Archive for the Film Reviews Category

New Popcorn

Posted in Film Reviews on January 24, 2011 by Carlo Chong

I am officially moving NO POPCORN ALLOWED to a proper address over at http://nopopcornallowed.wordpress.com/.

Please be sure to follow the blog for all the latest film news, reviews and previews!

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Posted in Film Reviews on April 9, 2010 by Carlo Chong

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil series)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter

Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror

Release: September 2010

Sherlock Holmes (B)

Posted in Film Reviews on January 11, 2010 by Carlo Chong

Is it just me or is Robert Downey, Jr. somewhat channeling his own incarnation of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in his turn as the detective turned action hero Sherlock Holmes?

Downey may be giving Depp a run for his money but certainly not the luster – Guy Ritchie’s latest flick is a kinetic rebirth for the famous spy from the land of Great Britain, a harrowing adventure worthy of a classic Holmes tale but certainly not as jaw-dropping as the previews may suggest.

Following the exploits of the arrogant yet eccentric Arthur Conan Doyle character together with his compatriot Dr. John Watson, played quite marvelously by the underrated Jude Law, the film takes us on a wild goose chase with the two racing to solve the mystery of an occult murderer. Rachel McAdams joins in on the fun as the lovely Irene Adler who’s romantic past with Holmes may have big implications on their destinies.

The film chiefly succeeds because of the strength of the performances, and rightfully so – Holmes is as memorable as ever thanks to the resurgence of Downey and Law’s Watson is undoubtedly his perfect counterpart. Mark Strong on the other hand delivers another enigmatically solid performance as the evil Lord Blackwood.

Though the two leads’ chemistry is an absolute joy to watch onscreen, Sherlock Holmes falls victim to many of the typical plotlines that pervade most clue-gathering and case-solving adventures. With Guy Ritchie’s flawed if not commendable guidance after his muddled crime thriller RocknRolla, Downey and Law have their hearts in the right place – to present nothing but cinematic energy.

Inglourious Basterds (A)

Posted in Film Reviews on December 31, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Quentin Tarantino is a maestro – he orchestrates each of his films so skillfully and so effortlessly, weaving together stories that shock, invigorate and most of all entertain. Inglourious Basterds is probably the penultimate testament to that statement, a quirky exercise in straightforward and truly effective storytelling.

Two stories make up Tarantino’s epic. At the film’s heart despite what cleverly placed marketing materials may suggest, is Melanie Laurent’s vengeful Jewish character named Shosanna whose entire family was wiped out by the Nazis in a small farm in France. While her story plays out, we are treated to Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine and his group of Basterds, an elite squad trained and ordered to kill Nazis. The two parallel narratives are independent of one another and are laid out side by side building up to the explosive finale.

The acting ensemble is one of the impressive aspects of this film, allowing each character to be given definitive moments in the movie – and they are truly definitive. Christoph Waltz is Inglourious Basterds‘ savior, if not ironically a menace as a leading Nazi officer, with his commanding presence and charming yet evil onscreen persona. Laurent’s Shosanna is mesmerizing and enigmatic and certainly deserves attention, as well as Eli Roth’s small but thrilling role as the Bear Jew.

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Moon (A)

Posted in Film Reviews on December 22, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Moon is probably the antithesis of everything James Cameron set out to do with Avatar, but it is no less potent than the blockbuster visual effects extravaganza, and quite possibly maybe even more heartfelt.

Duncan Jones’s feature film debut is a sci-fi masterclass and ranks among the year’s best genre outings Star Trek and District 9. The film does have though the most chilling and the most psychological of roots among all of its counterparts, and will certainly make Stanley Kubrick proud.

Sam Rockwell is a beast in this film, delivering the finest hour of his career playing astronaut Sam Bell who gets caught in a whirlwind of confusion and hallucination after he gets involved in an accident during his routine mining. His tour de force is undoubtedly what drives the film’s one and a half hour running time, similar to that of Tom Hanks’s outstanding performance in Cast Away.

The sci-fi thriller is based on an original concept by Jones and holds up as one of the most engrossing pieces in the genre. Its subtle commentaries on human nature and its reliance on technology is taken to a whole new level, transcending the basic intricacies of cinema and bringing it close to home, making us feel what Sam feels and making us connect to the film’s characters.

Duncan Jones has proven that he is a skillful storyteller and a master visual linguist. With Moon, it can be safe to say that 2009 has truly been a landmark year for science fiction moviemaking.

Avatar (A)

Posted in Film Reviews on December 21, 2009 by Carlo Chong

We’ve seen this story before, but when all of James Cameron’s two and a half hour opus is over it appears that on the other hand we’ve never seen it at all – at least in this way.

More than a decade in the making plus the sweat, blood and tears of the man who brought us Terminator, Terminator 2 and Titanic, Avatar is a film for the ages, a historic milestone in filmmaking that’s sure to be a benchmark for the digital age of movie magic. Cameron has crossed unchartered territory and has brought to life a stunning array of imagination and reality, a crossover between timely issues and escapist entertainment that’s sure to enthrall moviegoers of all backgrounds.

After his warmup role in the summer’s lackluster sequel Terminator Salvation, Sam Worthington breaks through in his role as Jake Sully, an ex-marine who’s paralysis drives him to sign up for a mission on the distant moon of Pandora to replace his dead brother. He travails through the lush jungles and forests in his avatar body, a remotely controlled hybrid of human and alien Na’vi DNA, and discovers a world beyond his wildest dreams. On the alien moon that the human race has plans to conquer he must make the decision to finish the job or to protect the people of Pandora.

Avatar also features stand out performances from its supporting cast in Stephen Lang’s militaristic embodiment of wartime America, as well as Sigourney Weaver’s motherly portrayal of a benevolent botanist studying the indigenous people. Zoe Saldaña however stands out strongly as the motion captured character of Neytiri, Jake Sully’s eventual love interest from the Na’vi tribe.

Each sequence, scene and shot of Cameron’s sci-fi epic is so intricately composed and so skillfully drawn out that it’s difficult to find folly amongst the majesty of the Pandoran backdrop. His themes of environmentalism, anti-imperialism and the capitalism of humankind are so tightly wound in the array of bows and arrows and total destruction brought about by impending war that the emotion drawn out by this vicarious cinematic experience is so very real – it shows the world as it is today.

Many may find Avatar‘s brilliance simply in its impeccable display of visual effects, brought to life even more awesomely by its use of 3D. And yes it is awesome – if you haven’t experienced 3D before or in other cases haven’t been entirely impressed by 3D efforts in the past, now is your time to do so and give it a go. Its motion-capture technology is groundbreaking and its results are as realistic and as vibrant as ever.

Avatar was made for 3D – and more importantly 3D was made for Avatar.

But quite frankly the movie is far from simply a technical paramount and it presents to us the boundless possibilities that original filmmaking has to offer. Straight from the depths of the mind of James Cameron Avatar is truly and resoundingly one of the most visceral films in cinematic history, placing it among the ranks of true moviegoing events such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings; there are times when its flaws are just transcended so greatly by the sheer limitless scope of its content that it’s so hard to place any blame.

Avatar is undoubtedly the future of cinema. Just awesome.

Law Abiding Citizen (C+)

Posted in Film Reviews on November 8, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Law Abiding CitizenI think Gerard Butler was trying to channel Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal for his role here. Well, he mostly failed.

Law Abiding Citizen is F. Gary Gray’s (The Italian Job) attempt at striking social commentary, fusing elements of the vigilantism from V For Vendetta with the grotesque violence of the Saw franchise and bits of Michael Bay’s love for explosives. Put together, all of these fall short of anything spectacular and the Jamie Foxx-Gerard Butler pairing doesn’t seem to amount to anything much other than a few interesting confrontations.

For a film that starts off quite strongly with its first act, it never seems to take flight and Butler’s deranged Clyde Shelton emerges as a one-man war machine on a path to blow the hell out of anyone he deems corrupt, with an almost Crisostomo Ibarra-like enigma to him.

Keyword is almost – actually not even almost, it’s not even close.

Probably the only intelligent thing that discernable from the film is the fascinating scene between Shelton and the lady judge where the interaction is apparent between the pure chaos Butler’s character intends to ensue with the legalistic and ultimately closed-minded view of the law.

What could have been a film with lots of potential given the star power involved, Law Abiding Citizen slowly rolls downhill and dismembers itself. The film simply tries too hard with too little and takes itself too seriously in a genre where nerves, just like Clyde Shelton, just need to be let loose.