It’s been a while since I wrote any movie reviews, mainly due to the lack of time but also because there are so many film review sites that I felt they pretty much got it all covered. This time though, I wanted to add my two cents worth. This review is for the movie Pan, which I saw in the cinemas today, in 3D. I did not read any of the reviews online before going, but I found it enjoyable and I had a really nice time. More importantly, I think it’s an entertaining movie for its target audience – kids. So imagine my surprise when I went online later and saw that some of the reviews for this film were extremely negative.


One reviewer even said this movie had “hideous visuals” and was “ugly to look at, shrill to listen to, and performed by actors who have been encouraged to camp it up madly”. Really? Hideous and ugly? Where is all this hate coming from? Some of these reviews read more like spiteful attacks. More and more, I feel that a lot of film reviews are less about providing the intended target audience with an informed choice to decide for themselves, and more about showing off how much the reviewers (supposedly) know about the world (and history) of films. Do they think that everyone who watches movies is a film scholar? That a detailed analysis of the mise-en-scène has to be typed out at the end of the credits? Sometimes, I think film reviewers just write reviews for other films critics, and they all live in a bubble. Having said all that, I shall now try to provide a review (thus making myself a film reviewer!) that is more positive for Pan, for as I said earlier, I enjoyed it.


Pan is an origin story for Peter Pan. Very briefly – the story starts with Peter as a baby, left at a London orphanage called Lambeth Home for Boys. Twelve years later and he’s still there, hoping that one day his mother will return for him. Before there is a chance of that happening though, he and a few of the other boys are kidnapped by pirates and brought to Neverland, a place ruled by Blackbeard, played by Hugh Jackman in what must have been a really fun role for him. (There was a scene in which he had to flail and flop around… I can only imagine what he had to do as an actor, before post production added the visual effects in the scene. Co-stars Levi Miller who plays Peter and Rooney Mara who plays Tiger Lily had to look seriously at him and they must have had a hard time keeping straight faces during filming.) Blackbeard puts all the boys to work, mining for pixum, or fairy dust. The rest of the movie deals with how Peter tries to escape in order to find his mother, with the help of Hook (played by Garrett Hedlund). Does he succeed? I shall leave that up to you to find out should you decide to watch the movie.

Pan Movie Rooney

As mentioned earlier, Pan is a movie for children (or for the child in you). The acting is over-the-top, as it should be in a kids’ film. There are action scenes but no real sense of danger, so not really any scary scenes (although one scene with an implied death of a child did bother me slightly but it was done in a comical way and was over so fast that I doubt any kids watching really noticed). Even the deaths of the natives resulted in rainbow coloured explosions, making the deaths interesting to watch and lessening the impact such deaths might have. This is no doubt, done to provide a more suitable viewing experience for children. Again, I have no problems with this. The star of the film will have to be Levi Miller, the young actor who plays Peter Pan. As he is literally in almost every scene, the movie sinks or swims based on his performance and he does an impressive job of it, making you believe he is capable of mischief and well as childish innocence. They absolutely nailed the casting for this role, this kid is probably going to go far. In short, if you are looking for an enjoyable kids’ film on the origin of Peter Pan, give this movie a go. I enjoyed it. As this is meant to be the first film in a trilogy, I’m actually interested to see what the sequels will be like, although director Joe Wright better hurry up and film the sequels back to back. From the production photos, it looks like Levi Miller seems to be growing up fast. Pretty soon, the boy who never grew up will be played by the boy who is all grown up.


The trailer for the film is below.

West of Memphis

poster It’s been a while since I updated this blog. I’ve still been watching movies and one of the movies I wanted to write about is a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh called West of Memphis, but I’ve been delaying my post because I’ve been bothered a bit by the film and wasn’t sure if I should include it in my blog. So far, my short list of movies has been pretty upbeat (ok, maybe not all but perhaps mostly?). In the end, I’ve decided to post it anyway because I think it’s a good sign if a film makes you think about certain issues, even if those issues kind of make you feel down. West of Memphis certainly isn’t a feel-good documentary. In fact, it sort of gets the blood boiling, if anything. I was disturbed by it, and also saddened. But it’s a story that deserves to be told, although justice is definitely not served in this case.

the3 boysThis documentary came out in 2012 and is about the murder of three 8 year old boys and the arrest of three teenagers for the crime. There have been quite a few documentaries about this case but I have not seen any of them, and have only seen this one a couple of months ago. It’s such a complex case that it would be hard for me to describe all the twists and turns the story takes, but basically (and I don’t think there is a need here for me to include a spoiler warning but if you do not know anything about the case and do not wish to, please read no further), the three teenagers who were arrested were scapegoats and were wrongly convicted.

acmemphis3west-memphis-three-peter-jackson-documentary-paradise-lostPutting it in such a simple sentence, however, does not seem to convey the level of incompetence that occurred in relation to this case, and not only that but the fact that they most likely found the real killer (I say “most likely” but really, they found the killer… there’s DNA proof!) but chose to close the case and leave the killer alone is just mind-boggling and infuriating. The three teenagers who were arrested were finally freed after more than 18 years in prison, but they were freed only after they agreed to plead guilty to the crime! In effect, this means that it was NOT a wrongful conviction case (a wrongful conviction would probably mean they can sue for damages). So now, the politicians’ asses are covered, the case is now closed, and the real killer continues to walk scot-free without serving a single day in prison. And amidst all the corrupt political strategies used in handling this case, where is the justice for three terrified 8 year old boys who were brutally tied up and murdered?


snowpiercer_ver20_xlgOne evening in 2006, when I was living in Bradford in the northern part of England, I walked from the University of Bradford to the National Media Museum to watch a Korean monster movie called The Host. I didn’t really know much about the film but I knew it was a monster movie, AND it was discount night for university students, so how could I resist, right? It turned out to be one of the best monster movies I had ever seen. And amazingly, the visual effects was as good as anything Hollywood was churning out too. That was the first time I saw a movie by director Bong Joon-ho. Fast forward to 2014 and I just watched Bong Joon-ho’s first English language feature film – Snowpiercer.

snowpiercer2Snowpiercer is a sci-fi movie set in the future when the entire world has frozen over, and the last remains of humanity now live on a train that circles non-stop around the world, powered by a perpetual motion engine. (Funny, the last review I posted is about a character called T.S. Spivet who invents a perpetual motion machine – guess his invention came in handy for the characters in this movie, haha. Ok, that wasn’t funny at all.)

SnowpiercerWhen I first heard the story, I thought it sounded a little silly and I was wondering if this was going to turn out to be some B-grade attempt at sci-fi (which I also enjoy every now and again). Well, it’s not. It’s a beautifully made film, visually stunning, well paced, and if you look past all the action and amazing set designs, you’ll even find a study on social classes and equality (or inequality) between the haves and the have-nots.

snowpiercer3Chris Evans plays the main character Curtis, a reluctant leader of the poor who live in the rear of the train. He is assisted by his friend Edgar (played by Jamie Bell). Their goal is to lead a rebellion to the front of the train where wealth abounds and food is abundant. One of the people trying to keep this from happening is Ambassador Mason, played fantastically well by Tilda Swinton whose character is almost a cartoon caricature, but yet there is an underlying tone of menace and even cruelty that prevents you from taking her lightly. This isn’t a non-stop action movie (even though I kept expecting Chris Evans to put on his Captain America costume and start kicking butt) but it is a visually stylish and interesting dystopian sci-fi that is different from the usual fare. The trailer is below. There are many trailers online but the one below is enough to give you a feel of what the film is about… some of the longer trailers show a bit too much, even parts of the ending are shown.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet


The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet is a film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. For those familiar with Jeunet’s movies, images of quirky and eccentric scenes will spring to mind. This film is no different, although it’s probably not as quirky as say, The City of Lost Children. Instead of giving you an analysis of the film before giving a verdict, I might as well come right out and say it – I loved The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet! It’s a beautiful little film, although I do find it a bit difficult to classify. Initially, I thought it was a “comedy” film for children but as the film progressed, I found that to be too simple a definition. Some of the issues that are dealt with here are a little more complex.

The story is about a young boy, T.S. Spivet, a child prodigy who invents a perpetual motion machine and is rewarded for his invention by the Smithsonian with the Baird Prize. Not knowing he is actually a 10 year old child, they invite him to accept his prize and to give a speech at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. And so our pint-sized hero sets out on his journey from his home in Coppertop Ranch in Montana to Washington, meeting some colorful characters along the way. In terms of plot, there really isn’t a whole lot to say. However, I watched this film not knowing anything about it other than the fact that Jeunet directed it, and not having read the book by Reif Larsen (although I’m planning to get my hands on a copy now) and I think my enjoyment of the film is all the better for it. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the movie as much if I knew some of the stuff that was going to happen. It is because of this that I am leaving out a major occurrence in the film, something that affects the way the title character feels, relates to others, and even condemns himself for, throughout the entire movie. If you really want to know what happened, just read any other review for this film as everyone else seems to think it is ok to write about it… probably because it’s not what happens in the film that makes or breaks this movie, it’s how the movie is played out. (Still, I prefer not to write what happened.)

All that may sound boring as not much happens but it’s the relationship Spivet has with the people around him, with his dysfunctional family members, his struggle with decisions, and his views of the adult world around him that make this an endearing movie. The film also works visually, in fact it is VERY much a visual film, from the colour schemes to the sets and the costumes, it all looks great. (There was a scene in which the boy sits in front of a plate with a fake piece of steak and two eggs. He moves the plate away and you see that the placemat the plate was resting on has an image of … a steak and two eggs, I LOVED that!) And the gorgeous cinematography and wonderful (mainly acoustic guitar) score by Denis Sanacore certainly helped the film.

Although filled with many characters, the two main characters in the film are Spivet and his mother. Spivet’s mother is played by Helena Bonham Carter, who fits perfectly in a quirky Jeunet movie. T.S. Spivet himself is played by Kyle Catlett, a young actor who is just right for this role, not too serious but not sugar-coating the film by being too “cute” either. He manages to draw you in to his character, and that is crucial as the entire movie is from his point of view (and he is hardly off-screen throughout the film). In fact, one gets the impression that in real life Kyle Catlett (the actor) and T.S. Spivet (the character) probably share many similar characteristics and personality.

In the end, if you are looking for an action-packed Hollywood blockbuster, skip this… but if you are in a mood for a gorgeously filmed, slightly melancholic, sometimes funny, quirky tale about a boy and his view of the world around him, this is a film I think you’ll enjoy. I certainly did. (You can find the film’s trailer below.)

The Way Way Back

PosterWhen I was a kid, I watched movies from other countries about other kids growing up in different cultures and backgrounds, and I realised that I was only going to experience growing up once, in my culture and with my background. That’s it. I have since moved around and have lived in 3 different  countries in different parts of the world, which is great, but I didn’t grow up in these places. After all, you only get to grow up once. Maybe that’s why I love a good coming of age film. The Way Way Back is one of those films. In fact, and perhaps I am biased here, I think it’s an absolutely great film.

The story is written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Oscar winning screenwriters who also play small parts in the film (brilliantly!). Some promotional reviews have said this is a fantastically laugh-out-loud brilliant film. I think that’s the marketing talking. There was maybe one part that made me laugh out loud, but mostly it’s not THAT kind of comedy. This film has moments that make you smile, make you laugh, make your heart ache, make you want to scream in anguish, make you want to smack someone (in this case, Steve Carell), and make you want to give someone you love a hug. There may even have been a moment or two when my eyes were a bit moist, must have been the dust getting in my eyes. Ahem.


The story is about fourteen-year-old Duncan, played by Liam James, who has to spend his summer with his divorced mum played by the always amazing Toni Collette. His mom’s new boyfriend is played by Steve Carell, who for a change is playing the bad guy here. Things are not happy for Duncan at home, but he soon meets Owen, Sam Rockwell’s character, and a friendship develops. Now all that may sound really boring, but it’s how the characters slowly grow and develop that make the film so good. You see both the good and the bad in the characters, and you get drawn in to share the joy and sadness. In one scene where Duncan confronts his mom about a certain situation (I shall not spoil it by saying what), he shouts to his mom to “do something” and I almost involuntarily jumped in and shouted “do SOMETHING!”.


Some people don’t care much for this genre, but if you do like this kind of films, The Way Way Back is brilliantly made. You find yourself investing your emotions in the characters and at the end, you get paid back exactly how these films are meant to pay you back – you “feel good”. This is definitely one for my collection! Check out the trailer below.

Beneath Hill 60


I watched a few Australian movies recently, and I thought I’d write about Beneath Hill 60, a movie by director Jeremy Sims. This is a movie about Australian tunnellers working to pack explosives underground in tunnel systems beneath the enemy lines during the First World War in 1916. It is based on a true story. A Queensland miner Oliver Woodward (played by Brendan Cowell) leads the secret team and they have to prepare and set the explosives off before the Germans discover what they are doing.

I’m probably not making it sound very exciting, and I’m not sure if “exciting” is actually the right word to describe this movie (probably not) but it is definitely a good movie with a fair amount of suspense and the pace of the movie never made me feel bored in the least. The editing of the film helped, with director Jeremy Sims choosing to cut to flashbacks every now and then to explain Oliver Woodward’s story, and how he got to be in his present situation in the front lines.


The audio commentary also reveals that although based on a true story, some liberties were taken (as is usually the case for stories that are just “based” on some event). For example, the filmmakers knew who died but not how they died, so they had to make up the ways some of the characters met their demise. Sims also included some scenes of the Germans, giving a face to some of their characters and making them more humans, undoubtedly to give a sense of loss to characters on both sides of the war since whatever happens (and you’ll have to watch it to find out what happens), nobody really wins when millions die as the credits reveals.

Suspenseful and at times moving, Beneath Hill 60 is definitely worth a watch! :)


Below is the trailer.

The Kid with a Bike

Kid with a bike

The Kid with a Bike is a French film by the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc. It stars Cécile de France (who I last saw in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter) and Thomas Doret, who plays the kid with the bike.

The story revolves around 12 year old Cyril, a boy left in foster care by his father who can’t afford to support him anymore. When his father moves without telling him, he goes in search of his father and his bike which was left in his father’s possession. During a visit to his old apartment, Cyril encounters Samantha while trying to get away from his foster home caretakers. She finds out about his missing bike and shows up the next morning at the home with the bike. A bond develops between the two of them and the story continues from there.


This film received an incredible amount of praise from film critics. Naturally, after hearing so much about the film and how good it is, my expectations were high. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in the end, I actually found the film a little disappointing. Not to say it is a bad film, not at all. It’s actually quite a good drama, and I really like the way Thomas Doret plays the troubled boy, almost with a blank expression most of the time but yet, you can sense a lot of emotions boiling under the surface (which come bursting forth in one scene inside a car with Samantha).


On the other hand, there were parts that I found very out of place in a realistic drama (and I can’t specify what without spoiling what happens near the end of the movie, but it involves a baseball bat). In contrast to the dramatic and emotional scene in the car mentioned earlier, that scene near the end sticks out like a sore thumb. That isn’t enough of a reason to rate this movie badly, though. In fact, I actually feel bad saying anything negative about this film at all. I wouldn’t even feel the need to, if it wasn’t for the universal acclaim this movie received, almost giving the impression this is the perfect drama. It isn’t.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 106 positive reviews. Clearly, the critics loved it. The audience ratings, however, is only 78%. Perhaps I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate this piece of “high cinema” like all those film critics (isn’t that what we all say when the opinions of others differ from our own?) but my recommendation is to watch this but without too high an expectation. It is good, but it’s not that good. The trailer (which again shows a lot of the key moments in the film) is included below.