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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

J is for 'just plain'

Posted: 17 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

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 (***)

And the nominees of Oscars 2014 are ...

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 09:50 PM PST

American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave lead this year's highly competitive race for Hollywood's top trophies.

THREE films – American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave – cemented their frontrunner status for the Oscars on Thursday in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive year for Hollywood's top honours.

Director David O. Russell's 1970s conmen caper American Hustle and Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller Gravity each won 10 Academy Award nominations, while Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of slavery in 12 Years A Slave secured nine. All three films garnered nods for best picture and best director.

"This has been an amazing ride, and to receive nine nominations from the Academy is testament to all of the hard work," said McQueen, a British filmmaker who unearthed the real-life American story about a free man sold into slavery.

But in a year hailed as one of high quality for the Hollywood industry, several other films could challenge the favourites in the race for the world's top film prizes.

Somali piracy thriller Captain Phillips, the AIDS activism tale Dallas Buyers Club, and heartland comedy Nebraska, each garnered six nominations.

Martin Scorsese's cautionary tale on financial greed, The Wolf Of Wall Street, quirky computer-age romance Her and adoption drama Philomena round out the nine nominees for best picture.

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may nominate up to 10 films for best picture, but only chose nine this year. A notable exclusion was the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, which had won some top critics' awards, and scored only two nods overall.

The race could be complicated by the long lead time to the Oscars ceremony, to be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres in Los Angeles on March 2.

Top actors snubbed

The crowded honours race spilled over into the acting categories, where the Academy snubbed some veteran stars and instead chose to recognise up-and-coming talent.

Eight individuals in the acting categories are first-time nominees, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as the free man sold into slavery in 12 Years A Slave. He will compete in the best actor race with Matthew McConaughey, the Golden Globe winner last Sunday for his role as the unlikely AIDS crusader in Dallas Buyers Club, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the swindling, fast-living stockbroker in The Wolf Of Wall Street. DiCaprio said he "found the role to be one of the most challenging and rewarding of my career".

And while the best actor race included veteran Bruce Dern for his cantankerous old man in Nebraska and Christian Bale as the conman with bad hair in American Hustle, it excluded Robert Redford, who won acclaim for his solo role as a sailor lost at sea in All Is Lost, and Tom Hanks as the captain under siege in Captain Phillips.

Hanks, who has not won an Oscar since his back-to-back wins in 1994 and 1995, was considered a favourite, mostly because of his harrowing final scene in the film.

While his co-star Barkhad Abdi received a nod for Best Supporting Actor, Captain Phillips lead actor and two-time winner Tom Hanks was surprisingly left out.

"I'm disappointed by it," said Captain Phillips producer Michael De Luca. "It was a crowded field this year. It's a great field of movies. I think with Tom, who has been so excellent in everything for so long, he makes it look easy." Hanks' Somali nemesis in the film played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi did win a best supporting actor nod, however.

Good year for veteran actresses and Oscar winners

Meryl Streep extended her lead as the most nominated performer with an 18th nomination, this year for best actress as the matriarch in August: Osage County. Streep goes up against fellow Oscar winners Sandra Bullock as the astronaut lost in space in Gravity, Cate Blanchett as the riches-to-rags socialite in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, and Judi Dench as the Irish mother who loses her son in Philomena. Amy Adams is nominated for her turn as a con-lady in American Hustle.

A giant screen shows the Oscar nominees for Best Actress, at the 86th Academy Awards nominations announcement, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, January 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California  The Oscars will take place March 2, 2014 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.  The best actress nominees were Amy Adams for

The nominees for Best Actress. – AFP

"This is just the loveliest news," said Dench. "I'm so happy for everybody involved, and so proud to have been part of the wonderful experience that Philomena has been."

The list excluded Emma Thompson, praised for her role as the Mary Poppins author in Disney's Saving Mr. Banks.

Rare feat for 'American Hustle'

In the supporting categories, there was a nod for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o as the slave Patsey and another for her cruel master, played by Michael Fassbender, in 12 Years A Slave.

American Hustle also earned supporting nominations for actors from Russell's hit last year Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence, who won the best actress Oscar, and Bradley Cooper.

A giant screen shows the Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress, at the 86nd Academy Awards nominations announcement, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, January 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California  The Oscars will take place March 2, 2014 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.  AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress. – AFP

Russell's romp through 1970s New York earned nominations for best picture, directing, writing and all four acting categories, a rare feat he also scored last year.

At the Golden Globes on Sunday, 12 Years A Slave, distributed by Fox Searchlight, a unit of 21st Century Fox , won best drama while American Hustle, distributed by Sony, won best musical or comedy. Gravity was distributed by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.

In the next few weeks, Hollywood will look to see how the actors, producers, directors and writers guild awards shape up.

Their members also constitute the bulk of the 6,000 Academy members.

Oscar voters have a longer time this year between nominations and awards and there is a risk they could get bored by the frontrunners, change their minds or be distracted by the Winter Olympics, said awards handicapper Tom O'Neil of Goldderby.com.

"Right now it's looking like 12 Years A Slave is ahead based on the momentum," said O'Neil. "It feels very important. It has the urgent social message that the Oscar voters like, but it's a hard movie to take."

American Hustle, he added, has an A-list cast, a good box office and lighter fare, while Gravity is "a spectacular achievement cinematically". Cuaron won best director at the Globes and the techical advances he used to depict the wonders of space in Gravity yielded nominations for cinematography, visual effects and sound, among other technical categories. – Reuters

List of key nominations of the 86th Academy Awards (winners will be revealed in Hollywood on March 2):


American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club





12 Years A Slave

The Wolf Of Wall Street


Christian Bale in American Hustle

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club


Amy Adams in American Hustle

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Judi Dench in Philomena

Meryl Streep in August: Osage County


David O. Russell for American Hustle

Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Alexander Payne for Nebraska

Steve McQueen for 12 Years A Slave

Martin Scorsese for The Wolf Of Wall Street


Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

Michael Fassbender in 12 Years A Slave

Jonah Hill in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club


Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Lupita Nyong'o in 12 Years A Slave

Julia Roberts in August: Osage County

June Squibb in Nebraska


Before Midnight

Captain Phillips


12 Years A Slave

The Wolf Of Wall Street


American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Dallas Buyers Club




Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium

The Great Beauty, Italy

The Hunt, Denmark

The Missing Picture, Cambodia

Omar, Palestine


The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest & Celestine


The Wind Rises


The Act Of Killing

Cutie And The Boxer

Dirty Wars

The Square

20 Feet From Stardom


Alone Yet Not Alone from Alone Yet Not Alone

Happy from Despicable Me 2

Let It Go from Frozen

The Moon Song from Her

Ordinary Love from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom


The Book Thief




Saving Mr. Banks


American Hustle

The Grandmaster

The Great Gatsby

The Invisible Woman

12 Years A Slave


The Grandmaster


Inside Llewyn Davis




Dallas Buyers Club

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

The Lone Ranger



The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Star Trek Into Darkness

> For more info, go to oscar.go.com.

Movies coming out soon

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 06:00 PM PST

Check out what movies will be opening soon in cinemas nationwide.

From Vegas To Macau – From a reformed conman who is now a casino security consultant to a mafia boss putting out a hit on a mole in his company, there is clearly no shortage of action in this Hong Kong-China crime comedy. 

Chow Yun-Fat reprises his role as Ko Chun in this fourth instalment of the God Of Gamblers series.

I, Frankenstein This thriller, written and directed by Stuart Beattie, is based on the graphic novel and original screenplay by Kevin Grevioux. Aaron Eckhart is Adam Frankenstein, the 'monster' created by Dr Frankenstein who becomes embroiled in a war between two immortal clans in an ancient city. Also stars Yvonne Strahovski and Miranda Otto.

This image released by Columbia Pictures shows Joel Kinnaman, left, and Abblie Cornish in

Robocop (pic above) – In 2028, good cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured in a car-bomb blast. Omnicorp, a multinational conglomerate, seizes the opportunity to realise their vision of putting a Robocop – a part-man, part-robot police officer – in every city in the United States. 

Directed by José Padilha, this is a remake of the 1987 film of the same name.

The Monkey King – Sun Wukong (Donnie Yen), the Monkey King, was imprisoned for 500 years under a mountain for rebelling against Heaven, before he left to accompany a monk on a journey to India. 

This fantasy tale based on selected chapters of Journey To The West also stars Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok and Gigi Leung.

Laga This local movie in Bahasa Malaysia stars some of the country's top actors like Nasir Bilal Khan, Eman Manan, Rosyam Nor and Ruminah Sidek. It follows the story of a group of men in a village who are addicted to the illegal "sport" of cockfighting, so much so that a few of them are even willing to bet their wives! 

Directed by Ismail Yaacob, it also stars Wan Hanafi Su, Marsha Milan Londoh, and Yus Jambu.  

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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