Film Review: SERENITY (USA 2018) ***

Serenity Poster
Trailer

The mysterious past of a fishing boat captain comes back to haunt him, when his ex-wife tracks him down with a desperate plea for help, ensnaring his life in a new reality that may not be all that it seems.

Director:

Steven Knight

Writer:

Steven Knight

The film’s opening offers a hint of what is to be expected of the new psychological noir thriller called SERENITY.  The eyes of a woman fill the screen as the camera enters the eyes as if the eyes are the entrance to the soul.  The audience is taken under water and gradually to the surface where a fishing boat named SERENITY is seen and the radio is heard.  The radio is broadcast from Radio Plymouth of Plymouth Island.  The audience will surely ask themselves where the hell on earth is Plymouth Island.  The closest link is the port of Plymouth in the south coast of England.  But is there a such a place called Plymouth Island?

The film could be described as FATAL ATTRACTION meets OLD MAN AND THE SEA, Hemmingway style, in a sort of screwed up David Lynch world.  Whether the film succeeds is dependent on the audience but SERENITY offers trashy fun with Matthew McConaughey in what is a typical Nicholas Cage role.

The subject of the story of Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), an out on his luck boatman who earns a living by taking tourists fishing at Plymouth Island.  He works with a caring hand (Djimon Hounsou), who he has an often fond/hate relationship with.  Baker appears obsessed with  capturing an elusive tuna he nicknames ‘Justice’.  He has never come close to catching Justice though he has caught many sharks instead.  Enters one obnoxious tourist (Jason Clarke) whose wife (Anne Hathaway) is willing to pay $10 million to Baker to see her husband dead.  Apparently, the husband’s son wishes the same.  The husband tells Baker: “My son is in his basement all day and when I finally find out what he was doing – playing a video game, his reply was: “Would you rather me be doing something else like killing you?”  This line is a clue as to where the story is leading.  It is all very intriguing at this point in this strange but absorbing mystery movie.

The script, also written by director Steven Knight, keeps the audience guessing as to what is really happening.  The dialogue often has two meanings. Strange characters like Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong), always in a suit, appeal out of nowhere.  Reid says he is the rules of the game and does not care whether he lives or dies or who he is.

The film is enlivened by McConaughey’s crazed performance.  But it is Jason Clarke, the mean obnoxious tourist who steals the show.  Knight includes some very hot sex senes with McConaughey.

The film works before the audience is clued as to what is happening.  After what has been made clear, expectations seem to dwindle.  A sort of ah-ha, so this is what the film is all about.  Nothing more can be that interesting and the film then ends with a disappointing Hollywood ending.  For all that is worth, SERENITY is trashy fun while it works, and fortunately, it works for a majority of its running time.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbrOMrjhyvI

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Film Review: PARIS CAN WAIT (USA 2017) Directed by Eleanor Coppola

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paris_can_waitAnne is at a crossroads in her life. Long married to a successful, driven but inattentive movie producer, she unexpectedly finds herself taking a car trip from Cannes to Paris with a business associate of her husband. What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a carefree two-day adventure replete with diversions involving picturesque sights, fine food and wine, humor, wisdom and romance, reawakening Anne’s senses and giving her a new lust for life.

Director: Eleanor Coppola
Writer: Eleanor Coppola
Stars: Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, Arnaud Viard

Review by Gilbert Seah

 PARIS CAN WAIT opens at the Cannes Film Festival (where the film was shot). (Nothing is seen of the Cannes film festival or of any stars though, so one assumes that it was not shot during that time.) Anne (Diane Lane) is here with her producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) who can be observed as loving his wife yet too busy to pay her much attention. When she thinks he is answering her questions, he is actually speaking to the person on the other side of his phone. When an earache prevents Anne from flying to Budapest with Michael, Michael’s film associate Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive her to Paris, while Michael heads to Budapest for a film.

But Jacques diverts on the trip, and hence the title PARIS CAN WAIT. Anne filly arrives in Paris at the end of the film, delayed while her husband grows suspicious. In the mean time, Jacques plays on his charm to woo Anne – and finally makes his move.

PARIS CAN WAIT is a light comedy that is neither very funny nor amusing. The characters are superficially pleasant, but only to each other. If one looks deeper, each one is selfish to each one end.

Coppola’s film is full of little observations. She uses her characters nuances to point out flaws and strengths in their personalities. But the three characters are the idle rich who probably have lived all their lives in luxurious decadence. As a result, the audience can hardly feel for any of the three – whether they cheat or remain faithful. They just come across as three annoying people unconnected to the real world.

In the film, Coppola takes her audience to see the France only the fortunate see. Thee are no scene of poverty or minorities or any of the hardship that is taking place in the E.U. The characters wine and dine in luxury, always complaining about the ridiculous. Anne complains a great deal about how she cannot get cheese at room service that she had to order a cheeseburger to get some. It is a haughty and selfish behaviour with that spirit prevailing throughout the film. The two principal characters are travelling around in a gorgeous Peugeot convertible.

It is surprising the this is the same director that made the insightful documentary HEART OF DARKNESS that revealed the insides of her husband’s APOCALYPSE NOW. Where did all the talent and insight disappear to?
The film is shot in English and French without any subtitles for the French portion. The dialogue is mostly inconsequential which means that is no need for any translation.

The climax of the film is the scene where Anne ends up putting a clip to tidy up her hair behind her head, as if tidying up all the ends that have taken place, a clever subtle metaphor in the film. It is an odd way to end the film, as it is an odd film – indulgent, insufferable and impossible.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTrT6QSqnGs

_________

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Movie Review: BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016) #BatmanvSuperman

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batmansupermanBATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (USA 2016)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot

Review by Gilbert Seah

Before the film starts at the press/promo screening of BATMAN V Superman, director Zack Snyder appears on screen practically begging the audience not to give away plot points and spoilers to the rest of the world in order for them to enjoy the film. True to word, there are a lot of spoilers that could be revealed but this latest multi-million dollar effort is so bad that no spoiler could have made the film any worse.

Snyder makes no qualms at reminding the audience that he directed the Spartan film 300. At the film start, after Bruce Wayne rushes into the dust from the rumble of a fallen skyscraper, a lone horse is seen on the screen. 3/4 through of the movie, a cop and a horse is again shown on the screen. Of course lots of muscled bodies like the Spartans in 300 are on display throughout the film.

One can tell that a movie is bad from its continuity. The car chase segment makes no sense whatsoever. The reason for the chase is zero. When it takes place, there are lots of overturned other vehicles, lots of explosions but the scenes could have be taken out of 4 different streets for all that matters. The editing is awful and continuity is non-existent.

At the promo/press screening the executive introducing the film touted the imax technology involved in the making of the film. 40% more images can be seen in the imax version. But in the in the imax version that I saw, only the last sequence and the Batman Superman fight was in full imax top to bottom presentation.

There is little to enjoy in this film – the main problem being that the film is all over the place and all the filmmakers seem more content with the special effects. Comic book fans will be flabbergasted at the way the filmmakers have taken liberties to change what fans deem unchangeable and a staple to the comic book fan base. The main premise for example, would be that if ever anyone would want to see Superman fight Batman? And who would care which one would win? A true comic book fan would cringe every time anyone of the heroes, Superman or Batman was hurt.

The plot of the film involves Superman and Batman questioning each others tactics in order to save the world. The reasons are superfluous and unconvincing. All this leads to a confrontation and fight at the film’s climax.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a very dark film no doubt. So was the recent DEADPOOL. But DEADPOOL was smart enough to be funny and tongue-in-cheek while the latter took itself far too seriously.

And there is the question of the villain and a few other loose ends. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an odd one. Eisenberg seems to have sculptured his role from Heath Ledger’s edgy Joker before his death. Esisenberg does what he does best – speaking his lines at a thousand words per minute but in this film, with creepy twitchings. It is not what is expected from classic Lex Luthor. Eisenberg dons his long hair till shaved off bald when in prison. Aquaman and Wonder Woman make their appearances but for no real reason. It seem a total farce and they should have been better totally omitted from the script.

In one segment of the film, a character says that people hate what they do not understand, referring to the suspicion they have of Superman being an alien doing good but causing destruction of the planet. Audiences might hate this film for it is impossible to understand for its purpose or plot.

*****

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