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My favourite genre is science fiction. I love films with mysteries, puzzles, non-linear timelines, time travel, visual imagination and anything that makes me think. I'm open-minded to watch all sorts of films though - I also love exploring new things!
My top three films are:
1) Minority Report (2002)
2) The Lion King (1994)
3) The Prestige (2006)
It has been my dream to contribute to the film industry. I also have a degree in Software Engineering and I have been pursuing the intersection of creativity and technology. Previously, I worked at the multi-national company Vista Entertainment Solutions that makes the software that runs most of the world's cinemas. My most recent success was developing part of Living Ticket, a worldwide cloud service that delivers digital contactless movie tickets to millions of cinemagoers every day.
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Questions for discussion: (not every question will be applicable to every film)
- How accurate or inaccurate is this film?
- What is it like to live as this character in a personal sense? Consider lifestyle, goals, society, emotions, etc.
- What would you do if you were their doctor?
- What does this say about the medical/pharmaceutical/psychiatric system?
- Comment on ethical issues, tough choices, social attitudes, patient-doctor conflicts.
This film is an inscrutably vague and fantastical series of scenes that are too vague to allow any kind of stable interpretation. From the fractured montage at the beginning to the disconnected emotional outbursts, the field is completely open for a variety of readings from many perspectives. If I were still in university, this would be a gold mine of content. Who is the real protagonist, Elizabet or the nurse? What parts of their personalities merge? Most importantly, what do all of the scenes really mean? This is a cinematic Rorschach Test that will either inspire or frustrate.
Over the Moon (2020)
I wasn't sure what to expect when I first saw this film - Sony Pictures Animation's take on Chinese culture? I'm glad to say it paid off - it has amazing colourful animation, catchy songs and a fresh take on mythology. Some of the elements are clearly derived from Disney tropes but used in a new context for novel effect. The plot, I must say, is a bit thin and has room for improvement, especially the emotional parts of the film which were rushed.
Cartoon Saloon's best film
This is Cartoon Saloon's best film to date, honing all their skills exercised in The Secret of Kells onwards. It combines the storybook-style 2D animation, Irish mythological references, overbearing authority figures, city walls and (of course) wolf invasions. There are also other influences deftly woven into this film from Disney and Studio Ghibli. It follows a range of brilliantly distinct and animated characters through a visually evocative landscape with a tense, thrilling plot that will engage the viewer from beginning to end, with particular emphasis on the wolf sense scenes.
The Croods: A New Age (2020)
This film is a surprising and impressive improvement on its predecessor, which I thought was visually imaginative but didn't have much else going for it. In this film, both the animation and character dynamics were ramped up to produce a more compelling film. The plot is engaging and unpredictable, taking the one-note personality traits from the original film and building real drama. The new characters inject some new conflict but have pivotal roles in the story beyond fuelling the premise.
Soulful (pun intended)
This film is an existential parable wrapped up in an animated film, filled with a surprising amount of wisdom about life and meaning but in an accessible way. It has lessons that will appeal to anyone who is unsure about their life purpose. I've seen other films and read other books about similar topics but I feel like this one reaches a level of insight that the others don't, as it cuts through New Age feel-good trite and delivers an emotional journey that is specific, realistic and achievable for everyone.
This film is a heartwarming tale that lives up to its length. The runtime, almost four hours long, suggests a powerful epic but it is actually a rather straightforward affair. It is the epitome of cinematic emotion with some of the best tension and stakes I have ever seen, the perfection of engrossing captivation. I can only fault this film for unoriginality, an unnecessary cheesy love triangle and somewhat caricatured characters.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Watching this film, one can see the unmissable influences on many works of fiction that came afterwards like Star Wars. The harsh desert environment is the main star of the film alongside Peter O'Toole as the irreverent but effective Lawrence of Arabia. Their fates are both intertwined in a long (and I mean loooong) historical epic that demonstrates Lawrence's pivotal role in the Arab Revolt, with his inspirational yet overambitious qualities tipping the balance.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This film reminds me a lot of The Godfather Part II but I think this one is a bit better. This is a great film, one of Sergio Leone's best and longest, but the length also makes the flaws more apparent. The strengths are in its directing, cinematography, characters and sets as usual for a Sergio Leone production. The flaws are in its length, choppy plot, overly sleazy protagonist and implausible ending. I was quite hooked at the beginning, especially during the youth flashbacks, but by the end I was scratching my head a lot and asking, "how can this really be happening?"
C'era una volta il West (1968)
Master of tension
Previously I had watched Sergio Leone's famous The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and I was not that impressed by his use of slow tension-building scenes in that film, but Once Upon a Time in the West has fully won me over. The slow scenes here are used to great effect to construct an impression of a desolate, anarchist wasteland with plenty of masculine bandits who really rule the land. Every little moment has its purpose - the playing of a harmonica, the buzzing of a fly, the wind in the desert and more. This all supports a gradually unfolding story that is as mysterious as its characters, culminating in the victory of big business, railways and the building of civilisation that end the classic impression of the "wild west" the characters thrive in.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
This film is a classic and I see why it is still popular so many years later. The writing, casting and acting are perfect with all of the characters brought to life as real humans struggling against the backdrop of the war. The protagonist Scarlett O'Hara is a flawed and many-layered person with deep streaks of good and bad which expose themselves throughout her journey. It succeeds on many levels - as a character study, as a dramatic work and as a historical artifact. My only criticism is that the second half peters out in its excitement and pacing compared to the first half and thus the whole film didn't need to be so long.
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
This film is often compared to its Hollywood influences, Quentin Tarantino and the Godfather, but in my opinion Gangs of Wasseypur actually outdo these. The level of scope and detail are unparalleled and makes the audience feel like they are really living in these time periods. The balancing act of so many characters is achieved deftly and with great actors who bring a strong sense of brutal ambition. This is an epic in the true sense of the term with technical perfection and an incredible story.
When the Wind Blows (1986)
This film has a deceptively simple art style and innocent protagonists that hook in an unsuspecting audience. The sweetness of the old couple serve to lower our guard and expect some charming banter, yet the looming nuclear strike aims to completely subvert that. A quaint and nostalgic country existence is suddenly torn asunder by this inescapable black swan. Its familiar denizens are totally unprepared to deal with the suffering and aftermath which is portrayed in a very horrifying and drawn out manner that does not leave out any detail.
Complete and total disappointment
The 3D animation style was quite close to the original animation style and the jokes were quite random and creative, but that's the only praise I can give to this film. It is a series of loosely connected scenes with little sense of overall direction or continuity. Some of these are completely disconnected like the El Diablo showdown. While the premise is promising, it is taken from older episodes and the first film, demonstrating a sense of desperation among the writers.
The Kid (1921)
Another Charlie Chaplin classic
This film is one of Charlie Chaplin's oldest feature films. The child star Jackie Coogan makes for a great companion for the tramp's shenanigans. As usual, Chaplin deftly weaves physical comedy with emotional storytelling although it does lapse into irrelevancy near the end.
Osmosis Jones (2001)
One bad half, one good half
The film should have just been animated all the way through. These sequences were very imaginative with lots of anatomical references and cool characters. The only criticism of these parts was that the character personalities were a bit generic and the overall plotline was quite basic (Thrax tries to do something evil, Thrax gets defeated). The live-action sequences were preachy and cheesy all the way through, like a very low budget TV show. Bill Murray does his best to salvage that mess but he is drowned out by constant bodily fluid related "humour".
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Slightly better than the original
I'm divided on whether the flashback structure complements the film's goals or whether it is just distracting. On one hand, it shows a direct comparison between the early life of Vito and Michael. On the other hand, the time skips keep interrupting the flow of the film. Personally, I feel that Vito's prequel story was far more interesting and the time skips weren't timed with good purpose so I lean a bit towards the "distracting" interpretation. The story is quite different from The Godfather and it really feels like a new film that is not tied down by its predecessor, which is good. The style and cinematography are even better than the original, especially in Vito's story. However, it suffers from the same pacing issues as the first film and I would not call it a masterpiece.
Better than The Godfather
There, I said it. GoodFellas is better than The Godfather. The pace and excitement are a lot faster which makes it more engaging. They are similar in showing the gangster life as a mix of unpredictable violence and temporary glamour. However, GoodFellas focuses more on the perspective of one individual and how the lifestyle appealed to him as a child and onwards. The direction shows this perspective with great skill - there are many scenes imbued with great excitement, paranoia, fear and brutality. All of this adds up to a true to life depiction of what the American organised crime experience is like and how it ends.
The Grinch (2018)
Engaging but thin
Almost nothing from the trailer is in this film, and it's better that way. Illumination Entertainment has a reputation for purely profit-oriented lowest common denominator fluff with no substance. The trailer gave me that impression but the film thankfully overcame that. It's engaging with a good message but the plot is a bit thin. Most of the characters and plot events are purely in service of some gags.
The Godfather (1972)
Good but overhyped
I'm ready to be downvoted into oblivion. Intellectually, I can appreciate the style, influence and popularity of this film as attested by its lasting reputation and universally positive reviews. Along with other classics like The Battleship Potemkin and Metropolis, it had a massive impact and has been lauded as a masterpiece. Yet, just like those films, I think it has more value as a piece of film history than an emotional viewing experience in itself. To put it more bluntly, I can see why it was a masterpiece at the time but I don't feel that way when I watch it now.
For sure, I'll give it plenty of credit for its acting and atmosphere. The cinematographic techniques add a soft, dreamlike quality to everything. The portrayal of the gangsters seemed (as far as I know) grounded and humanistic, not caricatured. However, there are definitely parts where it drags on and didn't feel engaging. If I watched this with no expectations and no idea of its status, I'd probably just think it's a well made film from an older era but nothing earth-shattering.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A simple classic
This film is a classic that stands on its own. The initial release was very low-key and it actually bombed at the box office, only gaining appreciation after many more years of being shown on TV purely on its own merits. The premise is deceptively simple as it revolves around innocent inmate Andy and his smuggler friend Red. Beyond that, there are many more characters and moments that add to the brutal portrayal of life in prison and change Andy's life in many ways across the twenty years he is in there. I would say it's expansive but purposeful, as all the scenes and story elements all tie in together for a single reason, no matter how irrelevant they may seem at the time. That reason is hope - no matter where you are, there is always a Zihuantanejo.
Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001)
It is what it is
This film is exactly what you'd expect from a Barbie Nutcracker adaptation from 2001. The animation and the plot are pretty basic but it's still a good story with an intense condensation of the original ballet. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than it really is and it exceeds at being itself.
Basic but visually creative
This film was revolutionary in 2001. Not so much anymore. The animation is still lifelike and fluid to tell the story without distraction but it is on par with a cheap video game by today's standards. The plot is cool and engaging if a bit typical. I loved the banter between the soldiers, especially Steve Buscemi's character. The best part is the visually creative world and design.
Terrific, flawed and everything in between
This film is, let's say, very interesting. As an auteur superhero film combining two other films, it has a unique style and premise that wouldn't be found in any other film. It is definitely a distinct viewing experience due to its creativity. As the title suggests, this film is really about the final member of the trio, the mastermind Mr. Glass. The other two characters The Overseer/David Dunn and The Beast/Kevin Wendell Crumb are really just there as part of his plan. This can be both good and bad. We see more of Mr. Glass and his plans beyond the terrorist attacks of the first film, but it almost seems dismissive of the other two characters. Their endings are very anticlimactic considering how much they were hyped up. There were other big flaws as well - too much of the film is dedicated to slow "therapy" sessions, the conspiracy came out of nowhere and the security in the complex was bafflingly incompetent. Overall an interesting crossover but doesn't fully satisfy.
War on Terror era tech show
This is the most American show I have seen. It is very gung-ho and has endless American-style editing clichés, stock sound effects and jingoistic narration. If you are the sort of person who likes technology, you will find lots of cool ideas to spark your imagination, although they are not always very revolutionary. If you are an American patriot, you will find lots of hope that the next big thing here will dominate the battlefield in the near future. If you are the sort of person who likes to complain about the "military-industrial complex", this will be a good comedy as the American warfare aspect is quite exaggerated, or it will give you even more to complain about. Everybody wins!
Kureyon Shinchan (1992)
I used to watch the Hong Kong Cantonese dub all the time, apparently. Shinchan (or Siusan as we called him) is simply the funniest little rascal.