Young Adult (dir. Jason Reitman, 2011) – Returning to her hometown, Mavis Gary is determined to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now a happily married man with a newborn daughter.
Young Adult offers an honest, sardonic take on one woman’s arrested development, in a darkly comic and thought-provoking character study.
Some things in the past are hard to let go of. When reality fails to live up to expectations, many look for that one turning point where things had started going wrong. For Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), she believes her decisive moment to be in her teenage years.
Soon after her divorce, she finds herself fixating on a twenty-year-old first love, determined to pick up where she left off. But there is just one problem. Her old flame Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is now happily married – with a newborn daughter.
Despite an apparent rom-com set-up, Young Adult unfolds to be much more. The incisive drama explores in-depth the deluded fantasies that quietly follow many into adulthood.
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Baby Driver (dir. Edgar Wright, 2017) – Deep in debt, a young getaway driver is coerced into working for a criminal mastermind, whose incrementally dangerous heists put him in a tough spot.
Driven by stylistic action, Baby Driver would more than please thrill-seekers who habitually set soundtracks to every little routine.
Baby Driver may seem like a novel concept, but it seems Edgar Wright has been building up to his rhythmic caper film all along. Back in 2002, he has already tinkered with the idea in his music video for Mint Royale’s Blue Song, starring Noel Fielding, Nick Frost, Julian Barratt, and Michael Smiley (whom I only wish were in this film):
His subsequent works have snuck in more than a few musical moments too. A standout scene in Shaun of the Dead saw scrimmage attuned to Queen’s anthemic Don’t Stop Me Now. Hot Fuzz introduced Sergeant Nicholas Angel to the addictive beat of Adam Ant. Not forgetting how Scott Pilgrim, well, launched the short-lived fictional career of Sex Bob-omb.
So it is unsurprising that his next project would own an equally killer soundtrack. Not content with stirring song choices, his latest stylistic adventure finds the visuals to match in a genre purely fuelled by excitement. Once the film opens with a getaway drive perfectly synced to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms, there is no question that the audiences are in for a real treat.
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Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2017) – During the second World War, the Allies successfully managed an extraordinary evacuation of over 300,000 troops against all odds.
Visually and aurally spectacular, Dunkirk both documents the resolve of the Allied in dire times, and presents the futility of war in harrowing honesty.
Heroes never set out to be heroes. They do what they believe is right, and expect nothing in return. Some die needlessly, others sacrifice without choice. Most leave no names and stories behind. Those who survive, are plagued with guilt over those who did not.
Dunkirk depicts this ruthless reality of war in its powerful tribute to many forgotten men and deeds in history. In a daring move, writer-director Christopher Nolan dilutes character backstories, subverting expectations of the genre. Yet such minimal dramatisation feels true to the crowd of 300,000 trapped during the Battle of Dunkirk.
After all, these young men are in many ways faceless on the battlefield. Their lives come to a standstill in wartime, when they lose their self-identity and fight in the name of their country. Bound to the present moment, we are made to realise how survival is all that matters, no matter whose.
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Sausage Party (dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon, 2016) – Some food products are about to learn the truth about their purpose.
From the guys behind This is the End comes a predictably raunchy and often objectionable comedy, amusing for what it is.
After eight years in gestation, the passion project of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is finally born. Enter Pixar’s defective cousin Sausage Party, which will leave unsuspecting audiences audibly aghast and possibly outraged.
Somehow managing to land a willing investor, this sausage-starring rated animation turns out as raunchy and juvenile as what you would expect from Apatow’s Frat Pack. For the lot who knew what they were getting into, this kooky project works better than it should.
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Lucid Dream (dir. Kim Joon-sung, 2017) – After the abduction of his son, Dae-ho attempts lucid dreaming, an experimental psychiatric therapy that enables patients to access lost memories.
Better enjoyed as a dramatic thriller than science fiction, Lucid Dream owes more to its excellent cast than the jerry-built plotting.
When an elusive memory is all you have to find your missing child, what wouldn’t you give to relive it for a glimpse of a clue? That is what drives Dae-ho (Soo Go) to revisit the day of his son’s abduction over and over again. Assisted by neurologist So-hyun (Kang Hye-jeong), he repeatedly reconstructs the scene in hopes of uncovering forgotten details, even if the experimental therapy comes at a cost.
Entering the dream world is nothing new but a rehashed concept, which The Cell and Inception have put forth on a grander scale. Lucid Dream sets itself up for inevitable comparisons to its spiritual predecessors, but makes a lesser mark in terms of stunning visuals or layered storytelling.
Continue reading “Review: Lucid Dream / Lusideu deulim (2017)”
Shimmer Lake (dir. Oren Uziel, 2017) – Local sheriff Zeke Sikes investigates a bank heist gone wrong, where a trio of small town criminals that includes his own brother appears to have skipped town.
A gratifying black comedy that comes up short on the characters front.
Touted as an inventive crime thriller told in reverse, Shimmer Lake may risk misleading hopes for a complex mystery noir à la Memento. But the Netflix original could be better off finding a kin in pulp magazines. Expectations are defied in other ways, where the cast of comedians holds off laugh-out-loud humour, in exchange for subtle black comedy.
The genre works well for this severe story that unfolds in a gritty small town. Andy Sikes (Rainn Wilson) is the man of the hour, on the run after a bank heist gone wrong. Leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, the local sheriff and his very own brother Zeke (Benjamin Walker) has taken the lead in the manhunt.
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