Friday, January 25, 2019
The film is set on a small tropical island called Plymouth surrounded by tranquil clear ocean water and warm sandy beaches baked in the sun. (If you want to book your next vacation there, the film's location is actually Mauritius.) Chain-smoking veteran Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) comes and goes from this scenic island into the sea looking for big tuna, and he occasionally takes paid tourists on his boat to go fishing.
Out of the blue, his estranged ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) shows up. Since Karen left Dill with their son Patrick (Rafael Sayegh) for her wealthy but abusive new husband Frank (Jason Clarke), Dill has cut off all contact with them even though Dill misses his son terribly. But Karen did not come to get back together with Dill, instead she is here to offer Dill a large sum of cash to kill Frank.
Given that Dill struggles with money and cares about his son's well-being, is he going to take up Karen's offer and get rid of the violent and obnoxious Frank?
With a deep voice and an elusive demeanor, Matthew McConaughey finely plays a mysterious character that the director Steven Knight envisioned. The tension and secretive atmosphere is nicely staged at the beginning of the film.
Then comes the problem: the story. The plot becomes more and more ludicrous and the story line has to be held together with a bandage. All the tension and mystery boil down to a simple question: will Dill feed Frank to the sharks today? No matter how Matthew McConaughey stares at you with his sad eyes, he can no longer hold your interest. And who is that kid that popped up from nowhere toward the end of the movie? For what?
You may feel like you have been tricked by the film's trailer which promises all the excitement and enigma, as if you've taken a vacation after being lured by a website about a fantastic destination, only to be disappointed upon arrival by the lack of substance the destination has to offer.
Even though the story ruined the movie, you might still want to book a vacation to Mauritius, where Dill is nowhere to be seen, so you can enjoy the tranquil scenery instead.
Friday, December 28, 2018
Top Ten Films in 2018
- "Happy as
Lazzaro" (Lazzaro felice |
Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany 2018 | in Italian |
"Happy as Lazzaro" superbly mixes a mysterious fable with social reality and creates a timeless character.
(Hungary 2017 | in Hungarian | 91 min.)
Gorgeously shot in black and white, "1945" grippingly unfolds when two mysterious men arrive at a village in Hungary after World War II has just ended.
(USA 2018 | 95 min.)
Shot in the Bay Area, "Blindspotting" unflinchingly yet eloquently tackles racial issues without cliché.
Republic of Desire ((China/USA 2018 | in
Mandarin | 94 min. | Documentary | My
No Trace (USA 2018 | 109
"Leave No Trace" intimately tells an arresting story about a pair of father and daughter who choose to live off the grid in a forest in Oregon.
- Three Identical Strangers (UK 2018 | 96 min. | Documentary)
A jaw-dropping, entertaining, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and fascinating story is incredibly unfolded in "Three Identical Strangers."
- Us and Them (后来的我们 | China 2018 | in Mandarin | 120 min.)
Thread (USA 2017 | 129
min. | My
- The Summer Is
Gone (八月 | China 2016| in Mandarin | 106 min. )
With an eloquent storytelling style quite similar to Edward Yang, the new Chinese director Zhang Dalei's (张大磊) "The Summer Is Gone" beautifully captures a 12-year-old boy's idle summer against the backdrop of China's social and economic transformation in the '90s.
((万引き家族 | Japan 2018 | in
Japanese | 121 min. | My
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
If Beale Street Could Talk
The film is set in New York City in the '70s. Childhood friends 22-year-old Fonny (Stephan James) and 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) are deeply in love and looking forward to building their young family together. However, their peaceful life is turned up-side-down after Fonny is wrongfully accused of raping a Puerto Rico woman and put in jail. Behind a glass wall during a jail visit, Tish brings the news to Fonny that she is pregnant, and promises him that she will get him out soon.
But how? Besides her very limited income from her job at a department store, she can only rely on her supportive family. Her dad Joseph (Colman Domingo), mom Sharon (Regina King), and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) all come together desperately trying to get Fonny out of jail before the baby is born.
The writer-director Barry Jenkins unfolds his story following two threads. One is the dreamy flow of the love story between the young couple, the other is the cry for Fonny's unjust incarceration due to racial discrimination. If the two threads were less intertwined by flashbacks, the slow-burn film would be more engaging with a steadier pace.
The constant flashbacks not only disrupt the film's rhythm, but also force us to shift our emotional engagement frequently. Just when we become furious about what the protagonists encountered, we are switched to a warm-colored moody setting occupied by two beautiful people as if Wong Kar-wai is sitting in the director's chair for "In the Mood for Love" (花样年华 2000).
However, the film's political message is as loud and clear as the legacy of James Baldwin's activism. It puts social injustice and racism on vivid display. The love story between Fonny and Tish is also probably one of the most poetic and mesmerizing African American couples on screen.
Perhaps that's precisely the point the filmmaker is trying to make by knitting these two threads together to illustrate how social injustice can destroy people's wonderful lives. While that intention might be logical, it works less effectively in the film.
Friday, December 21, 2018
The story begins with a fierce battle between Decepticons and Autobots on a planet called Cybertron. Facing defeat, a young Autobot B-127 is sent to Earth to protect mankind from destruction by Decepticons while waiting for other Autobots to arrive.
B-127 crash-lands into a military training led by Jack Burns (John Cena), and is badly hurt by Decepticons that are following him. But these robots never die, and B-127 transforms himself into a Volkswagen Beetle hiding in a junkyard.
Living in the Bay Area, free-spirit Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) has been moaning her father's death. She spends most of her free time in her garage trying to fix his father's old car and staying away from her mom (Pamela Adlon), her step-dad (Stephen Schneider), and her little brother (Jason Drucker). On her 18-th birthday, she discovers B-127 in the junk yard and gets the non-working car as a birthday gift. The next thing we see is that she brings the Beetle back to life and drives him home with a big smile.
Of course, B-127 is not a car. After he surprises Charlie by standing up in her garage, Charlie gives him a new name called Bumblebee. The amusing and tender bond between them begins to develop. But the garage is too small to keep Bumblebee as a secret. First Charlie's next door neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) finds out about Bumblebee, then the military commander Jack Burns and Decepticons track him down. To save humankind from total destruction, Charlie bravely helps Bumblebee to fight back the enemies.
The director Travis Knight never loses his focus on telling the story between Charlie and Bumblebee, despite all the noise from the fighting robots surrounding them. Not only did he make Bumblebee cute, charming, and lively, but he also depicts the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee as both heartwarming and delightful. By the end of the film, you won't view Bumblebee as simply a robot, but an unforgettable character.
Besides the storytelling, the film also brings out chuckles with its light-hearted humor, such as the brilliant and hilarious use of '80s music throughout the film. In addition, I enjoyed this film even more because many of the filming locations are in Marin Headlands where I frequently hike on weekends.
This is a perfect holiday entertainment for us to escape from the reality and politics, and marvel at the majestic beauty of Marin Headlands.