Saturday, 18 January 2014

J is for 'just plain'

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

WHAT is it with fictional superspies/assassins whose names start with the letter J? There’s James Bond, Jason Bourne, Johnny English and here we have Jack Ryan. What’s wrong with writers giving their heroes good old names like Bob or even Michael, huh?

Anyway, Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan is not the first on-screen version of Tom Clancy’s super CIA agent. He’s been played by Alec Baldwin (The Hunt For Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games) and Bat ... sorry, Ben Affleck (The Sum Of All Fears) before, so Pine has some big shoes to fill.

While Pine gives a decent portrayal of the rookie field operative version of Ryan here, he is hampered because the character just seems a little too, well, ordinary and colourless to be memorable.

Still, the action and plot are decent, even though at times it reminded me of a very long episode of 24. Hey wait, didn’t the lead character of that show have a name starting with J as well? – Michael Cheang (***)

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

WITH no disrespect meant towards Nelson Mandela, I found myself drawn to the woman behind the anti-apartheid global figure instead, Winnie Madizikela-Mandela (Naomie Harris). Naturally, it was because I knew much less about her life (than Mandela’s). From the way she is depicted in this movie, Winnie is as sweet as cotton candy when Mandela (Idris Elba) first meets her, but after experiencing the injustice and persecution he underwent, she turns into a strong but bitter human rights fighter, consumed by pure hatred for her oppressors.

Harris’ performance outshines the rest of the cast, even Elba’s.

I felt chills especially in a scene where Winnie walks out of the courthouse in which Mandela is charged with treason, with her fist raised high in the air in defiance – truly the gait of a woman behind the world’s most iconic freedom fighter. – Kenneth Chaw (***)

The Legend Of Hercules

AFTER watching this movie, I felt like giving the cast and crew a pat on the head and going, “Awww, good effort, guys!”

Everyone seems to be trying their best to put out a great, if mythologically untrue, origin story of the Greek demigod hero Hercules (Kellan Lutz). But, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite get there.

Visually, the film emulates another Greek-based fantasy action-adventure movie, 300, with lots of CGI and, unfortunately, way too many slow-mo moments. This is one movie, though, that would have looked good in 3D.

Plotwise, it is reminiscent of Gladiator. However, with only two-thirds the running time of that epic, many scenes here are short and choppy, and certain elements don’t make sense. The dialogue can be quite cringeworthy if you let it get to you, as are certain key scenes.

Overall, a fairly entertaining, mindless watch. – Tan Shiow Chin (**)

Devil’s Due

NEWLYWEDS Zach and Samantha McCall (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) are in the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. They meet a taxi driver (Roger Payano) who offers to take them to a cool place with free drinks. Zach – who seems pretty much on a YOLO (you only live once) track – agrees and they are led to an underground club. The next day, they wake up and can’t remember anything from last night. Back home, Samantha announces that she’s pregnant. The nightmare starts when she begins behaving erratically and Zach believes they are being watched by strange men.

Devil’s Due is a found-footage film a la Paranormal Activity. It has a really slow pace, with a few scares in between and then you get all the so-called horror in the last 10 minutes. To me, the real devil here is husband YOLO Zach, who does a lot of stupid things.

YOLO Zach personifies the horror of hipster kids who can’t stop documenting every aspect of their mundane lives out of fear that they might die without anyone knowing about them. Watch this if you have games on your phone so you have something to do while Zach helplessly tries to sort out his Rosemary’s Baby problem. – Angelin Yeoh (*)

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

THIS is a conceptual, quirky, character-driven, inspirational tale of a constant daydreamer who finally decides to take action in real life when his magazine is about to publish its final issue.

And of course, his inspiration and motivation comes mainly from a co-worker whom he has a thing for.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a hero in his imagination, but his daydreaming frequently causes him to lose out in real life. When a film negative that is the next cover photo for his magazine goes missing, he finally embarks on a real-life adventure, tracking down the photographer (a perfectly cast Sean Penn).

We are treated to lovely visuals of the countries he visits. And the crazy adventures Mitty gets into go beyond his wildest imagination.

I loved this movie, with all its little details and quirkily apt soundtrack. This is one for indie and arthouse film fans, or those ready for a quietly inspirational underdog tale. – TSC (****)

12 Years A Slave

GSC International Screens

THERE is a reason why this film has been getting a lot attention on the awards circuit. Director Steve McQueen has not only brought forth a topic that the United States would rather sweep under the rug of “freedom”, he has made it something that is awful to observe but necessary to acknowledge.

Each frame tells a story – from picking cotton in the vast fields under the hot sun or the cramped living conditions during the night – that the viewer cannot look away even for a minute. Although McQueen doesn’t shy away from the atrocities inflicted upon the enslaved, he does it more with sound and close-up shots of the characters’ expressions than graphic depictions.

The performances are amazing all round, making everything that we witness seem that much more real and heartbreaking. – Mumtaj Begum (****)


THIS is exactly what you’d get from a banana leaf rice meal: a burst of flavours that will leave you full but still craving for more.

A typical ponggal (harvest festival) release, Jilla features two heavyweights of South Indian cinema, Mohanlal and Vijay.

It explores the relationship between a don (Mohanlal) and his adopted son (Vijay). Their relationship is perfectly captured in the course of several scenes at the start of the movie.

Director RT Neason fails to capitalise on the interesting premise. Vijay’s performance – one of the best in many years – and his chemistry with Mohanlal save the movie which otherwise has a weak and tangled screenplay with a dull narration.

Overall, Jilla is for the hardcore Vijay fans out there. His ability to hold his own opposite a veteran actor speaks highly of his growth an actor. – Nevash Nair (***)

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Entertainment , Jilla , 12 Years A Slave , The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , The Legend Of Hercules , Devil s Due , Mandela , Long Walk To Freedom , Jack Ryan , Shadow Recruit


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