Monday, June 26, 2017


Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris,
Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders

"This is the story of a Lifetime"

Barry Jenkins directs this chronicle of a man's life from his childhood, his teen years up to a young adult.  The first part shows how "Little" as he was nicknamed faces harassment on a daily basis from bullies in his school. Mocked for his small frame and being taunted as gay, he has no solid support system for guidance as his single mother works all the time. A father figure enters his life briefly in the form of a 'compassionate' drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) who teaches him how to swim, try to still some confidence and uplift his self esteem. 

The second phase focuses on him as a teenager, now called Chiron (his real name) yet still faces the same harassment from his schoolmates. He also develops an odd friendship with Kevin, his classmate. Meanwhile, Chiron's drug addict mother is always high and hardly around to be supportive of whatever dreams the hapless boy has for his future.

A decade later, 26 years old Chiron is known in the streets as "Black". He is a drug dealer and his physique has changed. Buffed and able bodied from working out while he was in prison for some misdemeanor.  Physically, he looks strong and menacing, but deep inside he is still a reticent man with hardly any social life. He has also suppressed his sexuality until he is reunited with Kevin.

Just when it seems that things and life in general will be a lot kinder for Chiron, the film ends with a significant scene of "Little" frolicking in the beach on a moonlit night. But you can't help but smile as there is a glimmer of hope and a chance of a happily ever after for a troubled person who has gone through many struggles.

It was a good move to cast 3 different and unknown actors to portray the 3 different chapters in Chiron's life. Their acting was highly credible, as they imbibe the hardships that Chiron endured throughout his entire life with such a visceral force.  

"Moonlight" is a deeply poignant film that deals with relevant issues like bullying, drug addiction, sexuality and isolation. It is significant as it features the life of a black person but I think it could be applicable to any race and still have such a powerful impact on its audience. It deserves all its best film awards. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

21 Nuits avec Pattie
(21 Nights with Pattie)

French Film Festival 2017
Greenbelt 3 Cinema

Caroline goes to a remote town in the southern France to bury her mother whom the locals know as Zaza. She was a colorful character and well loved in that closely knitted community. But this is just 'hearsay' for Caroline as she has been estranged from her lawyer mother. Cutting her vacation with family short to take care of the funeral arrangements, she thought it would be fairly quick and done within 3 days.

But then Caroline finds herself stuck in that town when her mother's body (which was just lying in her bed) suddenly disappears. Surrounded by strangers who are a merry, eccentric group of people and out of her comfort zone, Caroline oddly finds herself in a path of self discovery and sexual awakening - something she has knowingly or unknowingly suppressed for a long period.

Set in a wine making small valley with its own peculiarities and bizarre rituals, the story sizzles as hot as the August heat that embraces its residents. Led by Pattie who was Zaza's housekeeper/friend, a woman who has no qualms narrating her sexual exploits, being quite explicit in her details. Everyone in the town are unabashed about their sexuality, swimming naked in the lake or in the swimming pool in Zaza's mansion.  

The plot also takes on a bizarre tone with images of Zaza's ghost gallivanting in her mansion to Caroline's dreamy hallucinations. At this point, one might lose interest as one realizes this is NOT a simple story about a daughter's grief and her coming to terms with feelings of abandonment, isolation and despair. But it just got too quirky and weird for my taste, unfortunately and I dozed off in the dark theater. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Le Dernier Diamant
(The Last Diamond)

French Film Festival 2017
Greenbelt 3 Cinemas

A seasoned burglar Simon (Yvan Attal) who was just released on parole is persuaded by his partner in crime Albert to join him on another heist. Their target is a rare diamond that is worth millions of dollars which will be displayed during an auction. 

Julia (Berenice Bejo) is the auctioneer and this is her first task after the sudden demise of her mother who inherited the valuable diamond. Enter Simon who disguises himself as a security expert connected with Julia's mother. Soon enough, Julia and Simon become romantically involved which conveniently gives him direct access to his 'prey'.

Yvan Attal, an established French actor who resembles a younger Al Pacino is fairly credible as the wise, charming middle aged thief. While Berenice Bejo who gained fame through the award-winning film, The Artist doesn't really need to do much but be glamorous which is a waste of her talent as proven by her in-depth role in the Iranian/French film Le Passe.

Amidst the luxurious backdrop of a high society event, the story goes beyond a typical heist movie by tackling deception, greed, corruption and redemption through unexpected twists and some intriguing side plots. Entertaining enough for the most part but the need to conclude with a feel.good ending causes what could have been a gem of a movie to lose its sparkle.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men tell no Tales

Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem,
Geoffrey Rush, Kaya Scodelario,
Brenton Thwaites, Orlando Bloom

AMC Plus Cinema, Pacific Place HK

After a tasty buffet lunch to celebrate Mom's birthday here in humid HK, we decided to watch a film ... any film for that matter. It has to be said that I rarely view movies within the dark confines of a cinema theater, nowadays.  

Not only was it a treat, this particular film was being shown in 3D with special vibrating seats to boot. This is my very first time to wear 3D glasses because (1) I have the impression it would make me dizzy (2) I prefer the traditional sans special effects type of entertainment.

But there is a first time for everything so bring it on! I have seen all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and they are definitely popcorn movies. The term refers to films that are fun to watch but not particularly good, they are usually riddled with special effects and offer a pure form of escapism. In short, they are entertaining and don't require much brain cells activity.

By this 5th offering of the franchise, Johnny Depp can portray the irreverent Captain Jack Sparrow in his sleep. Probably under the influence of alcohol too just to make sense of the numerous shenanigans his character goes through.

The common elements of this franchise are still applicable here ... the numerous cast, the comical sequences of Jack Sparrow making a fool of himself (the guillotine and bank vault scenes were a hoot!), the jokes, the explosive special effects both on land and in the unforgiving waves of the vast ocean, the murky narrative with several side plots involving curses and mysterious spells all meshed to create a chaotic maritime adventure and the pirate parlance in various accents.

For me, I found it way easier to grasp the story line in this installment. A complex full blown and well drawn out tale of revenge and redemption unfolding in a span of 129 minutes. 

I enjoyed it and I conclude by saying that wearing 3D glasses wasn't as bad as I expected even though a close up visual of Javier Bardem as the decaying Capitan Salazar was terrifyingly nightmarish. I had to close my eyes from time to time. 

The seat vibration though was thankfully quite mild and it did its part of preventing me from falling asleep.  Well this isn't necessarily due to the film per se so I'd attribute it to still being quite full from the delicious buffet lunch.


We did stay behind to wait for the short teaser/preview of the next movie after the very long credits. Well just for the heck of it because I'm clueless about its significance or how it fits into the whole franchise. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

By the Sea

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt
Melanie Laurent, Niels Arestrup

"When we Die on the inside,
the Outside is left wandering
dangerously By The Sea"

Set in the 1970s, this film is a glimpse into the troubled marriage of Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie). He is a struggling writer and she was a former dancer.  They settle into a hotel in some rustic French town so Roland can find some, any inspiration to finish his novel. The quiet yet picturesque coastal town bare silent witness to the cracks in their union. 

Both of them trapped yet also stubborn to open the line of communication to solve their problem. Vanessa gets lost with her booze and her cigarettes, preferring to stay in the room and further isolating herself. While Roland has developed writer's block, spends most of his time in the local bar drinking and chatting with Michel, the wise owner, wallowing in self pity as his wife shuts him out in every sense of the word.

The main source of their doldrums is revealed through brief flashes/scenes which alludes to some tragic incident that deeply scarred both of them. During their stay in the hotel, they do find a common 'hobby' which is creepy and invasive yet strangely it bonds them together. So it offers a distant glimmer of hope that their strained relationship can still be saved and not really beyond repair.

The scenic visuals of the seaside town consisting mostly of sepia toned images, the chic 1970s fashionable wardrobe of Vanessa, the thought provoking conversations between Roland and Michel (the bar owner) - all provide a good backdrop to the narrative. 

"By the Sea" unfolds at a slow pace which is reminiscent of a typical art-house European movie. The kind of film that relies heavily on the acting skills of its stars, long drawn out scenes with minimal dialogue yet evoke quite an impact, the sort that will tug at your inner core.  

This Jolie directed film though falls a bit short in that department because it got lost somewhere in the middle, and only picked up towards the end just when you feel a tinge of warmth towards Roland and Vanessa and finally grasp why their married relationship is like the loose end of a tethering rope. 

Frankly, it was painful to watch the anatomy of a failing marriage and certainly not an appropriate film to end the day with .. this being our 9th wedding anniversary. Heh!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts,
Chris Cooper,  Judah Lewis

"Life: Some disassembly Required"

Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just lost his wife in a horrific car accident which coincidentally he survived without a single scratch. A successful investment banker who works in his father in law's company, he struggles in coping with his sudden grief.

His way of dealing with it is unconventional as he proceeds to spiral out of control, going on a destructive path to unravel everything his life stood for. Physically and naturally emotionally, it is not normal behavior but it is the only way that Davis can come to terms with his loss.

His odd attitude begins at the very hospital where they were taken after the accident. A vending machine malfunctioned so he proceeds to write a complaint letter to the company which handles the apparatus.  His correspondence develops into an unlikely friendship with Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) the customer service rep of the company. In his letters, he takes on a personal tone as he admits to several misgivings about his wife, his career and his life in general. 

The film succeeds in delivering its message of a tinge of hopeful rebirth/redemption after a painful period of self destruction through the believable and nuanced performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. His characterization of Davis is poignant and will strike a deep chord with anyone who has lost a loved one. 

"Demolition" is an emotional film which tackles grief and tragedy in an unorthodox way with unusual characters, conveyed through sly humor, meaningful dialogue, good rapport between the cast and a fairly tolerable soundtrack.

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