Category Archives: movies

[Movie Review] Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる Soshite Chichi ni Naru)

Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる Soshite Chichi ni Naru) is a multiple international awards-winning 2013 Japanese drama film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize as well as a commendation from the Ecumenical Jury. It also won the Rogers People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival and the Wuaki.TV Audience Award at the 2013 San Sebastián International Film Festival.

Koreeda also directed Nobody Knows (誰も知らない Dare mo shiranai), a 2004 Japanese drama film based on the 1988 event known as the “Affair of the four abandoned children of Sugamo”. I enjoyed Nobody Knows very much and appreciate Koreeda’s sensitivity in bringing out children emotions and how they see the world.

Expectations were high when I went for the preview screening of Like Father, Like Son.

Trailer:

Synopsis:

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and Midori (Machika Ono) are an ambitious urban couple pushing themselves and six-year-old son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) up the social ladder. The boy, however, appears to lack the drive found in his father. Then the parents are told shocking news: Keita was swopped with another baby at birth. Should they keep him or fix the mistake and take their biological son, raised by laidback shopkeeper Yudai (Lily Franky) and wife Yukari (Yoko Maki)?

If you were the father or mother of Keita, what would you have done?

As a father of a two year son now, I find I am unable to make a clear decision. The first conclusion I had was the same as Ryota – why not try to keep both? The problem is, would the other party agree? Is it fair to them?

The film got me thinking about the age-old debate of nature vs nature.

In Ryota, I see the failings of an elitist mindset, something which we often fault the current batch of PAP leaders in Singapore for. Ryota is not a bad person. He wants the best for his child, but it took him a while to reconcile the fact that regardless whether it was his biological son or the son he brought up, the child is not him.

The film had an open ending. It works for me as it invokes thinking. Rachel and I were still talking about it after we left the theatres, debating over the different scenarios that could have panned out.

While the parents stress themselves out thinking which decision works best for themselves, what is neglected is the feelings of the children. The director brought out this message subtly, but with a strong, lasting impact.

Koreeda is good in dealing with topics revolving around kids’ emotions.

Like Father, Like Son is one of the best movie which I have watched this year. Do go catch it. It is now showing in Singapore cinemas.

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[Movie Review] About Time (2013)

About Time is a 2013 British romantic comedy science fiction film revolving around time travel where a young man tries to change his past to have a better future.

The film is written and directed by Richard Curtis, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy.

I was drawn to the movie because of Richard Curtis. He is one of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters, known primarily for romantic comedy films such as Four Weddings and a FuneralBridget Jones’s DiaryNotting Hill and Love Actually, as well as the hit sitcoms Blackadder and Mr. Bean.

Curtis has said this is likely to be his last film as director, but that he will continue in the film industry. All the more this is a must-watch movie for fans of Curtis.

Rachel and I watched About Time at the preview screening on Tuesday. It was a sweet, lovely movie to watch, much like the rest of Curtis’ previous films.

The two leads were wonderful and have good onscreen chemistry:

Science fiction is not exactly Curtis’ genre though. There are lots of plot flaws with regards to the time traveling. However, if you can accept the confusing time travel as a plot device to guide the story along, you will enjoy the film pretty well.

I always prefer witty, acid British humour (think Jeremy Clarkson) compared to most America humour which tend to border on slapstick (think Rob Schneider). There is a good dosage of these in About Time which got both Rachel and I laughing.

The simple storyline on one man’s quest for love was endearing like the rest of Curtis’ previous films. Love is a theme which Curtis had always excel in and perfected over the years.

The key takeaway I got from this film was the resolve to treasure each day of my life more and to live each day to the fullest. Yes, I know these are cliches, but it is nice to be reminded of them in a light-hearted way.

Go catch this film with someone you love – be it a partner, one of your parents or a very dear friend. You will walk out the cinema feeling great about life, cherishing every second of it.

About Time is now showing in Singapore cinemas.

[Movie Review] Runner Runner (M18)

Runner, Runner is a 2013 American crime drama thriller film directed by Brad Furman, and written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The film stars Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Ben Affleck, and was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher.

Lots of big names.

This should be the first movie whereby Justin Timberlake gets to play leading man.

Big question is, can he act well?

Synopsis:

Princeton grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake), believing he’s been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Richie is seduced by Block’s promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When Richie is coerced by the FBI to help bring down Block, he faces his biggest gamble ever — outmaneuvering the two forces closing in on him.

I like the story premise.

For someone working in the online industry, this whole setting about a geek being sucked into the online gambling business and making immense wealth effortlessly definitely has its allure!

At the point where Ivan Block gave Richie the option to join him or walk away, I find myself rooting for Richie to stay. I would probably had done the same if I was in his shoes.

It was a whirlwind of a story build-up and the audience is kept in suspense till the point whereby the two protagonists finally met face-to-face.

From that point on, the story became a little too predictable and formulaic. It is still an enjoyable movie overall, but I think it would have done better with either more depth in the storyline or deeper characters development.

Runner Runner is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Go catch it if you are into mainstream movies. It should offer a fun ride into the world of online gambling without getting too heavy into morality and other related issues. 🙂

Movie Review – Prisoners (2013)

Thanks to the folks from Cathay, Rachel and I caught the preview screening of the movie, Prisoners last week.

Prisoners is a 2013 American crime thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve, with screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski, and with Mark Wahlberg as the executive producer. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano. It premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival.

Synopsis:

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His 6-year-old daughter and her young friend are missing, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect’s release. Knowing his child’s life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. The desperate father will do whatever it takes to find the girls, but in doing so, may lose himself, begging the question: When do you cross the line between seeking justice and becoming a vigilante?

Prisoners received positive reviews from critics. The film currently has a 79% approval rating on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 130 reviews. It was also a second runner up for the BlackBerry People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Rachel and I both enjoyed the movie very much and agree with the critics on the positive reviews.

At 153 minutes, the movie is pretty long. Nonetheless, there are enough twists and turns to the plot to keep you in constant suspense.

The director and cast also put in excellent work on the characterisation of each role. Gyllenhaal was particularly noteworthy as a twitchy cop who is a little unorthodox in his methods with half-hidden tattoos and a devil-may-care attitude to his superior. Although he is the one with the badge, his character is ready to play around within the system when he is pushed to his limits.

Detective Loki interrogating a suspect
Detective Loki interrogating a suspect

Jackman plays his nemesis of sort, as a concerned father turned criminal, ready to take things into his own hands when driven to desperation.

It is a crazy, stressful race against time when two young girls go missing and you know their chance of survival ticks away with each passing day, each passing minute. The audience is kept in constant suspense and tension, anxious for the girls to be saved.

At a macro level, the movie revolves around the theme of being trapped, like prisoners – in direct reference to the girls; indirectly, Keller Dover and Dectective Loki who are both pushed to their limits to find the girls; even the perpetrator of the crime who sees the crime as a battle against God and humanity, without giving away too much of the plot.

Prisoners is now showing in Singapore cinemas. If you enjoy movies like Silence of the Lamb and Twelve Monkeys, Prisoners is a must-see. Go catch it! 🙂

Movie Review – Cold Eyes (감시자들)

Cold Eyes (감시자들) is a 2013 South Korean film starring Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung, Han Hyo-joo and Lee Junho (2pm). It is a remake of 2007 Hong King film, Eye in the Sky (跟踪). The film is about detectives from the surveillance team of a special crime unit who work together to take down a bank robbing organization.

The film did well in South Korea, dominating the local box office since its release on July 3, 2013.

I watched it at the MasterCards Theatre at Marina Bay Sands last Friday at the international gala. Key members of the cast were present to promote the movie:

From left, director Cho Ui-seok, followed by casts, Lee Junho, Han Hyo-joo and Jung Woo-sung (picture via tenasia.com)
From left, director Cho Ui-seok, followed by casts, Lee Junho, Han Hyo-joo and Jung Woo-sung, addressing the audience at Marina Bay Sands before the screening (picture via tenasia.com)

My expectations were high as I have seen the original Eye in the Sky and enjoyed it very much. Cold Eyes has high standards to live up to and it did not disappoint.

The movie makes a boring job like surveillance appears really cool and exciting.

The story is relatively simple and can be summarised as below:

Ha Yoon-ju (played by Han Hyo-joo) becomes the newest member to join a unit within the Korean Police Forces Special Crime Department that specializes in surveillance activities on high profile criminals. She teams up with Hwang Won-jin (Sol Kyung-gu), the veteran leader of the unit, and tries to track down James (Jung Woo-sung) who is the cold-hearted leader of an armed criminal organization.

What is captivating to the audience is the twist and turn of the plot and the realistically portrayed, voyeuristic experience of surveillance work.

Han Jyo-joo in the movie
Han Jyo-joo in the movie

One almost feel like a stalker in some scenes where the surveillance team close in on their suspects.

The film is now showing in Singapore cinemas and is worth a watch for those who like action, suspense and drama. Go catch it. For k-pop fans, this is the first movie appearance for Lee Junhao from 2PM and I think his role was quite memorable, considering his limited screen time. For fans of the original, Hong Kong actor Simon Yam (任达华) appeared in a cameo role right at the end.

Movie Review: RED 2

A movie featuring a stellar cast of veteran award-winning actors and actresses – how can a movie like this fail at the box office?

RED 2 is inspired by a comic book series of the same name, created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, and published by the DC Comics imprint Homage. It is the high-octane sequel to the worldwide sleeper hit, RED – Retired, Extremely Dangerous.

Directed by Dean Parisot, the movie features many top-notch stars like Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Byung-Hun Lee (you will catch glimpses of his incredibly chiseled body on screen).

Btw, Lee Byung Hun has recently been appointed to be NESCAFE Singapore’s brand ambassador, in celebration of their 75 years anniversary. Specially for all his female fans, here is the TVC he did for NESCAFE:

I enjoyed the first RED movie tremendously and was really looking forward to the sequel. Have recently passed the 30-years age mark myself and graduating into fatherhood two years ago, it felt good to be rooting for action heroes who are of an older age. Young punks need to be taught a lesson not to mess with older people.

In RED 2, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. To succeed, they’ll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the next-generation weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on as they try to save the world—and stay alive in the process.

The movie is witty with many comedic moments and peppered with sufficient action scenes to keep adrenaline hunters satisfied.

I enjoyed RED 2 as much as I enjoyed the first RED movie. Most of the other omy Blog Club bloggers who caught the movie during the preview screening loved it too.  

It is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Go catch it!

Movie Review: Mr. Go (미스터 고 / 大明猩)

Mr. Go (미스터 고 / 大明猩) is a 2013 film written and directed by Kim Yong-hwa based on Huh Young-man’s 1984 comic The 7th Team (제7구단) – about a gorilla who becomes a baseball superstar and his 15-year-old female manager.

Mr. Go is the first South Korean film to be fully shot in 3D and is a co-production between South Korea and China. It was released simultaneously in both countries on July 17 and 18, respectively. Mr. Go is now showing in Singapore cinemas.

The movie’s theme song “Bye” was sung by Kim Tae-yeon, a member of Girls’ Generation. Composed by music director Lee Jae-hak, “Bye” had a Korean version and a Chinese version:

Korean –

Chinese –

Synopsis:

Young circus ringmaster Wei Wei has only bat-swinging gorilla Ling Ling to depend on as her only family member and friend, when her grandfather dies in the Great Sichuan Earthquake, leaving behind an insurmountable debt. When a loan shark threatens to sell Ling Ling and the circus kids to cover the debt, Wei Wei has no choice but to allow Ling Ling to be scouted in the Korean Baseball League by the materialistic sports agent Sung. Ling Ling, now dubbed “Mr. Go,” becomes an instant hit with fans and leads his team Doosan Bears to a miraculous winning streak.

Yes, I know the storyline seems really ridiculous, but the movie was surprisingly entertaining and moving!

Rachel and I brought Asher to watch Mr. Go  together. This is the first movie we brought him to watch and he enjoyed it a lot, sitting quietly throughout. He would clap with the screen audience when they applauded Mr. Go during baseball matches and would laugh when he see the gorilla eating human snacks on screen.

Animals and children transact global boundaries. This movie is perfect for family audiences anywhere in the world. It has been a long time since I have watched such a family-oriented movie with no kissing scenes or sexual jokes or excessive violence on screen.

Mr. Go is a beautiful story of the friendship between a girl and her gorilla as well as their influence on the people around them.

Mr. Go and his trainer
Mr. Go and his trainer

The movie has been marketed with limited publicity in Singapore. I would not have known about it if I had not seen the trailer when I was in Seoul earlier in July. This is a real pity because I think it has great potential to be a big box office hit with it’s clean storyline and magnificent CGI on the gorilla:

Btw, if you find the female lead familiar looking, her name is Xu Jiao. Her first movie was as the lead actress in CJ7 (长江七号), a 2008 Hong Kong-Chinese science fiction film co-written, co-produced, starring, and directed by Hong Kong comedy king, Stephen Chow.

She has grown-up quite a bit since her movie debut, but her acting is still as good and she can move people with her onscreen sweetness.

The ending of the movie suggests a sequel. If it is in the pipeline, I am looking forward to it and I am sure Asher is too! 🙂