Thoughts on Overheard 3

Overheard_3_poster

I managed to catch this at the preview screening last week. As the title (竊聽風雲) suggests, this movie revolves around high tech surveillance and monitoring, just like the previous two instalments. But despite the same mechanics, the premise of all three movies are worlds apart. I thought it’s quite novel that the film makers would everyone off, then reset the next movie with the same actors but with a different plot. So you don’t need to watch any of the previous movies to enjoy the next one.

The plot for this third instalment revolves around purchasing land in New Territories, Hong Kong. While it certainly rings a bell with locals, it might be a little too esoteric for audiences who are not too familiar with the history behind land ownership in that part of the world. After watching the previous two instalments, the narrative is now a little too predictable with frankly, unimaginative

The story felt like it had fillers thrown in to make up for what the movie lacked – a real sense of purpose. Is it about greed and the downfall of being greedy? The first two movies covered that. Is it about the dangers and perils of surveillance? Done that in the first two. Is it about friendship and betrayal? Guess what, we’ve done that in the first two. Instead, we are introduced to half-developed characters and half-baked side plots which further convolutes the plot.

That said, I have to give credit for the direction and cinematography, and the actors were mostly convincing in movie. I’m beginning to feel like Louis Koo (古天樂)is the Nicholas Cage of Hong Kong cinema for having the ability to play every role in his career with the same brooding frown. The standout for me was Zhou Xun (周迅) who is appearing in this franchise for the first time. Despite having a relatively minor role, she steals every scene she’s in with a subtle yet assertive elegance only someone with such talent can deliver. I think she’s one of contemporary Chinese cinema’s best actress and it’s a missed opportunity to relegate her to an inconsequential supporting character.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie by any standards but it felt a little too formulaic, repetitive and predictable. Watchable, but you might leave feeling a little underwhelmed when the credits roll.

Movies I Watched This Week #4

This would be a 2-week update after being on the road for more than 10 days. I watched a lot of movies so this time around, I’ll skip the bad ones and just talk briefly about the better ones.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Finally managed to catch this movie and I really liked this. It’s rare to find a movie that is funny, yet uplifting at the same time. Ben Stiller did a great job with this adaptation. If you’re stuck in a bad rut in life (I’ve been there), or just looking for something to elevate your spirits, then this movie is perfect for you. It has a great soundtrack too.

The Great Hypnotist (催眠大师) – I liked this for how well it was written and despite some plot holes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable piece. Like a mystery novel, director Leste Chen takes the audience through the meandering narrative and mixes reality with flashbacks and dream sequences. The result is an engaging movie that will leave you guessing until the end. The big reveal at the end of the movie is worth waiting for.

The Lego Movie – I must admit that I was surprised at how enjoyable this is. It worked really well because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s ridiculously fun and even adults will enjoy this and ultimately, like the toys itself, this movie is an ode to creativity in every one of us. It’s a throwback to what was so iconic in our childhood. Watch this.

Movies I Watched This Week #3

I’m a little behind this week, but it’s better late than never. It’s been a so-so week of movies for me. There was one really good title and the rest were average. Once again, in order of my favourite to the least, here’s a quick rundown of what was playing on my screens.

On The Job – Inspired by a real scandal that shook the Philippines, this movie is one of the finest movie I’ve seen lately. There are 2 main story arcs: a backup hitman learning the ropes from a seasoned killer and an up-and-coming detective groomed by his corrupt father-in-law. Their stories run parallel but eventually converge, and that is just clever writing. The technical aspects are well-executed, particularly the cinematography and sound design. The cast is exceptional as well, especially Joel Torre as the older hitman. Overall, a fine piece of work from the director Erik Matti, and I’m looking forward to his next film. Watch this if you’re looking one of the finest modern crime thrillers from Asia.

Out of the Furnace – To be honest, this left me a little disappointed. Firstly the ensemble cast had outstanding performances. In fact, they were so good that I had expectations set for a spectacular finish, but the ending was a little flat. I think the film’s weak plot couldn’t hold up the weight of the cast. Watch this for the strong performances from the cast. I think Casey Affleck is improving as an actor and seems like he’s ready for his big leading role soon.

2 Guns – This turned out better than I had expected. The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg is believable and great to watch, and with a plot filled with double and triple-crosses, this action-comedy is very entertaining. If you’re a fan of bromance movies or simply looking for a brainless but enjoyable shoot-em-up over the weekend, then you can’t go wrong with this one.

The Art of the Steal – This movie is almost like Ocean’s Eleven meets Guy Ritchie, but without the pizazz from either. The plot is predictable and there were no standout characters or memorable performances. It ended up a little bland and forgettable for me. The use of the first-person narrative in the early parts of the film was interesting but it didn’t develop enough in the latter parts. It could have been a fantastic device for dramatic irony if Kurt Russell’s character starts letting you in on the final cross. Watchable but don’t expect to be blown away. This isn’t The Usual Suspects.

Wrath of Vajra – This movie didn’t quite work for me. It feels like they wanted to make a martial arts movie, so they choreographed a bunch of fight sequences then wrapped what looked like a story around it. There’s nothing wrong with that, a lot of martial arts movies had thin plots but at least they were unapologetic about it. Wrath of Vajra took itself a little too seriously. The acting was forgettable but the fighting sequences themselves were choreographed quite nicely, although I had issues with the quick edits. I just prefer fight sequences with an uninterrupted string of action. Lastly, the use of slow-motion shots (ala The Grandmaster), is a little too gratuitous for my liking. Watch for the fight scenes, forget everything else.

Movies I Watched This Week #2

Another week, and another bunch of movies watched and reviewed. Here they are from the best to worst:

Léon: The Professional – This is a rewatch, and it still remains one of the best movies I’ve seen. Great direction from Luc Besson, bringing out great performance from the cast. This was Natalie Portman’s first feature film and you could already see why she will grow up to be one of the best actresses in Hollywood. Extra points to Gary Oldman for one of his best performances as a villain. This film is a true modern classic and you need to watch this.

Hot Young Bloods – A recent Korean movie set in a rural school in the 80’s. Part teenage rom-com, part coming of age flick, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit as it made me reminisce my growing up years dealing with my first crush. This movie is well produced and there’s little to dislike. Watch if you’re a fan of Korean film.

Jump Ashin (翻滾吧!阿信) – Based on a true story, this sports drama about second chances, redemption and pursuing your dreams. Eddie Peng shines in a physically-demanding role as Ashin, a prodigal gymnast who loses his way and mixes with the wrong crowd. The cast and their performance are pitch-perfect in this movie. I would have preferred the pacing to be balanced better because the last act felt a little rushed. However, this movie is still a must-watch if you’re a fan of sports dramas and/or Taiwanese cinema.

Tim’s Vermeer – A feature documentary is a fascinating look at one man’s passion and obsession with using modern science to capture the magic of Vermeer. I found it inspiring to see a man dedicate years of his life in pursuit of reconstructing Vermeer’s masterpiece. If you’re looking for a great example of liberal arts intersecting with science, you’ll enjoy this.

The Monuments Men – I was a little disappointed with this. It had a great ensemble cast, with an interesting premise but somehow it fell a little flat. To me, rescuing art pieces in the middle of the Second World War while millions are dying feels a little frivolous, and the film didn’t do a lot of explain the enormous brevity of their mission. I think George Clooney could be too close to the material as director, screenwriter and actor to take a step back to set it up properly. Overall, it felt like the whole is less than the sum of it’s parts. Watchable movie, but lacking soul and purpose.

The Pretty One – I really wanted to like this movie, especially with Zoe Kazan who was brilliant and charming in 2012’s Ruby Sparks. This movie is clichéd and the characters are bland, uninteresting and stereotypical. Rent it if you have nothing else to watch.

Stalingrad – I estimate they’ve spent 29 million of their 30 million dollar budget on special effects. This movie is filled to the brim with spectacular and often gratuitous visual effects which are absolutely stunning to watch. But when it’s all over, I wondered what the movie was really about. I think it can’t decide if it wants to be a war action movie or historical drama so instead of spending more time refining the script, they spent even more on visual effects. Watch for the action sequences, go do something else in between.

Choice Is Overrated

According to Nielsen’s latest report, Americans have more cable channels than they can channel surf in one night. The average US TV home now receives 189 channels, up from 130 in 2008.

If you spend 1 minute on each, you would have wasted 3 hours and still haven’t watched anything. Yet the average customer only watch 17 channels consistently – the same number as their 2008 consumption.

The Cable industry is antiquated and increasingly irrelevant in an age where access to quality content is easier and significantly cheaper. Times have changed and the consumers have moved on and seeking better alternatives.

I believe Cable’s glory days are over and their obsolescence is inevitable. Having spent close to 10 years in that industry, I’ve seen no real innovation but instead we get dumber, derivative shows and more niche channels that we don’t watch yet have to pay for.

More is not always more, and in this case, I’m fully convinced that the average consumer would gladly not pay for the 172 channels that they don’t watch.