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Billions (2016– )
10/10
Contrary to other Reviews - I find Billions gets BETTER with time
7 June 2021
This show has a good premise but even better witty writing and execution throughout. Yes it gets as convoluted as House of Cards with a power-hungry power couple that is perhaps more nuanced in character development and ethical dilemma.

Acting-wise, Oscar-nom (Cinderella Man) Paul Giamatti is superb as Chuck Rhoades throughout and his dominatrix wife Wendy (Maggie Siff) gets more and more likeable, nuanced and badass. Paul Giamatti had similar strong performance in the John Adams (2008) mini-series. Maggie Siff and the writers manage to make Wendy a tour-de-force as a corporate coaching mastermind and meaningful partner for both Chuck & Axe. She manages to influence much on the sidelines and keep two loyalties in the midst of clear hostility.

Opposite is Damian Lewis, who is brilliant as brainchild bully Bobby (Axe) Axelrod and his character journey is incredible and understandable. Season 3 & 4 sees less of his wife and more of the loveable Wags character (David Costabile) who gets more depth with time, formidable friendship and even funnier. Taylor Mason also gets more screen time which some viewers dislike, but to me it is exactly the type of excitement and change the show needed to stay fresh and look at new storylines.

Taylor is a complex, complete and compelling character. You may not like THEM for whatever reason, but it adds some spice and very different perspective. It is a character we have rarely if ever seen on screen and not because of their nonbinary aspect. Is it a robust robot with human flesh and feelings?

Another Oscar (twice) nominated, John Malkovich, also brings some amazing acting to another key mysterious character in Grigor starting in season 3. His deadpan, playfulness and veiled or not so veiled threats are nail-biting and rich.

Lastly, let's not forget Chuck Senior as a character and Jeffrey DeMunn's charisma as an actor to unstill chaos, love, loathing and wisdom in an unorthodox fatherly presence. Often funny, his lines are written and delivered to much delight.

All in all, for all the intrigues in Season 1 (especially last 3 eps) and even better Season 2, I find Seasons 3 & 4 to be exactly what the show could stretch and explore with us. Thanks for a solid series that delivers show after show.

Hope Season 5 doesn't resemble House of Cards' cowardly Season 6. If you have no good writing or cast, please stop on a high and say bye. As Axe may say "Don't short a position when there is momentum and fundamentals". Until then, I will be eagerly watching!
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Shtisel: Mame, Mame (2021)
Season 3, Episode 8
10/10
The VERY BEST Shtisel Episode
7 June 2021
This episode carries 4 amazing storylines and execute them all above any expectation. Everything is heartfelt, conflicted and strong. Emotions are stirred at every corner.

1) Shulem and Nukhem difficult fraternal relations have ups and down. Nukhem & Nechama's happiness is palpable as they prepare for their small wedding. The value of providence, money, love, family, friendship, fame, generosity and humility are all explored with the dilemma of what to do with an unclaimed winning lottery ticket. Will financial concerns, greed, lust or justice corrupt this precarious harmony and happiness?

2) Akiva thanks Racheli for saving his daughter in front of the authorities from his past mistake, but their sham marriage that could be more is now in final jeopardy. Before the divorce, Akiva asks to paint his wife but cannot get his deceased previous wife, Libbi, out of his mind. He visits the art gallery to see the paintings of Libbi, but will have to visit her grave before the episode or the relationship ends. Racheli's reactions are real and supernatural at the same time, Akiva's acting is stellar as he struggles to love and let go. He will need personal deep dive and introspection, as well as a metaphor from his wise dad who tells him Racheli is HIS lottery ticket and he shouldn't let a once in a lifetime opportunity slip away from lack of sincere will beyond simply trying.

3) Yosa'le pure love for Shira Levi makes him confront his fiancé Shira Levinzon and his parents Giti and Lipa. All the scenes are high drama and romance with a Romeo & Juliet / Tristan and Iseult, forbidden and almost adulterous love. He confronts his father even though he is the only one trying to understand and help and Giti and Lipa's own tumultuous love and past is put into question. Yosa'le and the Shiras scenes are bittersweet and very human.

4) Unorthodox (2020) newest Netflix series' star Shira Haas plays a series of masterful monologues as Ruchami prepares tapes for her unborn baby, knowing full well she may not live through her risky pregnancy. Poignant moments and realization of life, death and parenthood.

Writing, directing and acting is exceptional with two masterpieces scenes of Akiva trying to paint Racheli and Akiva getting a loving sermon from his father. Imagination and reality mix with fire, fiction, facts and beautiful storytelling, Wow! Todah rabah.
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La Dolce Vita (1960)
8/10
Scenes of Aristocratic Life
27 November 2020
This movie is often more a collection of scenes than an impactful narrative. It has some beautiful black ane white camerawork, fine acting and above all directing. After an hour or so of pleasantries and drama, the beat scenes come in the middle starting with Steiper's wife (at 1:16) inviting Marcello and you the viewer into a fantastic, funy and philosophical party of artists and intellectuals. Iris, the self-proclaimed alcoholic prophet, and others are charming and wise. Then Marcello's father arrives and makes a big impact to the storyline. Finally Magdelena's tour of the opulent and artitic grounds and the "room of serious conversation " offer exquisite dialogue, intrigue and beautiful setting. The ending and surprise arrival is especially poignant closing the movie's best offering. Lastly the the outside and inside further exploration of the amazing decors and costumes lead to a sexy spirit conjuring scene to end the best hour of this almost 3 hours long muilti-faceted film.

The next 35mins are slightly melodramatic and even the striptease scene and Marcello's sexually charged rant at Nadia's party can't save the lower level of interest endured.

The ending puts everything in perspective and closes with a high note. It is beautifully shot from the forest clearing to the beach. Marcello's spontaneous smile sitting on the beach says a lot and the nonverbial communication exchange over the sound of the agitated sea is beautiful to see. Happiness can be as simple as that

Even with its few flaws and less titillating moments, La Dulce Vita remains a masterwork and classic that must be seen and experienced.
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Queen & Slim (2019)
9/10
Feature Film Debute Triumph
14 October 2020
Daniel Kaluuya delivers another amazing performance and Jodie Turner-Smith can definitely hold her own on the big screen. The chemistry between the two works, yet to me the biggest credit goes to Melina Matsoukas who manages to direct this good story and maje it great. She creates many memorable scenes including the visit to the uncle, the glock-curious clerk, many quirky car scenes, and the best sex scene I have scene in years - visually and emotionally. She creates moods, tension and characters who we come to care deeply about. Pete Beaudreau's editing, with Margin Call 2011) credit, for this 132mins cut is also to be noted. He shines in the sex scene/riot dual storytelling and many other moments to advance and tell the story with suspense and continued interest.

Writing-wise, Slim's story about the origin of babies is well-written and acted. The screenplay holds lots of gems and character-building. Beyond its numerous plot twist, t is profound and real. It can be excused for its few deus ex machina moments and black/white overpolarization at times.

The post-climatic scenes are very well done and the choice of music throughout is stellar and appropriate, from R&B to Pimp rap.

Well-done Bonnie&Clydesque tale with a conscious and purpose.
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This Is Us: Light and Shadows (2020)
Season 4, Episode 10
10/10
This Has It All
10 October 2020
Jack and Rebecca crucial Romeo and Juliettesque romance with good acting from Elizabeth Perkins as Rebecca's mom. Mandy Moore is solid both as a young wide-eyed love-struck go-getter and as a proud and confused elderly. There are many teary-eyed moments and character struggles of bittersweet life moments.

The directing and editing and writing are all amazing and coalesce in a brilliant and coherent, funny, frustrating, real and poignant moments for the tripplets. Randall seeing his mom sick and having to confront hi stepdad, Kevin desperately looking for love and his own fairy-tale romance, Kate trying to save her marriage in the midst of strong storms and deception and baby Jack reaching for the light...

Even, the music by special guest star is sublime and matches the show's mood and intent. Throw in some well=placed humour and plot twists for a delectable dish good for your TV diet.

Wow, This Is Us is always very good, yet this episode stands above the rest in the season and dare I say the series. Transcending and making us realise how life moments are so precious and precarious.
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10/10
Matt Ross' Sophomore Effort Elevates Education
30 September 2020
Viggo Mortensens shines here before his seminal role in Green Book. It is his second Academy Award lead actor nomination. All the actors, young and old are very good as an ensemble cast. The real star however is Matt Ross who writes and direct a complex tale of exploring the limits and merits of thinking and actually living differently. His views on education, religion, death, humour, honesty, consumerism, entertainment, sex and nudity are very interesting and challenge the accepted social norms.

The film explores a father's quest to elevate the lives of his children with love, knowledge and deep awareness, yet who is confronted with the clash of this idyllic utopia with the harsh realities of the cold world.

Filled with humour, sweet and smart moments, the movie shines and reminds me of some of Little Miss Sunshine (2006) with much deeper and relevant themes. The scene where "Noam Chomsky Day" is put against the attractive fairytale of Christmas as a child's point of you is poignant not only in the screenplays powerful points and messages but even more so in the family dynamic of openness and truth-seeking instead of accepting half-baked perpetuated ideas or stroking egos.

Another unforgettable scene is when the dad storms the church during a ceremony and makes an epic, no BS and relevant speech that rings true and "sticks it to the man". Enjoy this philosophical whimsical tale of the level of parenthood we should all hold ourselves accountable for.
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9/10
Graduation from Writer to Director
23 September 2020
Charlie Kaufman is one of the best and innovative writer in Hollywood for the past 2 decades with landmark films Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Original Screenplay Award-wining Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He wrote and directed interesting Synecdoche, New York which is a bizarre, artistic, and heartfelt look at the theatre and acting world. He co-directed animated feature Anomalisa with mixed results. His writing is always transformative and inspiring, yet his directing capabilities like many writers turned director sometimes falls short in the subtleties, especially with visual and musical cohesion. Here Kaufman ups his game and creates one of the year's most evocative piece of cinema. His storytelling choices are excellent as a writer but even more so in his directing choices. From the aspect ratio choice to the visuals in the car in the snowstorm, the contrasting conflicted narrator voiceover, the dance sequence, to the use of the surreal, homey and creepy multilevel house as focal point, Kaufman finds many cues and hues to make cinematic gold.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is an art film and makes no comprise about that. This explains the lack of enthusiasm from mainstream audience and I would not personally recommend this film to everyone. It has extensive dialogue about art (literature, cinema, etc), a spoken word poetry and asks the audience to be active and aware which sadly is not something most moviegoers are able or willing to do. There is no easy spoon-feeding here. I am thinking of some of David Lynch films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr. or Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut as references which all have many layers of understanding, meaning, intrigue and transcendence and are prime for repeat viewing.

You can find many things in I'm Thinking of Ending Things if you look for them. The eerie ice cream stop in the snowstorm is so simple yet incredibly atmospheric. The perception of time, disease and death viewed through the metamorphose of the parents' conditions, the janitor perception of the world and an acceptance speech that may be an acceptance of life and the human condition. What Kaufman did here is go way beyond the writing and create an innerving, self-reflective prism of one's fears and dreams through a collage of exquisite scenes and a buildup of tension, focus and anticipation. Some dark humour is also found, as well as some philosophical, sociological and artistic questioning. There are already varied, insightful interpretations of the true meaning behind the surface viewing of this far-fetched yet simple tale. I believe it will remain a true and rare gem for those who can appreciate this kind of brilliant and troublesome endeavours that will stay with you long after the credit rolls and fade to black.

Go enjoy this "Thinking" film. I highly recommend Thinking of Ending Things for these reasons if you are willing to dig in with an open (spotless) mind.
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Autumn Sonata (1978)
10/10
Conflicting, Multilayered and Beautiful
10 June 2020
One of Ingmar Bergman's very best after Scenes from a Marriage (1974) with a woman-woman (mother-daughter) relationship instead of man-woman one. Moreover the crucial central relationship played brilliantly by Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman is immensely augmented by the husband's perspective and interaction, and slightly by the sister's plight. A thought-provocative, tough script full of monologues is brought to life spectacularly with top notch acting and directing. The two Bergmans are at the top of their art and the scene when the mother shares her different point of view on how to play Chopin's prelude is one of the best have seen in a long time. Truly riveting,smart,subtle and poignant. Many superior scenes hold the movie together and the narrative is finding and challenging. It makes us think, question, consider, understand and empathise different versions of their reality and by extension our own. Bravo Bergmans!
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Community: Heroic Origins (2013)
Season 4, Episode 12
8/10
Pop Pop
26 April 2020
Nice episode off the heels of the best episode of lesser season 4, the Freaky Friday-inspired "Basic Human Anatomy". It has a well-paced and interesting beginning, some laughs and introspective about some character earlier days although I found the ending a bit sappy. The highlight for laughs for me was the short appearance of the origin of "Pop Pop". If you have been following the show, that was a quick and witty unexpected laugh in the middle of a dramatic action scene. Kudos for that little treat to the viewers. Although Community has stretched some wordplay and innuendos too far at times (annoying Changnesia for instance), That "Pop pop" Eureka moment hit the mark with a roar!
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8/10
Based on true events and chapters breakdown
13 March 2020
Writer/director/editor Sion Sono's latest is based on convicted serial killer Futoshi Matsunaga, here renamed Joe Murata in the film and played exquisitely by Kippei Shîna with Sono's direction. Murder, masturbation, mutilation, self-harm, s&m, torture, gore, sex, control, extortion and more occur with irony, inevitability and imagination. Sono's masterpiece Cold Fish (2010) and grim & beautiful Guilty of Romance (2011) are also based on true stories, but let's be clear, his take on these stories are most likely far from reality. He is able to twist the facts to create details, dialogue, themes, strong characters and storytelling. Antiporno (2016) and Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) are his best stories not based on circumstantial facts and are perhaps even better because of it, although Cold Fish will remain one of the best and shocking movies for decades. (See my 2010 review: https://www.imdb.com/review/rw2469898/) The movie is slow to start with a prologue and long chapter 1. We get to know the characters and dig into the childhood of two friends from an all-girl school. Some scenes are reminiscent of Suicide Club (2001) and Love Exposure (2008) yet darker and deliberate. On the other side, we are introduced to three young men filmmakers and finally, properly to Joe Murata after 20 minutes. Joe is both charming and alarming. An important scene from the shared childhood happens just before the 40 minutes mark. Chapter 2 (from 52 to 60 mins) is where the filming of Joe Murata's life begins for the film festival contest the students want to enter and is also where this film starts to take a new beginning by finally exposing Murata's penchant and proclivities. Chapter 3 (from 60-70 mins) is perhaps the best chapter as it confirms the power and powerlessness at play and will set the tone for the rest of the movie. Chapter 4 (from 70-127 mins) is a descent into depravity, absurdity, pity, envy, sadness and self-delusion with events after events of evocative imagery and daring directing. Finale (from 127-148 mins) still has plenty of surprises and worthy twists. The story will reveal more from all the chapters and the extent of the well-crafted piece will come to life. The second half and ending are positively well-worth to longish running time. Still, if you have not seen a Sono film with sex, violence and gore or are opposed to these ideas to be depicted in your living room, skip this Netflix Original and find something tamer. Thank you, Mr. Sono for staying true to your vision with this one. Now let's see what will come out of his first English-language film Prisoners of the Ghostland (2020), already in post-production, and how he uses sexy and talented Sofia Boutella to tell a tale he didn't write for once.

Guilty of Romance (2011)
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10/10
Best film of 2019
19 February 2020
I have seen 8 films of Noah's generally positive and thought-provocative filmography and considered While We're Young and The Squid and the Whale are his best, until this gem came along.

The Squid and the Whale also looks at a family going through divorce and is very effective. Marriage Story's screenplay is however so realistic, depressing, funny and dynamic even in limited range of events that is surpasses all expectations. The directing is precise and highlights all the mixed emotions, conundrums and contradictions. The couple's inner conscious and subconscious life as opposed to their demeanors and actions are so spot on. The acting by the two leads are spectacular. They both got nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes. I personally think Scarlett should have won. Even if Adam may have been bested by Joachim, the magic of seeing both of them interact against each other in a few key scenes including the most intense one is what makes it an outstanding piece. Laura Dern's delicious take on the smart, seductive,cut-throat lawyer is deserving to win both Oscar and Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress. The legal aspects of the divorce are both frustrating and comical. They are costly in money but also in humanity. It gets ugly and probably worse in real life.

The film and screenplay were also both nominated for both top awards. There is not much better made films about relationships falling apart ever made. There is a nod in the film to seminal Scenes from a Marriage masterpiece by Bergman and perhaps Farhadi's A Separation also comes closest to represent this harsh reality.

This film is almost too close for comfort for anyone who has lived a similar separation as a child or a part of the couple. It feels real and emphasises, without direct finger-pointing, the lack of judgement, love, humanity and humility. When the separation starts to spin out of control, both inner and outer forces seem to be pulling in all directions and wrecking often irreparable destruction.

A fine film and fair warning.

Wishing you all a happy and long-lasting marriage.
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Soulmate (2016)
10/10
Potentially the best Chinese Movie Ever
18 February 2020
Chinese cinema have Zhang Yimou absolute gems like To Live (1994), Riding Alone for Thiusand of Miles (2005) and The Flower's of War (2011) in the most prominent Chinese director impressive filmography. Add Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Shanghai Triad (1995), The Roaf Home (1999), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Coming Home (2014) as excellent films.

Many other known or less known directors were able to surprise me with one clear masterpiece like: 2046 (2004), Aftershock (2010), Ocean Heaven (2010), July Rhapsody (2002), Together (2002) and White Snake (2019)

Ye Lou's Summer Palace (2006) is noteworthy but his Suzhou River (2000) with Xun Zhou's magnetic performance remained to me Chinese's most audacious, disturbing and beautiful Chinese film until I just finished watching Soulmate (2016)!

Soulmate's story is seemingly simple but with amazing dialogue and enough captivating twists. A lot of attention to details and clues make a tight story from the 5 Strong writing collaboration. Then Derek Tsang and the two lead actresses, Dongyu Zhou & Sichun Ma, really take it out the park with amazing performances and poignant scene after scene, especially after the 30 mins mark. Kudos also to the 4 strong editing team. These collaborations coalesced into a very well-rounded effective narrative. Two competent cinematographers to capture it all and voila.

This ifilm is visceral and emotional with life teachings, love, friendship, family and philosophy all finding their ways to add the the mosaic of living. The characters are trying to find their places in the world like everyone.

Very good study of long-time friendship, joys, hardships, distance, dreams, reality, fears and fantasies. This illustrates life's futility, loneliness and beauty while showing the manipulation and illusions we must create for ourselves and others.

Quite transcending and special in many levels. I cant wait to see Better Days (2019) and see if Dongyu Zhou and Derek Tsang can do it again.

Soulmate secures a rewatchable unforgettable ride as well as amazing scenes of pure delicious writing, acting and directing. Bravo!
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9/10
Art and Awareness
30 September 2019
This documentary series searches the proceess and the purpose of design arts at a very high level. It also cares about the people and artists it portrays, often digging into their personal lives. The subject matter and how they are portayed and explored are always impactful and worthwhile. The themes are applicable in the very minutae of the specific art sphere explored, bur also philosophic, personal, profound and open-ended to be applicable in life and daily thoughts.

Mostly, these are inspiring profesional stories and riveting information on the works and behind-the-scenes stories of some of the top innovators in their fields. These people are changing the world. Thank you for the series to put such a deserved spotlight on these worthile topics.

After 2 seasons, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's 2 episodes and showrunner Morgan Neville's 3 episodes are stellar, but even a lesser episode is of high quality and insight. Learn about Architecture and Bio-Architecture and how Typecast is much more complicated than you probably think. What is Design FOR play and how can that possibly change our future? Watch Abstract: the Art of Design and with your family and friends to find lots to discuss and discover.
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Ad Astra (2019)
7/10
Cinematography and Philosophy
27 September 2019
Hoyte Van Hoytema delivers a thrilling sci-fi cinematography that rivals his own visuals in Interstellar (2014) but unfortunately without the character development of the Nolans. Emmanuel Lubezki's Gravity (2013), Dariusz Wolski's The Martian (2015) and Rodrigo Prieto's Passengers (2016) offered more visual feasts and tension, yet Ad Astra has two memorable scenes: the opening sequence and the hectic chase on the moon.

Brad Pit is competent in a conflicted lead, but as with his previous effort The Lost City of Z (2016) writer/director James Gray reaches for the stars but falls slighty short. There is a lot of good stuff in Ad Astra, yet the characters of the love interest and the dad fall way short. The rest feels like forced excuses for less impressive action scenes later in the movie and a conclusion that is too easy and underwhelming. Apart from the action and the philosophical implications that are a big part of the constant musing and slow pacing, the movie is supposed to evoke with quiet contemplation, something crucial is missing in authenticity. We don't quite care for the characters or the story by the end. Ad Astra is almost but not quite the gem other critics talk about.
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Dark Matter: Episode #1.9 (2015)
Season 1, Episode 9
10/10
Another great multi-layered episode
19 June 2019
Four goes back to meet his brother but meets his old martial arts master instead. Their relationship, respect, past and present is explored beautifully.

On the ship One and Three conront each other and Two is in between to try to keep the crew harmony, yet she still harbours a secret she does not share. Five and Six friendhip os tested when Six has self-hate and self-doubt and wanst Five to be as far away from the rest of the crew as possible.

The Android and Three have a comic and sweet interplay.

The enigma about who has erased everyone's memories and is a traitor continues and there exist many possibilities. The ending on the planet and on the ship are amazing and surprising.

A perfect episode for a very high qulity show. Great writing, acting and directing.

Go Dark Matter! An underrated excellent sci-fi show that more should get to know..
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Green Book (2018)
10/10
Social but personal
1 April 2019
Green Book is a crowd-pleaure and Oscar winner not because it deals with racial tensions in the segregated American recent past, but because it deals with two very human and humane characters who form an unlikely friendship in the midst of a lifechanging and life-affirming road trip. A hallmark of a great film and journey is that the audience or at least myself was left wanting more and deeply care for these characters based on real life people and events. I would have happily hopped on their next road trip to continue to share the intimate details of their endearing bond.

The screenplay lead by real life Nick Vallelonga is absolutely absorbing and drips with laugh out loud humour and characterization from the two leads and also some of the supporting cast. Mortenson plays the role of his life and has all the maneurism, talk and conflicted emotions of his flawed and interesting character. Ali assures a stoic and unsympathetic complex personality who excels, perseveres and has is own proclivities. He won the supporting actor Oscar for this while Mortenson was nominated for best lead but was in tough company with Cooper and Malek who won. The screenplay also won best original and deservedly so. Editing was also nominated and the story could not have been really told in a much better way dramatically while hitting all the humour and emotional marks.

In the end, although racism, classim, homophobia and other strong and important social subjects are dealt with extremely well, the strength of Green Book lies in its capacity to allow us to discover an average man and his family while changing his preconceived ideas and giving contrasts and thought to an accomplished and inspiring musical genius. Genuinely rewarding cinema and highly recommended.
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Finding the Next Earth (2011 TV Movie)
7/10
Exoplanets and Temperature Scale
17 December 2018
PSR B1257+12: was the first confirmed discovery of extrasolar planet in 1992 . As of 2019, there will be over 4000 confirmed exoplanets, roughly 2500 of which were discovered between 2014-2016. This 2011 documentary shows the dawn of these discoveries and focus on planets that could perhaps resemble Earth in size and conditions. The "Goldilock" planets.

From Space, Europe, North and South America, powerfull telescope are now pointed to the skies in searchof these possibilities. The documentary is interesting enough and brings worthwhile comments fromthe interviews and bring you there with footage to fuel your imagination. One big mistake for a science documentary talking about space is to use outdated Fahrenheit scale / Imperial system / US Customary Units. Only 3 countries out of 196 (USA, Liberia and Myanmar) use this system and no scientific articles, journals or other refer to it. When you mention a temparatre of -450 degrees and you do not even mention it is F, it is a big dissapointing. Absolut zero is -273.15C so it looks like the scientific writers or editors of this doc did take their audience for granted. They could have at least mentioned both Celisius and Fahrenheit are explain that 450F is close to abosulte zero 459.67F and not below absolut zero which is of course impossible.

Use Kelvin or Celcius please! It is for your own credibility.

Other than these minor flaws, this doc is worth your time.

Let's hope the funding and time to find these planets and study them do not stop.
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9/10
A Most Necessary Film
17 September 2018
Almost 6 hours long, this epic and enlighten looked at revolt and innovative political popular innovation and inspiring uprising of the commune in 19th century Paris is long and starts slow. It is self-reflective, free and breaks the 4th wall since the first frame and increasingly throughout the film.

The first part focuses on the background and beginning of the revolt and resistance. It explains the inequalities, the education gap, the history and bourgeois, military and blue collar vantage points.

Themes of women rights and education are abundantly explored and counterpoints are somewhat given although the work is clearly socialism and rightly so.

Mainstream media, its biases and impact are explored and although historically TV reporting did not exist at that time. adds an element of modernness, contrasted with the black and white and first-time actors in characters with costumes and minimal decor. The clear and more subtle subterfuge and power of religious authority is well confronted. Same as the military might and oppression as necessity versus violent resistance and what violence entails.

The nonprofessional actors who have been instructed to research their historical characters, the history and facts and to speak their own mind are asked to come out of characters many times in the second, slightly longer part and the beauty and brillance of the film is now in full boom.

Actors and characters discuss turn of the millennium and other 20th century realities like other resistances, fights, wars, repression and innovations including technology. Television, internet, mobile phones and the rest are pacifiers or cause for more unrest? What are we fighting for today and how will it be tomorrow? What and why should we fight? How? Within with morale compass and rules? Many crucial questions are raised and many valid points advanced. All of them still relevant and real today as in 1999 or 1871.

A must-watch film for any conscious moviegoer or any worldwide school children. Enjoy, think, discuss, share.
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7/10
Great Start, OK Finish
17 January 2018
I have read and loved the book long time ago so was excited to see this production. It is uneven and has a bit of missed potential but still worth a viewing.

Part 1 - 8/10 Has all the elements of good sci-fi and took a decent take on the marvelous Arthur C Clarke novel. It had philosophical issues, clever dialogue ("you are my world'), situations and good visual effects. It had both emotional resonance and distance

Part 2 - 7/10 Starts brilliantly with the boy now being an astrophysicist and the appropriately chosen Imagine song (Eva Cassiy version of John Lennon masterpiece) with the visual montage and narration at the beginning that are as idyllic as the utopia it portrays. It falters with the introduction of a new family and their problem child. It focuses too much on religion and starts to become too much like the Exorcist, Stigmata, Da Vinci Code or any movie too focused on Devil/Evil parables and paranormal. The bond between the astrophysicist and his friend is great and their acting. The setting in he South Africa party is also a good ambiance. The Overlord powers are downplayed here versus part 1 when their power is almost infinite. The line that humans are deceiving themselves (in answer to the part 2 title) is priceless! Some good moments to be had with a few faux pas.

Part 3 - 7/10 Has a good relationship angle between the astrophysicist and his girlfriend as well as his/their journey. The love triangle with the main character continues to be well written and acted. The ending is strong in the way that it is daring and unexpected, however the whole children aspect is played out rather poorly in my view. A fitting ending but that could have been done much better with more dramatic tension and better screenplay. The last video-recording of the scientist feels out of place and scope. Pop tarts? Pop art?

Almost.
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9/10
Federation GOOD, Klingon BAD
24 September 2017
As a huge Star Trek fan for years who has watched every Star Trek episode of the 28 seasons of TV and all the hits and misses at the movies, I was pretty excited to hear of Star Trek: Discovery premiere night and gathered my extended family - some trekkies and some oblivious to the universe - to watch together this Sunday.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine premiere got me hooked on Star Trek and I could not expect the same stirring sense of awe, universe creation and strong characterization. However, having followed the new series development and push back from May launch date and seen some impressive trailers, I wished for the best to revive a TV icon that had been dormant since Enterprise got cancelled and aired last in May 2005.

So just fresh of this 'fascinating' experience here are the GOOD, the BAD, (and the BADASS!) after the first two episodes:

The BADASS is Sonequa Martin-Green and her rebellious Michael Burnham character. She acts well, has strong dialogue and character development, especially in the second episode with the Sarek and Vulcan arc. She also has some action, self-reflection and intellect to showcase.

The GOOD are the stunning special effects and Starfleet crew. From the new race to mysterious robot, but mostly the interactions from the captain (Philippa Georgiou), commander Burnham and chef science officer (Saru) are spot on. Great tension, friendship, work ethics, chemistry and captivating acting. A shame we may not see too much of Michelle Yeoh in the future. I have faith for similar good character development for the seldom seen or heard rest of the core crew. I think creators and writers got it right so far for the Federation side which should be the focus.

The BAD is all the underused Klingon subplot where the series not only change the prosthetic and physical appearance of a well known documented and liked alien race in the canon universe, but also some of its culture and history. To portray the Klingons as only war-like and hungry for battle is not incorrect but is falling into the trap of creating an easy villain. Klingons are liked because they have a culture that also include good-natured laughs, drinks, food and friendship. They have time honoured traditions but can also break them, they think, feel and try not to fear for honour and bravery. They have reasons, reflexes and often a cause. They have memorable characters like Worf, Martok, Torres, Gowron, Kahless, Kurn, Kang, Chang and the Duras sisters to name a few. They have also a lot of language and culture already well developed so to see a new way they treat their dead in Discovery for instance feels unnecessary and not complementary to Sto'Vo'Kor (their Heaven or Valhalla) tradition and thinking.

BOTTOM LINE: every scene with Klingons and their dialogue so far seem useless and uninteresting compared to previous Klingon depth of culture or possible new avenues for this known race or even new made up race. This is poor and reflects limited reflection and petty fear fostering rather than enriching the palette of a wide and wide-reaching tapestry. Thus T'Kuvma, the Klingon new Messiah, is the weakest character as of now and all this Kahless reborn and ritualistic machination is not working to better the understanding of this beloved race.

As for the show it seems to have the potential to finish the 15- episode first season with strong story arcs, well-developed characters and situations. It will surely find some personal and philosophical aspects to explore as well as new ways of life and thinking like most good Star Trek did. My only current hope is this Klingon oversight is temporary and will balance itself out in an otherwise top sci-fi addition to the impressive Star Trek universe. I will give this my full attention as we await the fate of some interesting characters and can't wait to DISCOVER more.
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MDMA (2017)
9/10
Truth, Trials and Errors
31 August 2017
Angie Wang is a warrior in life and made a daring artistic contribution sharing parts of her college year life trying to cope with family and money issues and achieve academic, romantic, economic and human success.

Angie X, played perfectly by Annie Q, is a romanticized version of an angry, conflicted but smart, sexy and resourceful youth that comes to a college where her first generation immigration and social class makes her adaptation more adventurous.

The casting choices, camera work, wardrobe and sets to match the 80s feel all seem right and we are able to do what director Wang, asked us the the start of her Montreal World Film Festival first screening: immerse ourselves in the movie and be transported.

After an hour and a half in the theatre, that felt much longer in terms of content, but also timeless and not wanting the movie to end and leave these likable characters and their quirky lives.

The only personal choices I felt could have been better are the over-expression of anger which I later learned are Angie's character traits and constant reaction based on her past and way to deal with pressure, as well as some occasional superfluous flashbacks that did not always work to enhance the scenes and character development. Everything else about this independent film written, directed and produced by Angie Wang with a great deal of passion and perseverance is pristine and palpable.

Angie is contrasted by her two best friends, a Chinese American boy classmate and an "All American" rich girl roommate and their respective families. They have different views and values but lots of love, attention and affection for Angie. She also has her own distant parents and brother, especially her father figure. We see her dysfunctional family through flashbacks and she also decides to be a big sister to an even more dysfunctional crack addict family.

Angie becomes a drug-dealer of a then legal party drug for rich kids "White" kids (MDNA/Ecstasy) - and becomes a master chemist like Walter White - which affects lives around here in different ways. In parallel, and paradoxically, she also tries to rescue a "Black" little sister affected by lower class street drugs, both legal (alcohol and cigarettes) and illegal (crack).

Angies tries to find respect and pleasure in school and social settings with her grades, her drugs and romantic interests. A particular sex scene is quite alluring and seems natural, beautiful, beneficial.

The ending which follows a particular dramatic denouement is sad and hopeful, open and soft-spoken. It lets the viewer know that life is not perfect, but life goes on. The best advice, story and point of view comes from her father Michael, played with gusto by Ron Yuan.

This film is a well worth addictive addition to the drug dealer movie for the low, middle and upper class, college student and parents alike.

Bravo Angie! Looking forward to a following project from this fine first time filmmaker.

USA - 2017 - 94 mins - MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL - English
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Bad Genius (2017)
9/10
Fun for all: humour, human connection, conniving and all
30 August 2017
Bad Genius is based on a true story, but takes many liberties to create compelling storytelling. The movie is about taking entrance exams which may be relatively important in Europe and the Americas but extremely important in the Asian academic performance cultural frenzy. Nonetheless, the power of the film and Nattawut Poonpiriya directing is that is makes exam cheating and everything around it fun and exciting. He is able to make a teenager's dilemma feel like a life and death situation with style, intrigue and humour.

Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying shines as the lead, but all the characters and actors serve justice to the material. Even the supporting roles and extras all add to the well played chess game. The movie is smart and has "swag". Interesting take on the school teenager world up the stakes and mistakes, looking at morality and the subtleties of human ambitions, abilities and interactions.

A hit in Thailand and it has all the elements to be an international success to the attentive audience.

Thailand 2017 | 130 mins | FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | Thai (English subtitles)
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3 Extremes II (2002)
8/10
Cinematography and Horror
17 July 2017
3 shorts with varied results

"Memories" Kim Ji-Woon (Korea) 8/10

"The Wheel" Nonzee Nimibutr (Thailand) 5/10

"Coming Home" Peter Ho-Sun Chan (China) 9/10

Kim Ji-Woon has some stylish and effective camera-work (Kyung-pyo Hong) to convey the plight of a separated couple. There are some scary and beautiful moments. He is a Korean director that seems to be able to do not wrong and his cinematographer would later win awards with landmark movies like Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004), Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013) and The Wailing (2016). The female lead from Busan (Kim Hye-Soo) is gorgeous and well captured on film in this fantasy horror.

Nonzee Nimibutr manage some set pieces with some symbolic fire and details traditional statutes and wardrobe, yet fails to convey fear or interest in his haunted puppet ploy. His sexual-charged Jan Dara (2001) is a classic of Thai cinema.

Peter Ho-Sun Chan makes a daring take on (also) a sort of separated couple story. He boasts brilliant editing and engaging writing and acting. He works with cinematography legend Christopher Doyle who delivers solid city atmospheric scenes. This Hong Kong director had more than 10 feature films before this short and later would direct the well-received The Warlords (2007).
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Who Knows? (2001)
10/10
Rivette Goes Beyond the Theatre and Art
1 June 2017
Jacques Rivette's acclaimed La belle noiseuse (1991) is a masterful meticulously crafted portrayal of a painter, his model, his friends and family in a complex and climactic drama. Ten years later, Rivette is even more riveting with an astonishing screenplay working again with long-time collaborating writing team of Pascal Bonitzer & Christine Laurent.

Va savoir (2001) - aka Who Knows? - is a story we have heard before of an actress dating the plays director and theatre group owner. They happen to be touring Europe and we see them in Paris, which brings back memories for Camille, the main actress. However, as we advance in the story and see the main character quirkiness, hopes, fears and dreams and feel the tension of their past, present and future love interests intertwine we enter an alluring drama way beyond conventional clichés of performing art in cinema.

A lot of details are in the screenplay with funny twists and turns, discomfort, joy, questioning and dismay. We find unconventional and uncompromising story lines that are curious and captivating. Moreover Rivette's directing and some fine acting from all the cast elevates the piece and allows tension and storytelling threads to weave a tight deliciously unpredictable narrative.

There is a play being performed that has some relevance to the world outside the theatre. The rhythms and tones of the play feel somewhat exotic performed in its native Italian in France and with more or less convincing depending on the performance night and mood. The real life events of the the characters outside the theatre are even more theatrical and has never been done quite as well, although Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) came close as a theatre actor backdrop. Aronofsky' Black Swan (2010) also come to mind but for dance.

Va savoir (2001) has so many interesting elements with side stories of a life that lead to prison or the central search for a unpublished and never performed play. There are many sexual and emotional tension building between the strong central and secondary characters over the course of two and a half hours and an unexpected funny and fitting finale.

Rivette's choices make the situations intense and bring the viewer into an in intellectual, emotional and physical experience of high calibre that is not quite like any other. An understated masterpiece to be enjoyed.
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Calvary (2014)
9/10
Beyond Priesthood
18 May 2017
I found John Michael McDonagh's previous work The Guard (2011) lukewarm and trying to be funny more times than succeeding in my eye, even with some positive critics finding the humour to their liking. His recent War on Everyone (2016) has had rather poor critic and audience appreciation. I thus watched Calvary (2014) with some reservations, although I was hoping to find why there was more praise for Brendan Gleeson acting and McDonagh's writing and directing. It now seems that McDonagh may be much better with unconventional priests than with comic cops!

From the unforgettable first line of the crisp script to the last shot of the film showing a single tear, the screenplay is pure genius. It is a dark comedy, a philosophical contemplation on life, pain, loss, forgiveness and frailty. The many characters and potent actors each add their own depth to the devoted priest centrepiece who is trying to help the community, but is also very aware of the reality and the limitations of his rhetoric.

I have rarely seen a movie about a religious figure be so morally ambiguous, subdued yet ambitious. IT is not preachy or propose any universal truth, but rather explores humanity as is, raw, flawed and in search for: pleasure, closure, redemption, revenge, reparation, meaning, happiness, communication and communion. Communion as in deeply sharing and beyond the Christian shenanigans of the body of Christ. The priest who sees himself as inherently trying to do "good", and not only God's work, is an endearing character how is as flawed as all the others. He drinks, swears, gets violent on occasion, exhibits greed and has done some harm, somewhat inadvertently, to his suicidal daughter. Yet, he is real and relatable. He questions the moral compass he holds himself up to and tries to be the pillar of his town and community. He sometimes fails, but gets up and tries to do better.

He says there is "too much focus on sins and less on virtues". He finds a way to teach his daughter true forgiveness and love.

The film is ultimately beautifully filmed, acted, directed and edited and is based on a off-beat, cynical, but surprisingly smart and sensible screenplay that delivers laughs, emotions and life reflections. Bravo Mr. McDonagh. You hit the nail... to the cross.
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