marvel’s space-misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy and further forward to DC’s second attempt to prolong the live of Suicide Squad), produced a visionary genre-bending superhero origin movie deep rooted into horror core in Brightburn. Directed by a little known horror director, David Yarovesky based on the screenplay written by James’ brother and cousin, Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, this horror superhero story throws a very enticing premise: what if some kind of Superman figure was actually sent to Earth as an evil offspring as in The Omen?

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Review Long Shot (2019)

Theron and Rogen’s blithesome chemistry excels in this carefree political rom-com that feels somehow sincere and biting at the same time.

It’s unsurprising that Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen’s rom-com teaming up is an absolutely great idea. “Unlikely but not impossible,”as the tagline has suggested. Separately, Theron and Rogen had respectively excelled in their rom-coms (in which their characters are both troubled with some sort of identity crises)—the former in Young Adult and the latter in Knocked Up. In Long Shot—a political rom-com spawned from Dan Sterling’s story, co-penned with Liz Hannah, both stars once again excel as their blithesome chemistry ripened under the direction by 50/50 director, Jonathan Levine.

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Review Guava Island (2019)

Donald Glovers’ artistry meets Hiro Murai’s sensitivity produce an uplifting, musical dramedy which feels violent and elevating at the same moment.

In Guava Island, Donald Glover fully embraces his musical moniker, Childish Gambino, to do Beyonce’s Lemonade-ing on his own style. Directed by Glover’s frequent collaborator, Hiro Murai, who has been working on his music videos (including the recent phenomenon, This Is America) and his self-conceived series Atlanta, this 55-minute feature is another invention in Glover’s never-ending artistry. Premiering at Coachella (followed by a limited Amazon Prime distribution), this short feature might be a career celebration or, else, a hint on what Glover would do in the future about his music, acting, and writing career.

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Review Ave Maryam (2019)

Beyond the beautifully staged and shot pictures, Ave Maryam is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punchline.‬ Rich with subtexts; but modest, if not poor, with narrative impact.

Underneath the beautiful cinematography and poetic, rare dialogues, Ertanto Robby Soediskam’s Ave Maryam (a more clinical title compared to its metaphorical working title, ‘Salt is Leaving the Sea’) is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punch-line. The guilt is the love manifested in four unique forms of love found in the Bible to contradict each other. All the burden of love is the cross that Sister Maryam (Maudy Koesnaedi, profoundly) has to bear in her via dolorosa of life.

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Review It Comes / 来る (2019)

Tetsuya Nakashima’s horror devices a long list of plot twist mechanisms simultaneously and enticingly in one grand, yet campy and long-winded horror that demands full attention.

Tetsuya Nakashima (Confession, The World of Kanako) has always been known as a visual extravagant with flair for narrative overdrive. With portfolio of bleak murder mysteries that always haunt long after the movies end, Mr. Nakashima now steps further into horror territory with It Comes (also known as Kuru), an adaptation of Ichi Sawamura novel, Bogiwan ga Kuru. Similar to his most notable works, even in his horror debut, his movie is outright dark, mysterious, visceral and demanding. At one point, this horror reminds me to the cult-making Korean horror, The Wailing; what makes it different is: it’s campier and bigger in scale.

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Review Mantan Manten (2019)

It’s flawed, but Mantan Manten manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual take on Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

Farishad Latjuba’s Mantan Manten could easily slip into a maudlin melodrama or simply a mess given its convoluted, ambitious yet heartbreaking premise. The title (literally meaning: former bride) does not suggest otherwise and we know pretty well how romance movies easily sugar-coats tragedy to push an overemotional haul. And yet, Mantan Manten caught me off guard when it acknowledges the flaws and manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual view of Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

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Review Shazam! (2019)

DC revamps their superhero rosters with Zachary Levi as Shazam! — a fun-loving, absurd icon with a highly uplifting twist of the tropes.

We all know that DC execs’ realization that their superhero movie does not need to exactly follow Marvel’s trajectory came very late and with a dire cost. Yet, slowly, the hope rises. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has gone through a territory Marvel never ventured (at least until Captain Marvel); then, James Wan’s Aquaman, despite all the flaws, were an exhilarating, likable blockbuster. The breakthrough continues with Shazam!, a magic-powered superhero movie, which comes to fulfill childhood’s fantasy of those growing up with the lots of Power Rangers or BeetleBorgs.

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