Friday, 28 February 2014


Another Best Picture nominee for the 2013 Oscars (as of this posting) comes to Malaysian cinemas again. After having watched other fellow 2013 Best Picture nominees 12 Years A Slave and Her, I was looking forward to this film in Malaysian theatres. The film is called American Hustle. It is directed by David O. Russell who last year directed another Best Picture nominee Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010) which was a nominee two years prior. Russell was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director in all three films. That is a pretty good success rate of a director's previous three films.

Here’s a movie trivia. Silver Linings Playbook had nominations in the four major acting categories; Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. American Hustle also has nominations for all the four acting categories. David O. Russell has the distinction of being the only directed who has films receiving nominations in all acting categories two years in a row. The Oscars for films in 2013 will handed out March 2nd, 2014.

Direcctor David O. Russell (extreme left) with the cast of his film

American Hustle is co-written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer. This film reunites Russell with his The Fighter co-stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams. It also reunites Russell with his Silver Linings Playbook co-stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Rounding up the ensemble cast is Jeremy Renner, Louis C,K., Elisabeth Rohm, Alessandro Nivola, and featuring an uncredited cameo from a very well-established actor who was also in one of Russell’s films.

Will David O. Russell create the same great essence from his previous films? Do read on…

(L-R): Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Jennifer Lawrence

After operating for some time, two business scam artists Irving and Sydney (Bale and Adams) gets apprehended by an FBI Agent named Richard (Cooper) for their crimes. In exchange for possible leaner court convictions, Richard persuades Irving and Sydney to help him bust big time politicians, including Mayor Polito (Renner), for corruption. Caught between it all is Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) who feels she has been neglected. Irving, Sydney, and Richard together form a rogue task force in sting operations while juggling a love triangle among them. The film is inspired by events surrounding an actual FBI sting operation in the late 1970s.

Dressed in 1970s outfit, Richard (Bradley Cooper) and Irving (Christian Bale) admire a painting

Marvelous and solid. The plot may be difficult to grasp at times but eventually in the film, it all makes sense. In the beginning, the film serves up a cloud of mystery as to what will happen but soon it unravels itself bit by bit. There was good enough comedy blended into the story which made the film delightful to watch. What I liked is that the story had a few surprises along the way, in terms of enhancing a plot detail and character development. Speaking of characterization, each role seemed well-thought of. Among the five main characters I noticed five personality traits in each of them; The Logic One. The Romantic One, The Naïve One, The Crazy One, and The Innocent One. When you see the movie, you might see it. Though the climactic ending was a little shot but it was satisfactory enough for the film. As we progress through the film, the characters get deeper into their roles and myself as an audience felt more deeper involved in the film.

5-time Oscar nominee as the leading lady Sydney

What can I say, top class performances! This is a film which features five Oscar nominees in Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence, and Renner. Bale and Lawrence have won Oscars before while Adams, Cooper and Renner are multiple nominees. Its hard to say which actor was exceptional but if I were to pick which one, it would be three-way tie between Bale, Adams, Lawrence. Each actor embodied their characters really well especially Bale who put on some weight to give his character more depth. This is one of Christian Bale’s best acting work and he does an almost flawless American accent once again.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as the sultry Rosalyn

For a movie set in a certain era, in this case the 1970s, attention to details such as sets and costumes would be given particular attention. I liked the costume design for this film. The film does manage to bring about the ‘feel’ of that era and we do get the experience of being transported to that time. The cinematography was quite good too with various lighting conditions that alternate between the happy and somber mood of the film. Great usage of music from the 70s to reflect that era. Director David O. Russell once again brings his trademark shot of ‘constant use of Steadicam’, though is was not overly used in this film. I have watched Russell’s previous films Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010) which were great. I recommend another little known film made by him called Three Kings (1999) which starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and rapper Ice Cube.

Behind the scenes filming with Amy Adams and Christian Bale

Slow at the beginning but it gradually ascends to a good climax.

A tale of lies, deceit, and manipulation, while juggling the hidden consciousness to decide what is the right thing to do.

Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper in another scene from the film

There is a lot of talking in this film and the scenes are long. The long duration of this film might not favour some people. Full of constant profanities.

Great story. Great acting. Great drama.

Director David O. Russell on set with Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito and Christian Bale as Irving

I really enjoyed this film. It thoroughly deserves the Best Picture nomination at the Oscars and other awards that is given to the film. There are lot of profanities in this film so children are not recommended. For the rest of the movie-going audience, it is highly recommended.

9 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


For many decades, Walt Disney Pictures has produced many quality feature films. As most of you may know, the company is the brainchild of an American named Walt Disney, whose enthusiasm in cartoons, animation, and theme parks has spawned many happy moments for children and adults worldwide. Disney expanded from animated feature films to live action musicals, and has produced many classics. Among the classics was a musical film called MaryPoppins (1964). Mary Poppins was adapted from a series of British children’s novels written by P.L.Travers in the 1930s. The struggle and hardship of bringing book to screen forms the central story of the movie in this review. I have watched Mary Poppins (which starred Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke) when I was a little kid and I found to be an extraordinary film. The catchphrases and songs from the film are still remembered by till today.

The title of the film is called Saving Mr. Banks. The film is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Rookie). The film stars Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, and Ruth Wilson. It is written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. The title seems a little odd in relation to Mary Poppins but if I tell you how both movie titles are connected, it will be a spoiler! Saving Mr. Banks is inspired by a true story (though I feel some creative freedom were allowed) of the people involve in making Mary Poppins. The film was released in the United States in late December but only recently reached Malaysian cinemas.

Will a movie within a movie be interesting to watch? Do read on…

P.L.Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) at Disneyland
For so many years, London-based author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) refuses to have her beloved novel Mary Poppins become a film adaptation. Eventually, she accepts an offer from Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) when she realizes her financial status was not too bright. Disney, who has been pursuing her to sell the film rights to her book, invites her to come Los Angeles to discuss and sign an agreement. Travers is really very protective of her writings and insist on creative control while writing the film’s script. As she journeys through the writing process, we discover what, why, and who really inspired the written words of the Mary Poppins novels.

Emma Thompson as P.L.Travers, the heart and soul of the film
Well-balanced and emotionally engaging. There is a very good balance between drama and comedy. It doesn’t get too overly dramatic nor does it get too comedic. The dialogue had sharpness and wit which made the film exciting throughout. Major portions of the main plot is told through many flashbacks. However, this did not disrupt the flow of the film as the flashbacks seems to blend naturally into the entire film. This is impressive!

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in his office
The core characters played by Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, and Colin Farrell outshone the entire cast of the film. Thompson’s performance was strong and we do feel sympathetic towards her character. Tom Hanks as Walt Disney was more a supporting role but he managed to give a decent performance. I have to give particular praise to Colin Farrell. Farrell’s role as the father to P.L. Travers was minimal in the film yet his performance was memorable. I was hoping for more Paul Giamatti in the film because I think he is a good actor.

Annie Rose Buckley portrays a young P.L.Travers in flashbacks. Seen here with Colin Farrell who plays her dad
For a film that is set in the 1960s, I think the production did an excellent job in recreating the set designs and costume from the era. Since the film is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, it would be easier to have access to any historical pieces. The filmmakers maximized this well. Echoing what I said in the SCRIPT section above, the flashbacks were woven in almost seamlessly into the movie and this has to be credited to the editor and director for a job well done.

Director John Lee Hancock briefing Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson during filming.
Not too slow and not too fast either. Moderate and does not feel draggy.

A journey of self discovery with many reminiscences of the past and how it has shaped the future of an individual.

B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzmann as the Sherman Brothers who composed songs for the Mary Poppins film
The storyline can feel depressing at times.
If you are not a fan of the world of Disney, this might not be for you.

Fans of Mary Poppins novels and the film will love this because of its multiple trivia references.
A very good underlying theme of the bond among members in a family.

Emma Thompson as P.L.Travers in a scene with her driver played by Paul Giamatti

I liked this film. The subject matter is reasonably light and not too heavy on the thinking. Recommended.


8 out 10.

Monday, 17 February 2014

REVIEW: CUAK - Malaysia

Here I am again reviewing another local Malaysian film. The title of the movie is called Cuak. The translation for Cuak in English means being nervous or frighten, usually in an intense situation. I was intrigued by the film after hearing how the movie is being helmed by five individual directors. In my opinion, this seems like an experimental film.

Cuak is presented by Garang Pictures and distributed by local cinema owners TGV Cinemas. Spearheading the project is Executive Producer Low Ngai Yuen and Ee Lai Cheng. The film is produced by Michael Chen and Creative Director Khairil M. Bahar. The directors of the film are Khairil M. Bahar, Lim Benji, Manesh Nesaratnam, Tony Pietra Arjuna, and Shamaine Othman. The film boast a star-studded casts which includes Ghafir Akbar, Dawn Cheong, Tony Eusoff, Iedil Putra, Ash Nair, Abdul Qahar Aqilah, Patrick Teoh, Bernie Chan, Craig Fong, Corrine Adrienne, and many more.

How will a movie with five directors and a star-studded cast fare? Do read on…

Ghafir Akbar as Adam and Dawn Cheong as Brenda in the lead roles
A young Malay man named Adam (Ghafir Akbar) is about to marry a young Chinese woman Brenda (Dawn Cheong) soon. Several hours before Adam is about to go through the solemnization ceremony, he has the jitters. During this time, he recalls how he fell in love with Brenda and the obstacles he had to face to get where he is now. This recollection is told from the perspective of five different directors.

Fresh and not too bad. The script tries to be something different than most mainstream story lines and plots. It is told in a non-linear format which means the film jumps multiple times from one story to the other. The dialogue was aimed at adults and does explore themes of culture and religion in Malaysia. However, some might find this hard to follow as there were too many characters in the film. I felt more characterization could be done.

From an ensemble cast, I felt only 3 actors stood out with exceptional well performances. They are Ghafir Akbar and Dawn Cheong in the two leads. Actor Tony Eusoff who plays Adam's (Ghafir Akbar) brother did exceptional well as a conflicted individual battling his demons. The rest of the supporting cast members did very well.

L-R: Iedil Putra, Gavin Yap, Ash Nair, and Ghafir Akbar
From the start, you can see that it was produced on a low budget. The film itself is distributed independently and only limited screens are showing it. The editing is a little bit disjointed so as an audience, you have to follow closely the story and dialogue. Nice usage for different colour themes for different perspectives. I feel with more budget, this film could be really good.

It is a heavy drama. From start to the end, it is pretty slow. However, it does pick-up towards the end.

A tale of going through despair and hardship which slowly graduates to some positivity.

Very slow pacing. Deals with conflicting issues of religion and race that could be sensitive to some.

Fresh script and ideas for Malaysian cinemas.

If you are a fan of independent and drama films in Malaysia, this could be your cup of tea.

6 out of 10

Cuak screening dates are from 14th to 28th February 2014 at the following Tanjong Golden Village cinemas:-
TGV 1 Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
TGV KLCC, Kuala Lumpur.
TGV Sunway, Bandar Sunway, Selangor.
TGV Wangsa Walk, Kuala Lumpur.
TGV Cheras, Shamelin Shopping Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
TGV AEON Bukit Tinggi, Klang.
TGV Seremban 2, Negeri Sembilan.
TGV Mesra Mall, Terengganu.
TGV Kinta City, Ipoh, Perak.
TGV Tebrau, AEON Tebrau City Shopping Centre, Tebrau, Johor Bharu

Monday, 10 February 2014


Animated feature films are always my favourite to review. When it comes to these type of films, the filmmakers have the liberty of creating awesome camera angles that a normal camera on a live-action feature cannot awesomely achieve. Such liberty breeds creativity and I awesomely love it. The movie is inspired by a film-making technique called STOP-MOTION although it is done entirely by computer animation.

The title of the movie is called The Lego Movie. The name should sound familiar to many as it is based on the awesome construction building block toys for kids that has existed for so many decades. The film is directed by written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the pairing that brought you Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the 21 Jump Street remake. The animated feature is voiced by starts Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, and many many more.

How will this toy-inspired fare on the big screen? Do read on…

Almost the entire cast of characters from the movie
A construction worker named Emmet stumbles upon a piece of treasure in his Lego town which could save the future of his people from the evil plans of Lord Business. He is aided by a rag-tag group of heroes and superheroes along the journey.

Awesomely written and surprisingly heart-warming. I was expecting the script to be primarily targeted for kids but it can totally appeal for adults too. Nice and witty dialogue which make it an awesome fun ride. The various reference to various popular culture things were awesome too. The plot is kept simple and straight forward which I felt was essential in order to reach to a wider audience. Awesome! It is an almost laugh every minute type of story. I thought the storyline was going to be predictable but nice awesome twist towards the end.

The core cast of rag-tag heroes.
Voice acting is tough to evaluate but I feel all actors faired very well in their awesome roles. They were funny and each actor were just right for their roles. The characters felt awesomely believable with their involvement. Look out for Liam Neeson scene stealing roles as Good Cop, Bad Cop.

Chris Pratt voices Emmet, the lead of the film
High praises and extremely creative. It is one of those awesome unique films where we have never really seen the likes of. Truly original and awesome fun. The editing maybe a little too awesome fast for my liking during the action scenes but it was well countered with some awesome drama in between. The theme song ‘Everything is Awesome’ by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island will get stuck in your head for awhile.

Cameos from popular culture part one
Awesome! No complaints here.

The story of an underdog who overcomes all odds and criticism to emerge triumph. Awesome!

Cameos from popular culture part two
It is geared to kids. A little too cartoon-like. Some adults might not like it.

A very entertaining film from all aspects. Story, film-making, and likability.

$37 for a cup of coffee? Awesome!
Everything is awesome with this film. Go see it!

8.5 out of 10

Note: The word ‘awesome’ appears 19 times in this review.

Monday, 3 February 2014


Another Hollywood film remake comes to the big screen again. This time in the form of a film which some considers to be a classic and has achieved some sort of a cult status among many film fans. The film in question is the 1987 hit Robocop which was directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) and starred Peter Weller in the title role.

The remake has also the same title. Now, it is directed by unknown Portuguese director Jose Padilha and stars relatively unknown Joel Kinnaman in the title role. He is surrounded by an array of star-studded co-stars which includes Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Robocop is written by Joshua Zetumer. It has a release date of 12 February 2014 in the United States but is released two weeks earlier here in Malaysia.

Will this remake live up to its original? Do read on…

Joel Kinnaman as Detective Alex Murphy a.k.a. Robocop
In the not too distant future, Detective Alex Murphy is a one-of-a-kind police officer who dislikes corruption and upholds the law. His honesty has made enemies in the criminal world and even within his own police department. This results in him being a targeted for murder by some criminals. At the same time, a robotics corporation aims to beef up the protection of the American people from the criminal world. A sabotage explosion of his car caused nearly fatal injuries which prompted the robotics corporation to use Murphy’s body as a robotic police enforcer called Robocop.

Robocop's new suit.
Neat and exciting. Most movie remakes usually fail to honour their predecessors but this film did honour the 1987 film it was based on. All the names of the supporting characters were changed with the exception of the lead. It has almost the same story plotlines, motivations, and twists as the original. The dialogue was easily understandable despite its constant overuse of technical jargon which I felt could have been minimized. Good characterization as I can feel and relate with the actors portraying them. It does make the movie feel more ‘human’ than ‘machine’. At times, the film does look as though it could have stand-alone as an original film rather than a remake. This is a big plus point.

L-R: Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel, Michael Keaton, and Jennifer Ehle
Good casting and good performances. The casting of a star-studded supporting ensemble proved essential to give the movie a boost. I felt Joel Kinneman as the lead was not too convincing though he had some interesting moments. Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton did really well in their roles.

Joel Kinnaman and Jackie Earle Haley share a scene
The production design really excelled. Nice sets and nice props. Giving the Robocop suit a black look rather than the usual grey look was pretty okay. Nice visual effects and complemented well with the story. I would have liked to have more action scenes though but I feel the amount was just enough. There was a little excessive use of handheld camerawork which I felt was unnecessary. What’s with most action films having to use lots of handheld camerawork lately? Good fast paced editing should be praised. Also needs to be praised is the use of the Robocop theme music from the original film.

Gary Oldman in a heated debate with Michael Keaton
Just nice. No complaints here. For an action film, it did well. Good balance from act to act.

An individual who fights against the odds of who he is and his duty to the people around him.

Kinnaman grabs Oldman's throat
Quite a lot of dialogue-driven scenes. If you are in it for just the action, it might disappoint you.

Fans of the original might like this film. Good tribute.

"Dead or alive, you are coming with me."
It was a decent, enjoyable, and exciting film. It is not the best of film remakes but it does feel satisfied once you leave theatres. It is a recommended film if you are looking for something light but I won’t say it is a must-watch film.


7.5 out of 10