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Interesting depiction of life with an intelligent OS
A good science fiction movie leaves behind viewers critical- thinking angles, and Her is no exception. To me the big win is how the direction was very clear towards the actors. I was impressed by how the actors depicted the nature of the people's behaviour living in a IT society where the current Iphone/touchscreen technology that we are familiar with had become redundant. The OS evolved to a level where Personal Assistants will be literally put out of job. However these OS are not just IT- intelligent but they have the emotional intelligence too. This movie investigates the prospect of the relationship between the human owner with his OS could become complicated. I think the key aspects were covered adequately though not entirely well rounded. But the outcome was too predictable in my opinion, and was quite apparent when I watched the first 30 min of the movie. The movie was a tad too slow for me and I think there is definitely room to add more spice. Could have been better if family members (or people of different generations) are added in because this will enrich the perspective substantially. Overall, the acting performances were good.
Le passé (2013)
All the Good Things from 'A Separation' is Relived in Le Passe
Asghar Farhadi is fast becoming my favourite storyteller of the century. Bringing Le Passe into the screen after his success with A Separation (I haven't watched Elly yet), I am happy to see the same elements (which made Separation memorable) existent in this film.
Both films at the core are focused on family drama, but different challenges altogether. Separation deals with the complexities on a religious viewpoint, and requires swift, high-level decision-making and clever communication skills to undo what could go awry easily in many places. Le Passe's challenge is different in my opinion, it is about the complications on relationship issues - something that is much more relatable to many families out there - that always appear irrational, devastating, and at times result in repercussions through generations.
Farhadi's skills as a filmmaker are unmatched - every single moment in this film is not wasted. His stories are like humanity itself, where things do not appear as they are on the surface and there is always something that more than meets the eye. Similar to Separation, in Le Passe, we see layers upon layers of twists, uncertainties, and agenda unfold and it ends up with the audience knowing that things cannot conclude with a simple solution. These factors, packed with impeccable performances by the lead cast members, are fortunately very very realistic i.e. not over-dramatic or nonsensical(though a lot of shouting war was shown).
The combination of brilliant, intelligent storytelling and impressive delivery of emotional performance is certainly what La vie d'Adèle fail to match - Le Passe is my top film to win the foreign Oscars this year!
La grande bellezza (2013)
Basically an Art Appreciation, Do not Find it Realistic
The artistry of this film is a Great Beauty in itself. But in terms of realism, I feel disconnected from the behaviour of the characters. I really wonder if the "activities" represent what most middle-aged people (and loaded with cash, of course) would do when they ponder what to spend, or think, through the remainder of their lifespan.
I am assuming some of these old guys do not have grandchildren, and are in the arts business, to go through nightlife and play around like a youth fresh into university. Because, common sense will tell you the 'priority list' that old people will do for the rest of their lives - i) spend more time with family, especially with grandchildren, ii) managing investments/ wills, iii) catching up with old friends or attend funerals, iv) probably play around with hobbies that are more relaxing and make more sense than 'night-clubbing', v) travelling. I am not against nightlife for the older generation, but the movie over-emphasized this.
By the way, they all look perfectly healthy (no medical appointments??). This is a very obvious point because health is likely to be a daily topic amongst the elderly, but there isn't' a single conversation on health in this movie! BIG BIG minus point. Some guys in their 20s already have more medical problems than the old men and women in this film!
I am not an art person and therefore I am giving some leeway that there may be some intention on why the film is designed as such. But, I feel the movie could have been more wholesome. Wholesome-ness is definitely not a beauty found in this movie. More importantly, the age group is totally out-of-whack. I would have enjoyed the movie more if it were people in their 30-40s (i.e. mid-life crisis) but I refuse to believe that it represents the lifestyle of an ageing Roman society. I hope it stays away from winning major int'l awards.
La vie d'Adèle (2013)
Jam-packed with emotions that hit the right spots
Aside from the sex scene which seemed kind of mechanically choreographed for show (and unnecessarily long), I think this movie hits the right emotional spots for every aspect of sexuality issues - it appeared to me as the most wholesome movie about the coming-of-age sexuality that was made in the past decade.
Adele & Lea, the main leads, should deserve the Oscar (if only it is possible for that category) for their acting performances that were very convincing during the ups and downs of the relationships. For Adele in particular, the movie demands a lot from her role. It explores the sexual identity confusion at the beginning, to the moment when true love appears, the joys and challenges to maintain that relationship, and what comes after that. Adele manages to nail every scene by bringing out a whole spectrum of emotions.
Whether it is a lesbian story or not, in the realm of movies dealing with romance I can easily rank this one as high as the likes of 500 Days of Summer, for the level of depth and honesty. It is definitely far more genuine than the pretentious "The Kids are All Right". La vie d'Adèle's strength is in the raw emotions so it does not need to rely on philosophical/ intelligent points which may work in some other movies of the same genre, even though the director did raise some food-for-thought, verbally, in certain scenes that were not-so-obvious. The only thing that drags this movie below perfection is I feel there is still a lack of involvement from the side characters (parents, friends circle, ex-lovers) given that it is a 3-hour movie. There is some, but not enough. In a coming-of-age story, influence form the people around the main characters could be important factors to how relationship changes.
As the Palm d'Or winner, I would be happy if it to win the foreign Oscar, but this failed to top Le Passe (A follow-up of the brilliant A Separation) in my view
The Butler (2013)
Indecisive, and what's worse insulting to the Original Butler
This was a huge disappointment. I want to touch on 2 points here .
First point, Indecisive - This movie is a real Yawn. Here we have another one of those films that is centered on racism...but it kind of ends up rather all over the place. I understand that each character has its own perspective, on whether to actively participate in politics or to be submissive. In fact I think the directors purposely position the movie in that the whole family encompasses different angles of African American struggle. The sad thing is, in the end, such monumental ordeal appeared rather ordinary, simply because the creators didn't locate enough strings to connect all the dots together, and provide that resonance that would have made this movie amazing.
Second point, whether this movie portray the original butler in a justified manner, never mind that it is only 'loosely' based on Eugene Allen's account. Online sources (very easy-to-find wikipedia articles) reveal several critical flaws that ticked me off - i) the wife was not an alcoholic, ii) the son that went to fight in Vietnam returned home in one piece, iii) the other son was invented, iv) he only attained the highest butler rank during Reagan's administration v) The butler's beginnings were all fabricated - this point is the biggest mistake committed in this movie, in my opinion, because we as the audience would want to know how the main character chose the path of a butler in the first place.
Compelling, But Not Entirely Plausible
Jagten's story has much to offer in terms of controversy - a well-loved kindergarten teacher, recently divorced, but with many good friends in the small community. But things go horribly wrong for Lucas when an accusation is made against him by a child, and the situation escalates out of control.
What happens after that, as a result of a child's innocent imagination, is ugly. The acting performances of Mads Mikkelsen and the supporting cast were commendable given that it was a great challenge to make the ensueing events believable and comfortable for the viewers.
Personally for me, there are some parts in this movie that were less plausible, for instance how easily long-forged friendships were torn down easily by some event w/o physical evidence, how easily violence takes over rationale and reasonable judgement, and one year is not a convincing enough timeframe to display on the 'surface' that things return to normal.
Jagten is a work well done, but it pales in comparison to "A Separation", also a movie that deals with very controversial subjects but manages to carry it well with full, plausible scenarios.
Captain Phillips (2013)
A Fine Film Doing its Best to Stick Close to Reality, but not a Wholesome One
When it comes to films premised on true events, a key priority in my ratings would be how close the film is able to convey what has happened in the real-life accounts. I have studied various accounts - testimony of Capt Philips, the director, the disatisfied crewman and the sole survivor of the Somali pirate group - I think the film has done its best to compress a 5-day ordeal into a two-hour movie and remained focused on the essence of the story, despite dramaticizing certain events.
To me, the true magic of Captain Philips lies in Tom Hank's acting performance of despair and trauma during the final 30-minutes of the movie. The performance from the Somali supporting actors was another surprise to me, even though I can sense some hints of stereotyping.
Tom Hank's version of Captain Philips was too talkative (as a hostage), making the Somali looked like they were easy targets for manipulation. Like other American-military theme based films, Captain Philips is still a victim of romanticizing the American glory, as the balance was being overly skewed towards the perception of the Americans (especially from a talkative Tom Hanks). It was reported that the Somali survivor's accounts was not captured in this movie. I think the film would have been more realistic if it was made in a slightly different feel, allowing the pirates more room to express their intentions and/ or how they feel about their actions.
My biggest disappointment of all was that the movie does not fulfil one criteria to be having >8/10 rating - it is not wholesome. I am not talking about the fact that it ignored the accounts of some other crew members, or the account of the Somali pirates. I was referring to how the film doesn't do enough to fit into the bigger picture. Although both factors would help make the film better, I understand the limitations this film had. Captain Philips was one of the most dramatic newsflow (that involves just an individual, essentially) since the Obama administration. It was portrayed in the movie (which did happened in real life) that a dozen of SEAL guys and a big US Navy warship were up against a small lifeboat of 4 Somali pirates. What happens to the other ships captured by other pirates that probably summed up to 200 crews as hostages? It was reported by NY Times that "Every country will be treated the way it treats us," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying in a telephone interview. "In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying." Honestly, the movie could have dedicated 10-20 minutes for that.
A Clever, Touching Story on Robot Rehab
To quote Wiki's summary, Hal movie's story takes place in a technologically advanced society in which robots can be programmed to behave like a complete human. A robot is asked to replace "Hal", who died in an accident, to help Kurumi, Hal's girlfriend move on in life. "Hal" struggles to understand the real Hal's past, Kurumi's affections towards Hal as well as the meaning of being alive.
To me, this is one of the more memorable sci-fi movies of 2013. The film does not appear to be particularly emotional and easy to watch. But it has its touching moments. What I like about this movie is it paints a very realistic approach on robot rehab (even though it is not a commercially viable technology at this time).
Much of my rating is skewed towards the greatest magic which lies in its very successful twist. Because that twist made this movie stood out amongst many other movies touching on rehab topics out there. Still, considering the subject matter, the movie is far from perfect, at least in my opinion knowing that the director had been involved in many other high profile anime works in the past (like Place promised in our early days, Attack on Titans etc)
Ogawa no hotori (2011)
Scenic take on a Samurai's morally challenging assignment
This is a well-made Samurai piece and also the only "HD quality" movie presented in the Japanese Film Festival 2013 in GSC. The story is pretty simple and straightforward. It is a journey of a respected samurai (and his sidekick) who was given a morally challenging assignment from his Lord.
The pace was a tad too slow for me, but there is a reason for that. The Samurai here required ample time, to think and take things slowly, to consider every key point in history (hence the flash backs) to fully understand the meaning of his task. Which also meant balancing between his loyalty to his professional calling and the conflicts that involved family and friendship. In this respect, the movie did good job providing sufficient materials for the audience understanding.
Nevertheless, I believe the pace was just right for the mass audience to appreciate the great scenery, the masterful music composition (sounds to me that Hishashi was behind this), and the feelings each character had towards the consequences of the task.
Perhaps the biggest problem that prevented me from giving a 7 star (or above) is the acting performances, while good in general, is too theatrical, slow and too silent at times. It takes away more rational actions, especially by the female characters, that could add variety to the theme. The fact that women at that time was supposed to be submissive may as well be made redundant by the fact that the mother was a very outspoken character. However, the main character's wife seemed too calm for the fact that her loved ones may lose their lives. Tazu was another surprise towards the end of the film, knowing her personality, she accepted defeat (and a solution) too easily.
Somehow reminded me of Okuribito
Tsunagu, like Okuribito, is another film that brings positive light on the subject of death. During the main character's apprenticeship, his grandma taught him to lead some of the connection or "tsunagu" between certain individuals who wanted to glimpse their dearly departed. The key thing is that the main character's story was not the centerstage - this film spent much time developing a few clients' stories.
Thus, we get to see a good blend of relationships-family, love couples and best friends. Some arcs were pleasant to watch, some were cases where things may not go as well as planned, but all were generally heartwarming. Through a one-time chance to reconcile with the dead, the movie also raised the issue of moving on in life.
While the execution was smooth, and some scenes may be designed as tearjerker, the whole movie seemed to lack the extra ingredient to make it truly stand out. Some scenes were overly dramatic. Another turnoff for me is that some of the actions that somehow made the ghosts seem to be able to 'contact/touch' physical matter made the whole process too easy as if it is from a children's cartoon. Hence it is a 6/10.
A character study employing multi facet point of views
I believe the primary purpose of this movie is to, demonstrate how relationships and conflicts are so diverse across individuals, that their perception on a similar matter can never be the same. For that, high marks are awarded.
Kirishima is supposed to be the popular student but never present in the movie physically speaking. His unintentional absence instead is to provide a pivot...and eventually proved to the audience that one's absence could trigger unwanted effects on the togetherness/friendship/reliance on another individual. And the effects can be compounded. The movie repeatedly play the same scenes several times, but at different camera angles and different 'main characters' to illustrate the aforementioned views.
The final scene was a letdown to me as the gathering on the rooftop it was rather unrealistic. but overall, not many movies are able to illustrate well the effect when the plot only happened in such a short span of time.
Nankyoku ryôrinin (2009)
Do not watch this movie on an empty stomach!
This marked the first of several films that I have watched during the Japanese Film Festival held in the GSC Cinemas (Msia) in Sept 2013. It contained an interesting concept - basically pertaining to survival skills employed by modern day professionals under extreme working conditions.
It is something everyone can relate to at some point in our professional or student life. Postings to places far from our home, or working 24/7 for a demanding project. Effects conjured out as a result of leaving our comfort zones, like homesickness, feeling out of touch with family members' or loved ones whereabouts, urban lifestyle etc...but in this case, the saving grace is that the 'trapped' scientists had the luxury of a chef to provide the best of the most important necessities of all, which is home made food.
It is rather amazing how sophisticated dishes can be made under lack of variety of food choices, and the low water boiling point. But another sweet side of the movie is that it quite diversely covered the fun activities that are likely to happen to fill in the boredom. There were the unpleasant side of the activities too, for instance during long distance phone calls which were better not made in the first place, or one particular favourite scene where a member threw tantrum as a particular food supply ran out.
The only couple of things I can name that the movie did not cover at all were the doctor's chores, it was like none of the members had any health problems throughout the over 400-day stint.some of the characters were severely underdeveloped, I didn't get to know their background or why they chose to participate in the expedition at all.
Overall this is easily a heartwarming movie but given its time length I felt more allocation to character development could be done to substitute for some of the food scenes. A 6.5/10 movie to me.
Technotise - Edit i ja (2009)
Good attempt despite unsatisfactory ending
This non-Japanese cartoon film actually deserves some credit for its catchy theme and fast-paced execution. The characters have diverse personalities and a hint of a tendency to be rebellious in the train of thought without the usual clichéd stereotypes. Overall well made, but not saved from heavy flaws in the lack of intimacy between some key characters (they did show some intimacy but it felt like a flash video clip). Some scenes were also jumpy I felt may disrupt the flow of the plot, especially given the sci-fi nature of its theme that can appear complicated to some of the audience members. The biggest flaw in my opinion is the unsatisfactory ending, which felt too rushed and not doing enough to justify the whole 1.5 hours of the movie.
Man of Steel (2013)
Probably the first superhero movie that takes glory in the mass genocide of human lives!!
4/10 as the cons outweigh the pros
I am quite disappointed in this movie, given that I am quite a fan of both Zack Snyder's and Nolan's works. Points highlighted as below:-
1. Probably the most vulnerable superman film in terms of his humanity and the struggles in search of identity and belonging. Probably the first movie to show how his powers were a discomfort to him. Probably the first movie that shows how imperfect he was and he was not able to protect everyone
2. Mind-blowing action sequences of the usual Zack Snyder-quality
3. Great acting performances by all-star studded cast
4. No room for unnecessary romance (except for a ridiculous 3-4 min of the movie) which was a good move given that it was the story of his initial journey as Superman
5. They made Lois Lane the Best Reporter to ever appear in Movies - a true investigator, and a very daring one
6. They made the Kent parents very cool and modern parents in their own right
Cons:- 1. The biggest flaw is that this movie went against all key fundamentals that defines Superman. Although the action sequences were beautifully made, I was more troubled by them (rather than savouring them) because the film conveniently ignored and "censored" the HUGE amount of human (by-standers) casualties caused by the destruction. No excuses on 'the world now is a darker place so destruction should be more realistic' because such massive destruction happened in the movie as the parties involved did not do their jobs properly to make the inevitable less painful. The fact that Superman allowed this to happen, and partake in it without worrying about human lives (except for a few key characters) was seriously horrendous to the very essence that build his character. I would have been more satisfied if Superman tried to save a few more other than Lois even if he can't save a whole city of citizens. But For instance, his fight scenes with Zod could be better done elsewhere (i.e. lure him away from the dense civilization to the ocean or something?) without smashing into buildings and causing potential loss of innocent survivors. HELLO? If Batman could do it (when fighting against his villains in Nolan's movies), why cant Superman do it?
2. How on earth, when the breathe support was down, did Zod able to permanently adapt to Earth's atmosphere at the last moments for such a long fight scene? This script was written by Nolan, "revenge" was NOT a convenient excuse
3. Another STUPID major error - Superman cant breathe in Kriptonian Spaceship (quite obvious it wasn't due to any Kripton material). It is a well known fact Superman can hold his breath in vacuum/ outer space where there is no air at all, and it was already explained in the movie that he learned the art of sharpening his focus
4. Superman allowed his hometown to be devastated (again I don't want to repeat the point of any potential loss of lives) in unnecessary long fight scenes when he could have just K.O. his foes by ripping all the Kriptonian's breathing masks off. HELLO! Both Superman and ZOD himself explained in the movie that 'their temporary weakness was revealed'
5. Superman actually murdered someone in this movie. That scene was not well-made. I do not know for sure if he had other ways to prevent the murder, but logically speaking he should have other ways because he IS Superman and he already said in the movie he can do things that others cant (a choke hold is the LAMEST way to go about it). Sure he showed regrets and even consulted Lois for his actions, but that scene lasted for a mere 5 minutes which was barely a justification for such a radical change in Superman's character - and then we have that stupid ending
6. Too many inconsistencies in the plot - the same flaw seen in The Dark Knight Rises - for example, Why do they need Lois Lane on board the Kriptonian spaceship (and with a welcoming breathing mask for her) when her purpose in the end was to disrupt their operations? Why did Clark take such a stupid risk to decide to hand over to Lois his father's chip? Why when was a planet about to be destroyed, have its citizens care about their last few hours of their lives deciding how to banish some 'war criminals' , which actually made more sense to banish them to stay in the dying planet and use the ice technology to save a few good/ deserving citizens to carry on the Kryptonian's survival? In one-on-one scenes, Why did only a few Kryptonians went into real confrontational action against humankind and the heroes (what were the others doing)? Why did people or Daily Planet seemed to be calm and not question the government on the disturbing videos? The government's scientist / doctor already mentioned that the World Device was using GRAVITY force, and yet the commander sent war planes to destroy the devices, and the scientist was there too. HOW STUPID!
It would be very very awkward if Clark Kent can retain his hidden identity in MOS 2, given that too many people knew about his identity ever since his childhood
009 Re:Cyborg (2012)
Graphics reminded me of GITS Innocence, but bogged down by mediocre plot
When I glanced through the names of the production team behind this movie, I honestly expected a lot out of it. You have Kenji Kamiyama, who is understandably the perfect guy for this movie, having directed some well-known works like Eden of the East. This was especially so given his experiences in bringing out hidden "human" values through cyborgs in his GITS series. You also have Kenji Kawai, who produced some of the best soundtrack ever heard in sci-fi series.
However this movie felt to me like these guys went back to school, or maybe they were not trying to surpass their previous works. Kenji Kawai's scores this time around had no new tune to them, almost sounded like recycled from his own previous works.
The cyborg characters were bland. The lack of dialogue between the characters was not the problem, but I expected something more systematic instead of jumping through events as if they had no significance to the bigger picture. They were trying to milk out a juice I call "character's thoughts" especially right at the end, which I felt was still poorly executed
There seemed to be a critical lack of interaction of events with each other, And this in my opinion was more serious an issue than the lack of interaction between characters because you need events to correlate with each other well to make difficult concepts in sci-fi materials approachable to the audience.
Overall, A fan or anyone familiar with their works would expect something thought-provoking out of the movie. But this time around, "thought-provoking" was an ingredient clearly missing - like an empty shell.
There were a few chapters of pre-anime release manga that can be easily searched online. The manga chapters had slight alterations to the movie, but then, it makes me wonder if this movie was actually made for the manga or something else, which makes sense because of its second-class quality.
Koto no ha no niwa (2013)
A Short Film but Contained The Same Magic seen in "5cm Per Second"
Makoto Niitsu really did it again. Despite being only about 45 min in length, the message delivered still carried the same taste that was seen in his earlier works which included '5 centimeters per second' and 'voices of the distant star', but this time was set in a realistic urban setting rather than a more fantasy approach.
The intricate details in the visual and the soothing sound effect might have played a big part in it, but the real magic was of course brought out from the stories of the characters. Without giving out spoilers, it is essentially about people finding their way out of impediments towards life's goals and the loneliness that often accompanies them. And this sometimes brings people together in odd ways. (7/10)
Reminded me of City of God
There are already a few pieces of movies with the same core reference to child soldiers in Africa. They all had one thing in common - they showed us an overall birds-eye view of what child soldiering was like. This movie appeared to be steered in a different way. It is not an overall picture of things, but rather a personal ordeal told from a strong-willed girl.
Aside from some of the the wishy washy 'voodoo' and romance elements of it, there are many things worth pointing out from this movie. The key attraction is of course the fantasy side of things which artistically fit very well into the overall story. But ultimately it is a heartwarming story of survival.
The style used in this movie reminded me of City of God, not because of whether it possess the same style or the gore behind it (well it was not that gory), but the music used and the tone of the setting are unique in its own way.
Hello! This is not Amour!
While I was impressed with the director's earlier works (White Ribbon), this movie to me did not deserve to win the best Foreign Film.
Okay, whatever that transpired in the events from start to finish, they may have been based on true accounts, but from what I saw, they are more voided of 'amour' which was the exact opposite of my expectations (even though the movie deliberately gave off a spoiler of the ending from the first 3 minutes of the movie).
What I see throughout the whole ordeal was selfishness.
Lets start of with the wife. The woman refused hospital treatment at the beginning was understandable. But when she knew later on the sacrifices her husband is doing on her behalf, if she loved him and her family enough, she should have reconsidered her decision before losing away all consciousness through a slow but degrading state of losing away one's mind. If she did consider those options somewhere along the way, the movie failed to show it. Now that is selfish.
Lets go to the husband. Now that is another selfish bastard. He may be a stubborn character judging from how he treats the nurses and his own family members who doubted his intentions. That is understandable. But, he knew he was as fragile as she was (what happens if he got into an accident? Or if he ended up in the same fate as her?) He knew he was not qualified to take up such challenges all by himself. And yet, he asked for the barest minimum of assistance from nurses (who are not part of the family, they may cause trouble) and neighbours who helped with minimum chores. Now is that love? Love should have prompted him to seek help from family members - if not, he should at least seek help from his close friends, which I am sure at least one of them encountered such situations and would be able to help him. Doing all of these things alone, is hardly a moral thing to do and hardly inspiring.
The daughter. She is also selfish. Based on her conversations with her father, it is clear that she was not taking it seriously. If I am in her place, and my dad refused to convey to me what was going on, I would ASK THE NEIGHBOURS, who knew their situation better than the daughter. i would ASK HIS FRIENDS. I would probe until I find out what was really wrong as soon as I suspected something about it. At the very least, if I cannot spare my own time to come over to the house, I should get myself involved in getting some really competent people (doctors, friends etc) instead of letting my own father HANDLE EVERYTHING. The movie had at the very least showed that the daughter did not care to consider or mention any of those options.
Now can you tell me, if this movie deserves such a title? Maybe so, if the purpose is to force us to ponder about what is right and wrong in such situations. To me, the director should have chosen a better title. Not every viewer have the level of maturity to understand the meaning of the movie especially with such a controversial title. While the more intelligent crowd may be in awe of this movie, I feel that he had been disrespectful to the mass audience...we expected more, and most of us have parents and are expected to take care of them when they are old. Now, Haneke, are you trying to give us amour? Or making us senile and confused?
Lo imposible (2012)
Can't Help it but Felt Inadequate
Based on the fact that the actual family behind the movie was a huge supporter throughout the whole shooting process, and the fact that they actually went back to the original locations in Thailand to shoot the movie, I think the director and his team tried hard to make it as realistic as possible. The CGI was quite well-crafted.
Maria Belon herself already said the movie is accurate Maria Belon (the real mother) in an interview responded to a question on what she thinks the movie will mean to people. She said it is not about that it was a story on another person, but it is a story that people can connect with even though they had not seen a tsunami. She stressed that it is part of a struggle of life, that everyone can recognize and relate to.
Sadly, I do not think that this movie did enough to accomplish the things she said. Even after all the scenes of being trapped in the water and the sense of not knowing whether your loved ones survived, I still felt empty from the movie. There are scenes where it would have made more sense to conserve energy but the main leads wasted them with unnecessary melodrama. Dialogues were limited, understandably because people at times do not know or do not want to say anything under that level of trauma...but the director could have allocated more scenes/ more body language/ involve more people at the correct times, to make up for the disconnect.
I do not believe Naomi Watts did a good job portraying Maria Belon. When I watched Maria's interview, my impression that she was a strong woman and the type that would put rationality above emotions. She was not afraid to re-watch the movie on sufferings that she herself endured, but she felt pain when she watch the sufferings OTHERS endured. I do not understand why Naomi, who have had many conversations with Maria, failed to recognize Maria's strong personality but instead portrayed her crying too often (not when she was crying in physical pain but there were many scenes where she was crying for the sake of crying). Of course I knew she was aware at that time of the things she may have lost and that she was in between life and death. But her eldest son was with her all the time and common sense would say she was needed to be strong! Naomi did a wonderful job portraying a mother thinking about her children no doubt. But not a wonderful job portraying a woman strong at heart. Maria did said she nearly gave up at the end, but Naomi looked to me as already given up somewhere in the middle.
Junkers Come Here (1995)
Falls short of being memorable
This is quite a nice anime movie. On the surface, the anime tried to sell its story with the attraction of a unique talking dog. However in its core essence, it was a movie about family problems and a little girl who just wanted the best for her family. There were some comical moments and the sad moments were not overly sentimental. However, what prevented me from rating this movie a 7 star or above, was due to the fact that the final moment was a bit of a letdown in my opinion. It was like the creators were rushing for deadlines and came up with a convenient solution to the ending. If this movie was remade with a better ending, magical or not, it could have the potential to be on par with the best anime movies of all time.
Ohishisama no rêru (1993)
Simple but Uplifting
This is another rare gem. This movie was not made to be overly sentimental or melodramatic. It was not made to display too much details that may be uneasy to watch. The events that were told from the main character's memory, were simply being told as they should, recollecting from memory.
But even despite the lack of creative storytelling techniques, the story itself has abundant amount of details rarely seen in other war-related anime or real life works. It is different because it was about a Japanese family trying to survive war time in Korea. I was impressed that the movie involved characters from both sides of the equation.
Some may compare this movie to Grave of the Fireflies. Though the latter was far more devastating in its take on war, in my opinion The former stood out better in terms of the degree of being realistic, or at least the characters were thinking rationally. I had a problem accepting the stubborn attitude of the main character in GoTF, as it did not make sense for a child to act spoilt in times of war.
Furusato Japan (2007)
A humble piece amongst many great anime works
Even as an avid anime fan I am still pleasantly surprised to come across an anime movie that is as humble and down-to-earth, such as Furusato, Japan. The strongest point presented in this movie is it has such a low-key attitude against the severity of the setting (post WWII economical situation). The movie chose not to dwell too much drama on the tragic side of things, but focus on the key message it was meant to deliver - a sense of optimism and the importance of preserving one's culture and looking forward to the future.
Speaking of the point of being humble, I have come across many anime masterpieces (Ghibli's works for instance) that blew me away with characters that are natural and well-loved, but Furusato is unique in my view in that all of its characters - adults and children alike - acted well within what was expected of their age group and did not overact, more importantly they made decisions with rational, maturity and completely genuine intentions; all these truly garnered my respect. Furusato is perhaps one of the closest anime I have seen that portray properly how people should behave individually and as a society in real life, even when they make mistakes.
Due to this unique factor, the movie deserves 7 stars despite a relatively simple storyline and amateur animation techniques. Understandably for the lack of character development, some quick research pointed out that this movie was intended more like an appreciation piece rather than a character-driven story.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Heavily Technically Flawed! Again!
I had reservations when I saw the name of the director who was responsible for the disastrous Hurt Locker (which I can only rate 4/10 stars, titled Heavily Technically Flawed! Well, looks like I am tempted to recycle this title again. Although the delivery looks better than Hurt Locker, the problem with this film came haunting back as technical flaws and wrong cultural perceptions again. Recreating real life stories (even if you have to adjust for some scenes for the sake of commercial appeal) is not that hard to do given the competitive movie-making talent nowadays - the real challenge to me is making sure the key details (even if they do not contribute to the plot) stays intact.
There were enough critic articles out there that were disappointed in how inaccurate the film is depicting the situation and the lifestyle in Pakistan, such prejudice that are available in so many sources that I wont comment here. Argo was also victim of this flaw, by the way.
For this movie, I would like to borrow from Esquire's interview of the shooter of bin Laden himself, his thoughts on the film seemed to show that he was turned off by the technical flaws as well, but commended on the film's portrayal of the CIA female analyst Maya:-
"They torture people in this movie, don't they? Everyone is chained to something."
The Shooter is sitting next to me (the interviewer) at a local movie theater in January, watching Zero Dark Thirty for the first time. He laughs at the beginning of the film about the bin Laden hunt when the screen reads, "Based on firsthand accounts of actual events." His uncle, who is also with us, along with the mentor and the Shooter's wife, had asked him earlier whether he'd seen the film already.
"I saw the original," the Shooter said. As the action moves toward the mission itself, I ask the Shooter whether his heart is beating faster. "No,". But when a SEAL Team 6 movie character yells, "Breacher!" for someone to blow one of the doors of the Abbottabad compound, the Shooter says loudly, "Are you kidding me? Shut up!" He explains afterward that no one would ever yell, "Breacher!" during an assault. Deadly silence is standard practice, a fist to the helmet sufficient signal for a SEAL with explosive packets to go to work.
During the shooting sequence, which passes, like the real one, in a flash, his fingers form a steeple under his chin and his focus is intense.
But his criticisms at dinner afterward are minor.
"The tattoo scene was horrible," he says about a moment in the film when the ST6 assault group is lounging in Afghanistan waiting to go. "Those guys had little skulls or something instead of having some real ink that goes up to here." He points to his shoulder blade.
"It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way toward the target, and they talked way, way too much during the assault itself. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way." The tactics on the screen "were bad," he says, and "the mission in the movie took way too long" compared with the actual event. The stairs inside bin Laden's building were configured inaccurately. A dog in the film was a German shepherd; the real one was a Belgian Malinois who'd previously been shot in the chest and survived. And there's no talking on the choppers in real life.
There was also no whispered calling out of bin Laden as the SEALs stared up the third-floor stairwell toward his bedroom. "When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name." "They Hollywooded it up some." The portrayal of the chief CIA human bloodhound, "Maya," based on a real woman whose iron-willed assurance about the compound and its residents moved a government to action, was "awesome" says the Shooter. "They made her a tough woman, which she is." The Shooter and the mentor joke with each other about the latest thermal/night-vision eyewear used in the movie, which didn't exist when the older man was a SEAL.
"Dude, How come I never got my four-eye goggles?" "We have those." "Are you kidding me?" "SEAL Team 6, baby." They laugh, at themselves as much as at each other.
The Shooter seems smoothed out, untroubled, as relaxed as I've seen him.
But the conversation turns dark when they discuss the portrayal of the other CIA operative, Jennifer Matthews, who was among seven people killed in 2009 when a suicide bomber was allowed into one of their black-ops stations in Afghanistan.
They both knew at least one of the paramilitary contractors who perished with her.
The supper table is suddenly flooded with the surge of strong emotions. Anguish, really, though they both hide it well. This is not a movie. It's real life, where death is final and threats last forever.
Ookami kodomo no Ame to Yuki (2012)
This Movie Deserves a Standing Howl!
Many anime works, including the likes of Ghibli's pieces, suffered from a few things: i) imbalance flow of plot, where certain stages/ arc of the storyline were memorable but the rest of the story fail to make an impact that they were expected to ; ii) actions taken by the characters that appear irrational or falling into the cliché category.
In my opinion, I am glad to see that this film did not become a victim to such traps. The characters, even if they are not necessarily pure human beings, are the most down-to-earth anime characters I have seen in recent times. The movie made a good decision to focus rather on the story of how the mother cope on her own, taking care of her two growing-up children under such conditions where she cannot simply request for anyone's help.
In my opinion, Ame to Yuki carved its brand in creating such an incredible plot, when there are already tons of other movies or series that famously exhibited vampires/ wolverines, and yet probably a very few pieces out there took the opportunity to explore the possible life situations that could materialize if a human were to commingle with a non-human character, at least not to such a degree Ame and Yuki did.
Of course, I am aware that the movie chose to take on a very optimistic approach, which could otherwise complicate things substantially. The mother was a very open-minded person; she made a few life-changing decisions that I believe not many mothers will be willing to commit to the same. How she eventually settled down in a village environment where the village neighbours seem to choose to be oblivious to her background was deemed very lucky in my opinion. How the daughter managed to get the trust of a close classmate was also very optimistic.
Overall, this is a down-to-earth gem that would be highly recommended, especially to anyone who likes cute wolves.
A Dark Material which is Surprisingly Humane
This anime film is incredibly dark. It covers extreme poverty, hunger, cannibalism -- conditions that no one will want to see themselves live in such conditions . It explores humanity's perseverence and willpower against all odds.
That said, I was surprised by the good moments especially on Asura's side. His difficult journey of discovering his identity was a heartwarming experience. I do not think its well-crafted 3D techniques poses a problem in terms of what the film is trying to deliver.
Overall, while I was impressed with the film's impact and delivery, I still feel that the film did not maximize the vast potential it was given. To me, whatever the film had achieved so far could have been better if it were remodelled into a short film.