2018年12月22日 星期六

Lars von Trier's "Depression Trilogy" + "The House That Jack Built"


Lars von Trier, depending on whom you ask, is any number of people.  Fans call him a genius, while others label him an eccentric, a misogynist, a racist, an overrated hack, or even a kind of artistic vampire, using his female muses to satiate a thirst for cinematic art.  Whoever you ask, I think they'd all agree that von Trier is a controversial figure, and one best approached carefully.

So would I say he's a genius?  Yes, I think I would.  If genius means "extremely talented person" I would not hesitate to do so.  He's certifiably eccentric, and charges of "artistic vampirism" may have a certain merit, but I don't think he's overrated, especially given that his movies are still relatively obscure when compared to big budget blockbusters and Oscar darlings.  And as for the charges of misogyny and racism, at least some of these charges can be traced back to hurt feelings and poorly-timed jokes.  Von Trier is known for his weird sense of humor, and it's this weird sense of humor that's key to understanding his movies.

I've wanted to write about von Trier for a while now, only having truly discovered his films in the past month.  I saw Dogville not long after it appeared in theaters, but I was unimpressed by that movie, and I'm not sure if I really gave it a fair chance.  It wasn't until I saw Antichrist that I really appreciated the scope of what von Trier tries to do on film, and even sitting here now, almost a month later, that movie sits very heavily on my thoughts.

After watching Antichrist I moved on to Melancholia and Nymphomaniac, the other two films in von Trier's "Depression Trilogy."  It's called the Depression Trilogy because that's exactly what von Trier suffers from, and in making these movies he was trying to convey some of what it feels like to be clinically depressed.  Of course I realize that anyone unfamiliar with von Trier isn't going to be excited about the prospect of three films centered on the theme of depression, but if you're looking for something new in film, something different, then you really ought to give them a try.  I'm not saying they're inoffensive, I'm not saying it's always going to be easy viewing, but if you're looking for something challenging then look no further than these films.



Antichrist stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple trying to overcome the accidental death of their son.  Dafoe's character, a therapist by trade, takes his wife to a cabin in the mountains, in an attempt to help her confront her feelings of grief.  Things go incredibly wrong from there.  Whether the second half of this movie really happens, or whether it's some kind of hallucination is open to interpretation, but the minute they start discussing Satan it grows steadily more gruesome, and Gainsbourg's character grows steadily less able to maintain her grip on reality.

Of the four movies discussed here, Antichrist is definitely the most difficult to watch.  I saw the unrated version, and let me tell you it gets NASTY.  There's a scene near the end involving a pair of scissors that doesn't bear thinking about, and some of the "perversions of nature" Dafoe's character witnesses are truly disturbing.  Antichrist definitely packs the biggest punch of the three films in the Depression Trilogy, and it might be the most artistically successful.

Kirsten Dunst's character is the focus of the following film, Melancholia, though Charlotte Gainsbourg appears again as her older sister.  As the movie opens, Dunst's character is on her way to her own wedding.  It becomes clear from the outset that the young bride suffers from depression (or "melancholy" as one might put it), but what isn't as clear is that something else is going on, an event of astronomical importance.  Dunst's depression intensifies and then abates as this larger event approaches, with her emotional ups and downs forming an ironic counterpoint to a bigger tragedy which those around her too quickly dismiss.

Where Antichrist moves relatively quickly, Melancholia grinds on with a grim determination.  It's a very slow movie, but for me the ending made it all worth it.  I found the conclusion incredibly moving, and even though the larger "event" that hangs over Dunst's character seems like a rather obvious metaphor, there are nuances in this movie that add another dimension to the film.  I wouldn't recommend watching this one right after the latest Transformers or Fast and the Furious, but if you can calm yourself down for it it's quite good.

The final film in von Trier's "Depression Trilogy," Nymphomaniac, veers far afield from the previous two movies.  Charlotte Gainsbourg is front and center in this one, starring as a sex-addicted woman who recounts her amorous exploits.  At the time of its release it was widely discussed for its graphic sex scenes, but I think such discussions - although perhaps pleasing to the director - miss the larger point of what the film was trying to do.



I watched the 5.5 hour Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac, so my opinions on the movie may differ from those who've seen the shorter 4.5 hour version.  I think there are some great scenes in this movie - in particular a scene in which a wife confronts her errant husband - but on the whole it felt somewhat unfinished to me, as if the director didn't quite know how to wind things up.  It's definitely my least favorite in the trilogy, and I had trouble buying into Gainsbourg's changes of heart (and changes of profession) near the end.  Her performance in this movie is excellent, but her character seemed somewhat unformed to me, as if von Trier could never quite decide what she was about.

Nymphomaniac, by the way, contains a scene that puts the bit with the scissors in Antichrist to shame.  It's the most disgusting thing I've seen in any movie ever - and I've seen a lot of the more "transgressive" horror films.  A Serbian Film, Human Centipede 2, Martyrs, Grotesque - in my opinion they have nothing on that one scene in Nymphomaniac.

Nymphomaniac, of course, led me to von Trier's latest movie, The House That Jack Built.

In The House That Jack Built, Matt Dillon stars as a serial killer.  In the midst of his serial killing he has conversations on a wide range of subjects with a mysterious second person, all the while recounting the gruesome details of his crimes.  It's much more of a genre picture than the films in the Depression Trilogy, strongly resembling films like American Psycho or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  At least until the ending that is, which takes a surprising left turn.

I liked it, but I wasn't blown away by it.  It's simply not as memorable as the films in the Depression Trilogy.  I watched the Director's Cut of this as well, and I'd have to say that after watching the unrated Antichrist and the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac this one was a cakewalk.  Somewhat ironically, this movie has proven to be even more controversial than the films in the Depression Trilogy, perhaps because its more genre-specific nature has exposed it to a wider audience.  I can only smile at teenagers discussing how "disturbing" The House That Jack Built is.  Compared to other films I've seen, it ranks pretty low in that particular category.

With all of the above said, those looking for something new and exciting in film are hereby directed to the filmography of Lars von Trier.  I can't say that his movies are always an easy watch, but if you're looking for something you can think over you'll probably find them rewarding.



Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 2009
Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (3)
The Other Movie Oscars: The 2010s
Some Other Movies From 2011

2018年12月17日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 2009

The top 5 movies of 2009 were Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and the completely forgettable 2012.  

There's been a lot of hate directed at James Cameron's Avatar since it came out, but I think that at least some of this hate is traceable to hipster types who probably LOVED the movie when it first came out, and only decided to hate on it much later.  I dislike the way it borrows from books like The Jesus Incident without giving those books (and their authors) proper credit, but Avatar was definitely the most innovative blockbuster of that year.

In 2009 the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just starting, so the field was more open to other properties.  DC was still in the running with The Dark Knight, Fox was stumbling along with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and plenty of people were still willing to give Sony's Spider-Man a chance, even after Sam Raimi's disastrous Spider-Man 3.

The above-mentioned Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Crazy Heart, Precious, Inglourious Basterds and The Blind Side were big awards-winners that year.  Of these movies Crazy Heart was definitely my favorite, but Precious was also great (if hard to watch a second time).  I'd have to give the "most overrated" award to Inglourious Basterds, a film which always struck me as the kind of movie frat boys obsess over.

My favorite movies of 2009 were Avatar, Crazy Heart, Precious, The Dark Knight, the first Taken, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Watchmen, Pandorum, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, The Box and Sherlock Holmes.

The worst movie of 2009?  I'd nominate Crank: High Voltage.  I just couldn't make it through that one.  Every time you think Jason Statham's starring in the dumbest movie ever made, years later he surprises you with an even dumber one.  In 2009 it was Crank: High Voltage.  This year it was The Meg.




Some Good Ones

1. A Single Man

The second I saw director Tom Ford's name in the credits I knew I'd like this movie.  Colin Firth stars as a gay man grieving over his deceased lover.  This was Ford's first film, the second being 2018's Nocturnal Animals.

2. Until the Light Takes Us

You can watch this whole documentary on Norwegian black metal on YouTube.  I'm not a huge fan of the scene (I did like Burzum, I could never get into Mayhem or Darkthrone), but the interviews with Vlad Vikernes (in prison!) are interesting, and I enjoyed learning about how the music came to be.

3. An Education

A young girl is forced to choose between her attraction toward an older man and her parents' hopes for her future.  It's a very understated movie, and the worst anyone does is steal the protagonist's virginity.  Critics LOVED it in 2009.

Fun Fact: Actress Carey Mulligan, who stars in this movie, may be more familiar to American audiences as Ryan Gosling's love interest in Drive.  Oh, and she also appears briefly in Brothers below.

4. The Young Victoria

Emily Blunt stars as Queen Victoria, Britain's longest-serving sovereign and the reason we refer to the late 1800s as the Victorian Era.  Paul Bettany co-stars as Lord Melbourne, with Mark Strong as the scheming Lord Conroy.

Emily Blunt is in a lot of underrated movies, and this movie is perhaps her most underrated of all.  Director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) began his foray into English-language films with this one, and it was also one of Blunt's first leading roles.  I love the way it turns the sexual politics of the day on their head, with men often finding themselves at the mercy of much more powerful women.

5. The Messenger

Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson star as two soldiers charged with notifying next of kin that their loved ones have been killed in the line of duty.  It's a nice, understated movie with a surprisingly upbeat ending.  After watching Antichrist (below) this was exactly what I needed.

6. Brothers

I don't know, it's just... weird seeing Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in the same movie.  I guess because I identify the two actors with different decades.  I tend to identify Maguire with the late 90s and early 2000s, and Gyllenhaal with more recent films.  I realize that they've both been around for the same amount of time, I guess it just has to do with when I became more familiar with either actor.

In Brothers they play two siblings distanced by the conflict in Afghanistan.  Natalie Portman plays Maguire's wife.  It's an excellent movie, and would also make a good double feature with The Messenger above.

Fun Fact: Maguire was of course Spider-Man in Sam Raimi's trilogy, but Gyllenhaal is set to play Mysterio in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home.

7. Fast & Furious

Not to be confused with THE Fast and THE Furious, the first movie in this series.  This is the fourth one.

In Fast & Furious, Vin Diesel tries to get revenge for the death of his girlfriend.  Spoiler Alert: if you've seen Fate of the Furious you'll already know that she isn't dead.  In this installment Paul Walker's still in the FBI, Vin Diesel's stealing things and occasionally visiting his hot sister, and in-between there are car chases.

Critics hated it, but I think it's alright.  Not awesome, but alright.  During the "initiation" car chase you can even see snippets of the tie-in video game they were pushing back then.

8. The Last Station

Tolstoy's wife and publisher contend over the contents of the author's will.  Christopher Plummer stars as Tolstoy, with Helen Mirren as his wife and Paul Giamatti as his publisher.  James McAvoy also appears as a young admirer of Tolstoy's.  I'd say that the first 3/4 of this movie is good, but it wears out its welcome in the last 1/4.  Ending the film with Tolstoy leaving his estate would have made more sense.

9. Julie and Julia

Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child, with Amy Adams as a blogger trying to cook all of her recipes in a year.  Streep is characteristically great as Julia Child, and Adams gives a serviceable performance as her neurotic admirer.  

Two things I like about this movie: 1) it doesn't take the path of least resistance, and have the two women meet up in the end, and 2) Stanley Tucci, who also appears in The Lovely Bones (below), is much better used in this movie.  It's not particularly memorable, but it wears its heart on its sleeve and it does a subtle job of comparing the disconnections in modern society with the disconnections of Julia Child's time.

10. Me and Orson Welles*

Richard Linklater directed this movie about a high school student cast in Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar.  I'll admit it sounds boring, but Zac Efron is great as the high school student and Christian McKay channels Orson Welles like nobody's business.  This movie also does an excellent job of recreating New York in the 1930s.




Some Bad Ones

1. The Men Who Stare at Goats

It's strange, but not strange enough.  This movie about a "paranormal ops unit" in the U.S. military seems to be pulling its punches, and as a consequence the Strangelove-esque humor present in the script fails to register.  McGregor, Clooney and Bridges do their best under workmanlike direction, but the film as a whole is like hearing someone try to tell a joke but messing up the punchline.  Even that little bit of War Dogs set in Iraq is way funnier than anything in The Men Who Stare at Goats.

2. The Lovely Bones

Despite some stunning visuals it bored me.  Peter Jackson directed this story about a girl stuck in purgatory after her murder, and even though Stanley Tucci is memorable it just drags on until its inevitable heartwarming conclusion.

This movie wouldn't have been great regardless of what anyone did, but I think where things really started to go wrong was in the editing room.  Trimming about a half hour out of this movie would have done wonders for it.

3. Invictus

Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela, with Matt Damon as the captain of South Africa's rugby team.

The problem with this movie is that none of the characters in it are interesting.  Despite the fact that Morgan Freeman's a great actor, despite the fact that Nelson Mandela's one of the most interesting historical figures of our time, and despite the fact that Nelson Mandela has served as an interesting character in other movies, in Invictus he just seems like a doddering old man, full of platitudes about racial equality and overwhelmed by the government he's trying to lead.

Perhaps worst of all, the rugby in this movie is never involving.  In sports drama terms it almost gets interesting near the end, but for the most part the rugby team just runs around and has arguments.  The critics loved this one, but I'm going to have to disagree.

Fun Fact #1: Not only did Clint Eastwood direct this movie, but his son Scott appears as one of the members of Damon's rugby team.

Fun Fact #2: If something about this movie feels familiar, it may be the fact that Morgan Freeman played another South African convict in 1992's The Power of One.  In that movie he also helped a white guy overturn South Africa's Apartheid regime.




A Really, Really Bad One

1. Chandni Chowk to China

This movie borrows freely from Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle, which was apparently a hit in India as well.

An ancient Chinese warrior is reincarnated in India, and then sent to China to save a village near the Great Wall of China.  Yes, that's really the plot, and yes, it gets even stupider after that.  This movie's only redeeming features are its unabashed stupidity and Deepika Padukone, who spends most of the movie in a variety of sexy outfits.

Fun Fact #1: Gordon Liu, who plays the bad guy in this movie, appeared in scores of Hong Kong kung fu films AND Kill Bill Volumes I and II.

Fun Fact #2: A lot of this movie was filmed in Thailand, not China.

Fun Fact #3: This movie was somehow the third highest-grossing film in India in 2009.




A Movie That Might Be a Work of Genius, But Which Is Sure to Inflict Psychological Damage

1. Antichrist**

Looking for a movie that's arty AND disturbing?  Then Antichrist is the movie for you!  Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as a couple trying to overcome the accidental death of their son, with Lars von Trier directing.  In tone it reminded me a lot of Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, though it's much more stylized than that earlier film.

Fun Fact: Eva Green was initially approached for the role of Willem Defoe's wife, but her agents refused to allow her to appear in this movie.

Related Entries:

Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (3)
The Other Movie Oscars: The 2010s
Some Other Movies From 2011
Some Other Movies From 2013

*Wikipedia says this movie is from 2008 in one place, and from 2009 in another.  Not sure which entry to believe.

I also watched Melancholia, the first film in von Trier's "Depression Trilogy" yesterday.  I plan on writing about Melancholia, Antichrist, and Nymphomaniac in greater depth after I finish watching the third film.

2018年12月16日 星期日

Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (3)

For reviews of older superhero movies click here and here.  It felt like time to get rid of the "baggage" those older entries carried, so I'm starting again from October 2018's Venom.


Superhero Moves On The Way


Wonder Woman 1984 (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, June 5, 2020 in the States)

Birds of Prey (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, February 7, 2020 in the States)

Joker (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, October 4, 2019 in the States)

The New Mutants (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, August 2, 2019 in the States)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, July 5, 2019 in the States)

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Comes Out in Taiwan June 7, 2019)

Avengers: Endgame (Comes Out in Taiwan April 26, 2019)

Hellboy (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, April 12, 2019 in the States)

Shazam! (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, April 5, 2019 in the States)

Captain Marvel (Comes Out in Taiwan March 6, 2019)




Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

What I Liked: Everything.  In my opinion this movie's awesome from start to finish.  The characters, the plot, the animation, the soundtrack, all of it's great.  I suppose it depends on how it does financially, but Spider-Verse could be a real game-changer for CBMs.

For me the best part of the film was the Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired sequence halfway through.  I've been a huge fan of that guy for years, and seeing his art animated almost brought tears to my eyes.  That version of the Kingpin?  That's all Bill Sienkiewicz.

What I Didn't Like: Small complaint: no Spider-Woman.  I've always liked Spider-Woman more than Spider-Man, and it would've been wonderful to see Jessica Drew (finally) show up in this movie.

Future/Sequels: There's talk that Spider-Woman could feature in the sequel alongside Spider-Gwen and Silk, but such plans are tentative of course.  It's entirely possible that a sequel would feature Spider-Man 2099 instead.




Aquaman

What I Liked: Atlantis looks cool.  Amber Heard is easy on the eyes.  The battle in the end - aside from a ridiculous pause in the action for a predictably romantic moment - looks amazing.

What I Didn't Like: Weird moments of exposition.  Instead of showing the audience what's happening/has happened, the characters in this movie often feel the need to stop whatever they're doing and explain things.  The only part of this movie where the action flows seamlessly is when Aquaman and Black Manta have their big showdown halfway through.

The part in the beginning about Aquaman's parents could have been removed entirely.  It adds absolutely nothing to the story, and starting the movie from the adult Aquaman's first appearance would have made a lot more sense.

This movie gets dumber as it goes along.  By the end I was laughing at certain scenes and bits of dialogue, and I wasn't the only one.  And before someone chimes in with "at least it doesn't take itself so seriously," let's remember there's a difference between laughing WITH a movie and laughing AT a movie.

The small ray of hope being that it's not as terrible as Justice League.  Not that this is saying much.

Future/SequelsShazam!, also set in the DCEU, will be out in a few months.  After that it's a long wait until Wonder Woman 1984.  Aquaman 2?  It's kind of early to tell, but the movie's been doing well in China, and those wanting a completely brainless superhero romp will be all over this one.




Venom

What I Liked: After a really clunky beginning there are some great action sequences.  Everything after Venom shows up is much better than the 15 minutes that try (and fail) to set up the story.  The fight between Venom and Riot near the end is very good.

What I Didn't Like: That beginning part.  It feels like they weren't sure what kind of movie they were making.  Horror?  Action?  Science fiction?  Going more for the "body horror" elements would have improved the film, and the spaceship/alien invasion subplot could have been dispensed with altogether.

As clunky as the beginning is, the dialogue throughout the movie is by far the worst part.  None of the actors seem at ease with what they're saying, and a couple of lines are unintentionally hilarious.

Future/Sequels: There are plans for a sequel with Woody Harrelson's Carnage in a bigger role.  I think that after setting up the general premise, a sequel is bound to be better.  Harrelson would also make a great villain.  Last I heard, Sony's next comic-based movie will be Morbius the Living Vampire, with Jared Leto as Morbius.  There may be some crossover between Venom and Morbius.

Related Entries:

The Other Movie Oscars: The 2010s
Some Other Movies From 2011
Some Other Movies From 2013
Some Other Movies From 2015

2018年12月14日 星期五

"Rich People Problems" by Kevin Kwan (2017)


"...What kind of Asian is this?  In descending order of importance: Chindo, Singaporean, Hong Konger, Malaysian Chinese, Eurasian, Asian American living in New York or Los Angeles, Asian American working in private equity in Connecticut, Canadian Asian from Vancouver or Toronto, Australian Chinese from Sydney or Melbourne, Thai, Filipino from Forbes Park, American-born Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Mainland Chinese, common Indonesian."

I read this book right after finishing Crazy Rich Asians.  You can read about the author and that book in that entry.  Those who've read the series will already know that I've skipped over China Rich Girlfriend, which I couldn't find in my local bookstore.

Rich People Problems follows the blueprint laid out in Crazy Rich Asians.  Super rich Asian people deal with various romantic entanglements, countless designers and travel destinations are mentioned, and in the end someone finds true love and the wicked are punished.  Now that I think about it, Kwan's formula is also very similar to what Anthony Trollope was doing in his books, albeit on a much smaller, much more British scale.

Rich People Problems is a good book and at times it's quite funny.  It's a lot more uneven than Crazy Rich Asians, which is unsurprising given that it's the third book in the series.  By this point Nick and Rachel are married, Colin Khoo and his wife Araminta have a son, and Astrid and Charlie are on the verge of getting married.  The rivalry between Kitty Pong and her daughter-in-law Colette frames most of the funnier parts of the book, and Nick's grandma's hospitalization frames the serious bits.

I'm sure I'll read China Rich Girlfriend when I can find it.  This series is pretty good, and I still plan on watching the movies eventually.

Related Entries:

"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan (2013)
"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
"Mission of Gravity" by Hal Clement (1954)
"R.U.R. and War with the Newts" by Karel Capek (1920 and 1936)

2018年12月12日 星期三

Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (2)

For reviews of older superhero movies click here and here.  It felt like time to get rid of the "baggage" those older entries carried, so I'm starting again from October 2018's Venom.




Aquaman

What I Liked: Atlantis looks cool.  Amber Heard is easy on the eyes.  The battle in the end - aside from a ridiculous pause in the action for a predictably romantic moment - looks amazing.

What I Didn't Like: Weird moments of exposition.  Instead of showing the audience what's happening/has happened, the characters in this movie often feel the need to stop whatever they're doing and explain things.  The only part of this movie where the action flows seamlessly is when Aquaman and Black Manta have their big showdown halfway through.

The part in the beginning about Aquaman's parents could have been removed entirely.  It adds absolutely nothing to the story, and starting the movie from the adult Aquaman's first appearance would have made a lot more sense.

This movie gets dumber as it goes along.  By the end I was laughing at certain scenes and bits of dialogue, and I wasn't the only one.  And before someone chimes in with "at least it doesn't take itself so seriously," let's remember there's a difference between laughing WITH a movie and laughing AT a movie.

The small ray of hope being that it's not as terrible as Justice League.  Not that this is saying much.

Future/Sequels: Shazam!, also set in the DCEU, will be out in a few months.  After that it's a long wait until Wonder Woman 1984.  Aquaman 2?  It's kind of early to tell, but the movie's been doing well in China, and those wanting a completely brainless superhero romp will be all over this one.




Venom


What I Liked: After a really clunky beginning there are some great action sequences.  Everything after Venom shows up is much better than the 15 minutes that try (and fail) to set up the story.  The fight between Venom and Riot near the end is very good.

What I Didn't Like: That beginning part.  It feels like they weren't sure what kind of movie they were making.  Horror?  Action?  Science fiction?  Going more for the "body horror" elements would have improved the film, and the spaceship/alien invasion subplot could have been dispensed with altogether.

As clunky as the beginning is, the dialogue throughout the movie is by far the worst part.  None of the actors seem at ease with what they're saying, and a couple of lines are unintentionally hilarious.

Future/Sequels: There are plans for a sequel with Woody Harrelson's Carnage in a bigger role.  I think that after setting up the general premise, a sequel is bound to be better.  Harrelson would also make a great villain.  Last I heard, Sony's next comic-based movie will be Morbius the Living Vampire, with Jared Leto as Morbius.  There may be some crossover between Venom and Morbius.

Related Entries:

The Other Movie Oscars: The 2010s
Some Other Movies From 2011
Some Other Movies From 2013
Some Other Movies From 2015

2018年11月30日 星期五

"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan (2013)


"Francesca Shaw cut in.  'Isabel, I'm going to tell it to you like it is, because everyone here is wasting your time being polite.  You can't afford to fall in love with Simon.  Let me break it down for you.  Let's be generous and assume that Simon is making a measly eight hundred thousand a year.  After taxes and CPF his take-home is only about half a million.  Where are you going to live on that kind of money?  Think about it - you have to factor a million dollars per bedroom, and you need at least three bedrooms, so you are talking three mil for an apartment in Bukit Timah.  That's a hundred and fifty thousand a year in mortgage and property taxes.  Then say you have two kids, and you want to send them to proper schools.  At thirty thousand a year each for school fees that's sixty thousand, plus twenty thousand a year each on tutors.  That's one hundred thousand a year on schooling alone.  Servants and nannies - two Indonesian or Sri Lankan maids will cost you another thirty thousand, unless you want one of them to be Swedish or French au pair, then you're talking eighty thousand a year spent on the help.  Now, what are we going to do about your own upkeep?  At the very least, you'll need ten new outfits per season, so you won't be ashamed to be seen in public.  Thank God Singapore has only two seasons - hot and hotter - so let's say, just to be practical, you'll only spend four thousand per look.  That's eighty thousand a year for wardrobe.  I'll throw in another twenty thousand for one good handbag and a few pairs of new shoes every season.  And then there is your basic maintenance - hair, facials, mani, pedi, brazilian wax, eyebrow wax, massage, chiro, acupuncture, Pilates, yoga, core fusion, personal trainer.  That's another forty thousand a year.  We've already spent four hundred and seventy thousand of Simon's salary, which leaves just thirty thousand for everything else."

Kevin Kwan is a Singaporean author who lives in the States.  Crazy Rich Asians was his first published novel, and is in many respects autobiographical in nature.  Kwan's own life in Singapore bears many similarities to the character Nick's background in Crazy Rich Asians.  The book has been adapted into a movie, but I haven't seen the movie yet.

In the novel Nick, a Singaporean living in New York, takes his girlfriend Rachel to visit Singapore on the eve of his friend Colin's wedding.  Rachel, a Chinese-American, is unaware of Nick's wealthy background and the snobbery of his relatives.  She spends her time in Singapore tortured by both these relatives and rivals for Nick's affections, all the while transfixed by the opulence in which Nick's friends and family spend their daily lives.

It's probably a novel that heterosexual women will connect with most readily, given that it's essentially an update of Cinderella.  Greed and lust have their day, but eventually the evildoers are undone by their evil deeds, and true love conquers all.  I'm not saying this to demean the book or those who like it, because to me the fact that it's resonated with so many people speaks for itself.  Those looking for a more serious, more literary examination of what it means to be Asian in modern times, however, would probably be better served elsewhere.

For my part I enjoyed the book immensely, and I'm sure I'll read the two sequels in the near future.  The author has a wonderful light touch with his characters, and the story flows seamlessly from beginning to end.  I could complain that all the male characters are one-dimensional, I could complain that the author's version of Singapore seems to depart from reality, but what we're dealing with in Crazy Rich Asians is a fairy tale, and a rather uninteresting (if handsome) prince, inhabiting a fantastic setting, is to be expected given the genre.

Crazy Rich Asians certainly isn't the best book I've read this year, but it's surprisingly entertaining and I look forward to seeing the movie soon.

Related Entries:

"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
"Mission of Gravity" by Hal Clement (1954)
"R.U.R. and War with the Newts" by Karel Capek (1920 and 1936)
"McTeague" by Frank Norris (1899)

2018年11月26日 星期一

The Other Movie Oscars: The 2010s

Please keep in mind three things:

1. I'm only choosing Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.  Let's be honest and say that these are the only three categories most people care about.

2. I'm only choosing from the movies reviewed in my "Some Other Movies From..." entries.  This means that some of the movies I choose might actually be award-winners from that year.

3. The movies reviewed in my "Some Other Movies From..." entries were chosen because I hadn't seen them before, and/or because of their relative obscurity.  To put an even finer point on it, they were chosen half willfully and half randomly.  I tend to pick 7 or 8 movies featuring people I'm familiar with, and 7 or 8 movies featuring people unknown to me.

4. For fun I'm adding another category, something memorable from a film belonging to a given year.


2018 (Which Isn't Over Yet, By the Way)




Best Picture: Annihilation
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Annihilation
Most Stunningly Beautiful Actress: Deepika Padukone, Padmaavat


2017




Best Picture: Logan Lucky
Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Most Ridiculous Picture: Wolf Warrior II


2016




Best Picture: The Witch
Best Actor: Woody Harrelson, Triple 9
Best Actress: Ana-Taylor Joy, The Witch
Worst Picture: Diablo


2015




Best Picture: The End of the Tour
Best Actor: Tom Hardy, Legend
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Most Unerotic Sex: Love


2014




Best Picture: Leviathan
Best Actor: John Favreau, Chef
Best Actress: Kristen Wiig, Welcome to Me
Worst Horror Movie: The Pyramid


2013




Best Picture: Lone Survivor
Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, The Counselor
Best Actress: Rosario Dawson, Trance
Manliest Picture: Riddick


2012




Best Picture: A Royal Affair
Best Actor: Clint Eastwood, Trouble with the Curve
Best Actress: Alicia Vikander, A Royal Affair
One of the Worst Comedies of All Time: Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie


2011




Best Picture: My Week with Marilyn
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, My Week with Marilyn
Best Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Most Embarrassingly Bad Movie (Though I Haven't Nor Will I Ever Watch Jack and Jill): Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star


2010




Best Picture: The Kids are All Right
Best Actor: Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right
Best Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids are All Right
Most Embarrassing Yet Strangely Mesmerizing Picture: From Paris with Love

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Some Other Movies From 2011
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Some Other Movies From 2011

The Top 5 Movies of 2011 were Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.  Of these five movies I've only seen the last one.

The Artist, The Descendants and Moneyball were all big awards-winners of that year.  I liked all three of those movies, though I don't think I'd list them as my personal "greatest-of-all-time" films.

My favorite movies of 2011 are Moneyball, Margin Call, Source Code, Bridesmaids, Drive, X-Men: First Class, Bad Teacher, Captain America: The First Avenger, Crazy Stupid Love, A Dangerous Method, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Haywire, The Tower Heist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

As far as "worst movie" goes most people would point in the general direction of Martin Campbell's extremely disappointing Green Lantern, but I would argue that both Cowboys and Aliens and Real Steel were both much, much worse.




Some Good Ones

1. The Lincoln Lawyer

Mathew McConaughey stars as a defense attorney who defends the wrong client.  It's a very forgettable movie, and the ending feels lazy.  It's not bad, but if I were you I'd only watch it if I was bored.

2. Warrior

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton star as two brothers competing in a mixed martial arts tournament.  Nick Nolte plays their father.  Hardy and Edgerton are both good in Warrior, and Nolte almost elevates the film above strictly "guy movie" status, but the script lacks focus and the ending lacks any sense of resolution.  Critics loved it, but if you ask me it's no Rocky.

Fun Fact: If the Russian champion looks familiar, it's because he's played by former WWE superstar Kurt Angle.

3. The Raid: Redemption

More Silat-style shenanigans in Indonesia's The Raid: Redemption.  This one's a lot more claustrophobic than the sequel, and as a result it feels more cohesive.  I'm really not sure which of the two movies I like better - I feel like Raid 2 had better fight scenes - but they're both very good.

Fun Fact #1: None of the guns in this movie are real.  They were all replicas.

Fun Fact #2: This entire film was shot using handheld cameras to give it more of a documentary feel.

Fun Fact #3: Raid 3 probably won't happen, at least not with the same director.  Gareth Evans moved back to the U.K. from Indonesia, and he feels that his returning home signals an end to the Raid series.

4. The Help

As if I didn't already have enough trouble telling Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain apart, here they are in the same movie.

Viola Davis stars as a servant in a white household dealing with Mississippi's Jim Crow laws, and Octavia Spencer deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress she earned that year.

Fun Fact: David Oyelowo, who plays a preacher in this movie, would do so again as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

5. A Separation

Iranian film about two families suing each other.  It deals in complicated moral dilemmas and offers no easy solutions.  I liked it, but it's really slow.  No music at all for two hours!

Fun Fact: This movie was the first Iranian film to with the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

6. The Grey

A group of petroleum company employees get on the wrong side of a pack of Alaskan wolves.  Liam Neeson does his standard action hero thing, but the script is well written and the movie is full of great dialogue.  Joe Carnahan may have directed The A-Team, but he's also directed a lot of other, much better movies like The Grey.

7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

A doctor and several policemen deal with the aftermath of a murder.  Warning: If you thought A Separation was slow, try to find a more comfortable chair for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.  It's as slow as molasses, and I had to watch it in two sittings just to keep awake.  This said, this Turkish movie is/can be an absorbing look into small town life in that country.

8. My Week with Marilyn

I think Michelle Williams should be a lot more famous than she is at present.  She's a GREAT actress, and she's delivered memorable performances in a number of movies already.  (She even managed to be memorable in 2018's Venom.)  Of course Judi Dench upstages her a couple times in this movie, but then again it's Judi Dench and she does that to everybody.

In My Week with Marilyn Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe, visiting the UK during a movie shoot.  Eddie Redmayne co-stars as a would-be directer, with Kenneth Branaugh doing a good Laurence Olivier impression.  It's an interesting portrait of the two movie stars during their later years, warts and all.

Fun Fact: Olivier's wife in the movie, Vivien, is actress Vivien Leigh, best known for Gone with the Wind.

9. Fast Five

Cars, stunts, and bikinis.  This time in Rio.  I still think this is the best one in the series, Tokyo Drift being the worst.  It goes from unlikely to completely ridiculous in under 60 seconds, but if you feel like turning off your brain for a while this is the big, noisy movie to do that to.

Fun Fact #1: Gal Gadot's film debut was in the fourth Fast and Furious, in 2009.

Fun Fact #2: Many of the scenes in this film were NOT shot in Rio, but rather in Puerto Rico and Atlanta, Georgia.

10. Fright Night

This movie doesn't QUITE violate my "Colin Farrell rule" (never, ever cast Colin Farrell as the lead in your movie), but it comes dangerously close.  Farrell stars as the vampire Chris (brother of Susan) Sarandon played in the original, with Anton Yelchin as the boy who discovers a vampire living next door.  It doesn't succeed in capturing the charm of the 80s original, but it's alright as these kind of movies go.




Some Bad Ones

1. 3D Sex and Zen: Ultimate Ecstasy

Is this what passes for porn in Hong Kong now?  If so, I feel sorry for people there.  The story's retarded, the sex is uninspired, and all the naughty bits are blurred out.  I can only hope they still have unrestricted Internet access, because there's a whole world of better porn out there.

2. Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star

Is it funny?  NOPE.  But if you're looking for a "Where are they now?" movie this is definitely one of those.  Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff, and even Pauly Shore turn up.  It has the rare 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and remains a thorn in the side of Nick Swardson to this day.

3. Colombiana

A female assassin does violent things to members of Colombian drug cartels - and it gets really dumb really fast.  If you like Zoe Saldana in tight outfits you might enjoy it, but other than that there's no reason to bother with Colombiana.

4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

What is this kid, retarded?  Isn't he kind of old to believe this horseshit his dad is feeding him about New York's "sixth borough?"  And what kind of parent is is this, sending his son around Central Park to talk to strangers?  I guess this movie was trying hard to be whimsical, but I just found it annoying.  No idea if it gets better toward the end - I had to tap out after 15 minutes.




One So Boring It'll Bring You to Tears

1. Atlas Shrugged: Part I

White, white, white.  This movie is SUPER white.  This movie is so white that the I'm betting most non-white people don't even know it exists.

I've never read Atlas Shrugged - or anything else by Ayn Rand for that matter - so I'm not prepared to critique her personal philosophy.  What I will say is that Atlas Shrugged is the most boring movie I've seen in ages, and the railroad industry that dominates its plot doesn't seem to correspond to any kind of business model that would succeed, not even in a future deprived of fossil fuels.  On the bright side the "industrial" conversations in this movie are all unintentionally hilarious, and I doubt that they sounded much better when they first appeared in Rand's book.  How does a national science institute "denounce" a metal, exactly?  What, do they all just stand up and say "This metal sucks!" and wash their hands of it?

It's kind of funny this movie was set in 2016, right when Trump won the election.  In some ways the future it presents isn't all that different from what some of his supporters strive for.  Unfortunately its "prophetic" character is ruined by a script straight out of a daytime soap opera, and performances that are wooden to the point of caricature.




Another That Critics Loved, But Which I Also Found Boring

1. Hugo

Marin Scorsese directed this movie about a young boy living in a Paris train station.  It feels appropriately French, and you can tell that Scorsese put his heart into it, but I found neither the characters nor the story especially interesting.  I got twenty minutes in before realizing that I'd seen it before, and hadn't made it through because I'd fallen asleep during an earlier viewing.

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2018年11月20日 星期二

"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)


"Gibbons snorts. 'The ecosystem first unravelled when when man first went a-seafaring.  When we first lit fires on the broad savannas of Africa.  We have only accelerated the phenomenon.  The food web you talk about is nostalgia, nothing more.  Nature.'  He makes a disgusted face.  'We are nature.  Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving.  We are what we are, and the world is ours.  We are its gods.  Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it.'"

Paolo Bacigalupi is an American writer of science fiction.  The Windup Girl was his first book, and it went on to win the Hugo and Nebula awards.  These days Mr. Bacigalupi seems to be aiming more toward the "Young Adult" market, but in the early 2000s he was one of the most prominent writers of "hard" science fiction.  I first heard about him through one of the The Year's Best Science Fiction collections.

In The Windup Girl, a representative from a powerful agricultural corporation tries to maneuver his way into the Thai bureaucracy.  As he jockeys for influence, he meets a "windup girl," a genetically engineered "secretary" stranded in Bangkok.  His obsession with this windup girl takes center stage against a background of power politics and industrial espionage, in a world on the brink of environmental collapse.

This book reads a lot like an update of William Gibson, and at several points in the story Neuromancer came to mind.  The two books aren't so similar that I suspected plagiarism, but it seemed obvious to me that The Windup Girl just wouldn't exist without Gibson's much earlier work to build upon.  I'm not saying it's a bad book, I'm not saying it's unoriginal, but it definitely owes a huge debt to Neuromancer and other cyberpunk novels like it.  The word "dystopian" is often overused in this context, but yes, this novel is definitely dystopian.

I found The Windup Girl to be an entertaining read, but as science fiction novels go it's pretty light on the science, and heavy on the fiction.  Aside from characters mentioning things like "generipping" and "kink-springs" there's very little in this book that couldn't or doesn't exist at the present date.  The author, for what it's worth, is very forthcoming about this fact.

If The Windup Girl has a weak point it's not in the technical details, but rather in the fact that none its characters are especially likable.  Unable to become attached or invested in their struggles, it's hard to care about the plot, and by the end of the book I was just glad it was over.  The book failed to trigger any kind of emotional response on my part, even if I could recognize the fact that its characterization was consistent and the narrative pacing was better than average.  I just never felt like any of the characters offered me a "way in" to the book, despite the fact that I've visited Bangkok several times, and speak two of the languages spoken in this novel.

So is it bad?  Is it good?  Do I recommend it?  I'd have to say that The Windup Girl is just... ok, and that anyone unfamiliar with William Gibson's work should just go read that instead.  As modern science fiction goes it's an admirable attempt, but measured against earlier, more original science fiction it seems to lack something.  What that something is I'd be at pains to point out exactly, but the unlikeability of the characters was certainly a sticking point for me.

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2018年11月14日 星期三

Some Other Movies From 2013

The top 5 highest-grossing movies of 2013 were Frozen, Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (yawn), and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (double yawn, but Jennifer Lawrence is FINE).

As far as the award-winners go, it was an excellent year.  12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and Her all came out that year.  I liked Gravity too, but I thought it was a bit overrated.

My favorite movies of that year are probably Gangster Squad, Upstream Color, The Iceman, Fruitvale Station, The Conjuring, August: Osage County, Prisoners, Inside Llewyn Davis and all of the award-winners mentioned in the paragraph above this one.

I doubt few would champion The Lone Ranger, which I consider the worst movie of that year.  You would think that after this movie studios would have stopped giving piles of money to Johnny Depp, but somehow studios never quite learn their lesson.



Some Good Ones

1. Dark Skies

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not."  ...but see the part of that quote the filmmakers failed to include was "Both are equally terrifying."  I guess it sounded scarier without the second sentence.

In Dark Skies an American family endures a Poltergeist-style alien invasion.  Aside from wondering if and when someone was going to end up in the living room TV, I enjoyed it.  It's by no means classic, but it builds up a fair amount of suspense over its 1.5 hour runtime.

2. Welcome to the Punch

James McAvoy and Mark Strong face off in this stylish British crime thriller.  The script was declared "one of the best unproduced British screenplays" prior to its entering production, and I'd have to say that yes, it made for a very good film.  After the success of Get Out it's slightly jarring to hear supporting cast member Daniel Kaluuya speak in his native British accent, but Welcome to the Punch is a solid action film along the lines of Michael Mann's Heat.

3. Trance

Hey there's James McAvoy again.  In this one he appears with Vincent Cassel (yay, Vincent Cassel!) and Rosario Dawson.  Danny Boyle directed.   The title refers more to the hypnotic state and less to the type of music.  One could make a convincing argument that this movie is a case of style over substance, but even so it's very stylish, and very entertaining.

Fun Fact: McAvoy's fellow X-Men alumnus Michael Fassbender was originally cast in the lead role.

4. The Internship

It's not hilarious or anything - and that strip club sequence exists only for the sake of tits and ass - but The Internship is... ok.  Vince Vaughn is about 50/50 for me, and Owen Wilson is about 25/75, but they're both relatively engaging in this movie about two older guys who want to work at Google.

5. Java Heat

Are all Indonesian police stations and prisons really so shitty?  Or is this some kind of movie trope, to make their characters seem tougher?

I'm guessing the fact that someone greenlit this movie had something to do with the success of The Raid.  But I could be wrong.  An American gets caught up in a bombing, and the plot ventures into Lethal Weapon territory from there.  Oh, and Mickey Rourke of all people shows up as a Malaysian (?) Muslim (?) terrorist (?).  There's some out-of-the-box casting for you!

The action scenes are stricly B movie fare, but the setting makes it more interesting than would otherwise be the case.

6. Lone Survivor

A team of Navy SEALS waste thousands of our taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan.  Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Taylor Kitsch are excellent in this movie, and the characters are very engaging throughout.  My only complaint is the movie's title, which gives the ending away.  I think Peter Berg, who directed this one, is very underrated as directors go.

This movie also gets extra points for Eric Bana.

7. Out of the Furnace

Braddock, Pennsylvania.  Maybe it has some nicer parts, but in this movie it looks like a real shithole.

Christian Bale and Casey Affleck star as two brothers who cross paths with a gangster played by Woody Harrelson.  It's a good movie, but more of a cat and mouse game between Bale and Harrelson would have made it better.  As it is it just kind of... ends, and all the great buildup prior to that point is wasted.

8. The Counselor

Michael Fassbender leads a star-studded cast as a lawyer mixed up with Mexican drug cartels.  Director Ridley Scott took Cormac McCarthy's script and ran with it, so you know this one's going to get DARK.  Depending on your love (or lack thereof) for McCarthy, the result is either a harrowing portrait of greed and human frailty OR a pretentious movie full of awkward dialogue.  For my part I loved it, and I'll probably watch it again soon.



So Bad It's Good?  So Good It's Bad?

1. Himmatwala

You've heard the Donna Summer version of "Thank God It's Friday," but have you heard the Telugu version?  A local badass returns to his hometown to confront an evil land baron.  In between the opening credits and his inevitable victory the (very beautiful) love interest sings songs, and the guys try to out-macho each other.  My favorite part is when HE GETS INTO A FISTFIGHT WITH A TIGER.

Fun Fact #1: This movie is a remake of a remake.

Fun Fact #2: This movie was a huge bomb.

2. Riddick

Now that we've all contacted our personal trainers, let's bulk up and put on our tough guy clothes!

Vin Diesel says predictably manly things and does cool stuff in slow motion.  The assholes who try to kill him die predictably violent deaths.  Aliens show up - predictably.  Where have I see all this before?  Oh, that's right.  Pitch Black!

Fun Fact: Vin Diesel only appeared in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift so that he could get the rights to the character Riddick.



Not Bad or Good, It Just Was

1. Texas Chainsaw 3D

Alexandra Daddario and Scott "I'm not the actor my dad is" Eastwood work their way up the ol' Hollywood ladder with Texas Chainsaw 3D.  The results are mixed.  On the one hand it's WAY better than 2017's Leatherface, and on the other it's still not very good.  This particular sequel ignores the 2003 remake and pretends to be the successor to the 1974 version of Texas' first family.  There's some good gore on offer, and Gunnar Hanson appears in it, but aside from these two facts there's not much else to be said for this movie.



Some Bad Ones

1. Dead Man Down

It's taken Hollywood a while to learn that you don't cast Colin Farrell as the lead in your movie.  Supporting cast member maybe, but definitely not the lead.  Farrell (unfortunately) stars in this movie as a man out for revenge - essentially The Punisher - and it's hard to say whether its Farrell's acting skills or just bad writing that makes his character come across as entirely too self-possessed to do what he is doing

Terrence Howard is, moreover, completely wasted on this movie.  He plays pretty much the same character he plays on the TV series Empire, though without the frightening ex-wife and the hip hop.  To make matters worse Noomi Rapace's accent is all over the place.

But I think the biggest problem with this movie is the pacing.  The whole thing seems like it's moving at the wrong speed.  There's a good scene between Farrell and Howard halfway through the movie, but aside from that everything about Dead Man Down seems to be happening either too slowly or too quickly.

2. The Grandmaster

By turns boring and pretentious, this Hong Kong movie is part action film, part love film, and part historical drama.  It's a movie suffering an identity crisis, and despite a strong beginning it quickly degenerates into long, thoughtful glances from Zhang Ziyi and the kind of self-important dialogue that sounds ridiculous in real life.

Perhaps worst of all, this movie made me miss the kind of Kung-fu movies I grew up with.  Back before everyone was suspended from wires.  Back when there was real, perceptible, physical danger involved.  Countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and even India are still making visceral martial arts-themed movies like that, but this?  It's like watching a pale shadow of all the better movies that came before it.

3. The Fifth Estate

Doctor Strange and Baron Zemo - ahem, excuse me - Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl - star as Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, and his German friend.  It wears out its welcome quickly, and many of the graphics used detract rather than add to the story.

Fun Fact: This wasn't the only time Cumberbatch played a socially-challenged mathematician.  He would do so again in The Imitation Game.

4. Mama

This movie seemed overrated when it came out in 2013, and having seen it in 2018 I can confidently assert that yes, it's overrated.  Two girls are abandoned in a spooky old house and are looked after by a ghost.  I never found the ghost scary, and the plot is fairly predictable.

5. Race 2

Bollywood movie about a con man seeking revenge.  What I'm going to remember about this movie is the shots of dudes walking down sets of stairs into hotel lobbies.  Endless.  Shots.  Of stairs.  Of dudes.  Walking.  Into hotel lobbies.  Oh, and designer sunglasses.  Lots and lots of designer sunglasses.  The rest of the movie is sheer nonsense, and only the presence of the stunning Deepika Padukone makes it halfway bearable.

I'm tempted to put this one in the "so bad it's good" category, but I think in terms of "bad goodness" (good badness?) it's overshadowed by Himmatwala above.  You just can't beat a fistfight with a tiger.

Fun Fact #1: Padukone was a nationally ranked badminton player prior to becoming a fashion model.

Fun Fact #2: Anil Kapoor, who also appears in this movie, was the star of Race, its prequel.  He might be more familiar to Western moviegoers as the Indian millionaire in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.  He was also host of the game show in Slumdog Millionaire.  He's been appearing in Bollywood movies since 1971.

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