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.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen, George Mackay,
Samantha Isler, Frank Langella

"He prepared Them for Everything
except the Outside world"

You will be wrong if you assume from its title that this is a superhero action filled movie. Instead, you will be mesmerized by this indie film with an unconventional plot with well developed characters that shall tug at your heartstrings. Well if you are so inclined because I admit not everyone can identify nor agree with the way these characters live their lives.

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) lives in a deeply forested area (somewhere in the Pacific Northwest) where he has set up residence with his wife Leslie and their 6 children whose ages range from 6 to 18 years of age. Each morning, he awakens them with the sound of a bagpipe, then they have combat training where they are taught survival skills like hunting, weapons training, mountain climbing. 

During the evenings they all gather around a camp fire to read books about quantum physics and novels from radical thinkers like Dostoevsky, Karl Marx and Nabokov. The children are well versed both in survival skills as well as intellectually albeit their views are derived mostly from extremely left wing ideologies. Something which their parents have instilled in them since birth, no doubt. 

Early on, it is revealed that Leslie has been confined in some institution for bi-polar/depression by her parents who don't approve of her decision to live off the grid. Tragically, she kills herself so Ben must bring the grief stricken children out of the wilderness for her funeral. Something Ben is determined to stop as Leslie expressed in her will, she be cremated and her ashes flushed down the toilet. Yes, quite eccentric but that is how they roll. Heh!

The film turns into a long road trip to New Mexico where we see how difficult it is for the kids to adapt to the outside world where gadgets, pop culture and everything they have openly been taught to reject is now glaring at them up close and personal. 

Culture shock manifests itself and each of them react differently to their discovery of the 'real' world. It is an eye opener too for Ben as this experience raises troubling questions about his parenting style and how this alternative lifestyle might affect the future of the closely-knitted clan.

Viggo Mortensen, a very gifted actor who thinks out of the box and doesn't conform to the Hollywood type (which is a good thing, mind you!) is perfect as the authoritarian hippie whose radical views are extreme yet also has a soft heart when it comes to his family. The young actors portraying the children are very credible too. 

The cinematography is vibrant from the lush greenery of the wilderness to the colorful hippie-like attires of the characters. Running at almost 2 hours, it could benefit from some clever editing but its out-of-the-ordinary narrative was refreshing. Highly recommended!

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