Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Film Review: "Burnt" (2015).





"I don't want my resturant to be a place where people sit and eat. I want people to sit at that table and be sick with longing."
This dish of words tries to make the dishes served in Burnt. This comedy-drama film directed by John Wells and written by Steven Knight. The follows Adam Jones, a Chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. Years later, He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

The film, like its central protagonist, suffered trying to gain success and recognition in the intense and unrelenting kitchen of the film industry. The script was featured on the 2007 Black List, the list of the most liked unproduced scripts. David Fincher was originally attached to direct in 2008, with Keanu Reeves attached to star. Eventually, both Fincher and Reeves left the project in 2010. Then Derek Cianfrance was attached to direct the film in 2013, but dropped out and was replaced by John Wells. Also, the film was originally going to be titled Chef, but Jon Favreau had already used the title for his film. In addition, before the Weinstein Company bought the rights for Adam Jones, it was a Sony Pictures project and the company served Favreau's production with a cease-and-desist over the title Chef, Sony cleared the titles Chef and The Chef with the MPAA and requested Aldamisa (which controlled Favreau's film) to change the title of their film on threat of legal action. Favreau's film ended up with the title Chef and was released in 2014, while Sony/The Weinstein Company's Chef changed its title to Adam Jones in 2014. In July 2015, it was retitled Burnt and will be released in October 2015.

The film stars Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman and Emma Thompson. The cast gave strong performances despite lack of development, chemistry and the lack to make them appealing as the dishes their characters create and serve. In addition, Cooper's performance was nothing more than a pale imitation of fictional and non-fictional chefs before him.

Burnt is one of those movies that presents life precisely and meticulously as it isn't, presumably as some kind of consolation for how it really is. With its simplistic compartmentalization of dueling personality types, exquisite styling, overripe camera moves and lousy, overwrought score, the movie feels stubbornly, resolutely disingenuous and one-dimensional. Make no mistake: the film is a factory-sealed romantic comedy drama. But the emotional details of Adam's journey are surprising at certain turns, and the film’s determination to present his predicament sympathetically, makes it notable. The movie is focused on two kinds of chemistry: of the kitchen, and of the heart. The kitchen works better, with the shots of luscious-looking food. But the chemistry between Adam and Helene is terribly lacking, except when we sense some fondness—not really love. The characters seem to feel more passion for food than for each other.

Simon says Burnt receives:


Film Review: "The Walk" (2015).




"People ask me "Why do you risk death?". For me, this is life."
These words tell the story of a wild dream in The Walk. This biographical drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Dita Jaiswal and Zemeckis. It is based on the novel To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit. The film tells the story of Philippe Petit. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy, and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan - to walk in the immense void between the World Trade Centre towers.

Philippe Petit may be just a French high-wire artist from Paris, but he gained fame in 1974 for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, on the morning of 7 August. For his unauthorized feat (which he referred to as "le coup"), he rigged a 450-pound (200-kilogram) cable and used a custom-made 26-foot (8-metre) long, 55-pound (25-kilogram) balancing pole between the towers. He then walked 1,350 feet (400 metres) above the ground and performed for 45 minutes, and during those 45 minutes, he made eight passes on the wire. Immediately afterwards, he was arrested and charged with more than 100 counts of trespassing and other items. However, all charges were dismissed in exchange for his doing a performance in Central Park for children. Then the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave Petit a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck. He autographed a steel beam close to the point where he began his walk. Petit's high-wire walk was credited with bringing the Twin Towers much needed attention and even affection, as they initially had been unpopular. The walk itself became the subject of the documentary film, Man on Wire (2008), by James Marsh; it won numerous awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2009. On stage with Marsh to accept the Oscar award, Petit made a coin vanish in his hands while thanking the Academy "for believing in magic." He also balanced the Oscar by its head on his chin for the audience.

The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, and Steve Valentine. The cast gave exceptional performances. Even though Gordon-Levitt's French Accent was sketchy (to say the least), nonetheless his French was excellent and won my attention, especially with the spine-tingling climax.

In the end, I've never met anyone like Petit in a movie before, and for that matter I've never seen a movie quite like The Walk. Any attempt to describe him and what he did will risk making the movie seem less appealing than it is. I guess, it will be better for people to see it for themselves. It is a magical movie. It has been very well worked out on all levels, and manages the difficult feat of imitating the historical moment itself, even delicately played with an appealingly light touch with a subject so crazy.

Overall, The Walk receives:


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Film Review: "Legend" (2015).




The tagline of the film reads "The notorious true story of the Kray twins", and this is the exact story that Legend unfolds. This British crime thriller, written and directed by Brian Helgeland; based on the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson. The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.

"London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays. They were twins. Reggie was a gangster prince of East End, Ronnie Kray was a one-man mob." And indeed they were,  twin brothers Ronald "Ronnie" Kray and Reginald "Reggie" Kray were English gangsters who were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s. With their gang, the Firm, the Krays were involved in armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, assaults, and the murders of Jack "the Hat" McVitie and George Cornell. As West End nightclub owners, they mixed with politicians and prominent entertainers such as Diana Dors, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland. The Krays were much feared within their milieu; in the 1960s, they became celebrities, even being photographed by David Bailey and interviewed on television. However, in the end, they were arrested on 9 May 1968 and convicted in 1969, by the efforts of detectives led by Detective Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Ronnie remained in Broadmoor Hospital until his death on 17 March 1995; Reggie was released from prison on compassionate grounds in August 2000, eight weeks before his death from cancer.

The film stars Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Paul Bettany, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Tara Fitzgerald, and Taron Egerton. The cast gave top-notch performances, especially the man who played the infamous twins - Hardy, and the woman who tried to hold one of them together - Browning. Hardy is startlingly off-kilter, his performance a veritable textbook example of juxtaposing and complex brilliance. Browning gave a terrific performance as the sweet and fragile Frances Shea. But it was in her fragility that she shined most of all and allowed us to empathise with her the most out of all the characters.

Legend is an intense psychological drama which confronts familiar preoccupations of this kind of film - the sweet rise and bitter fall , mortality, the power struggle between the sanity and insanity. Even though these preoccupations have been done-and-dusted with multiple films before it. However, Helgeland, who has begun to emerge as a writer of gangster tales, clearly understands that a small amount of psychological mischief can make this film more unnerving than the conventional grisly crime pictures. In a weird variation of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde theme, the Krays are drawn relentlessly and frighteningly towards an inevitable and appalling fate. Hardy gives a highly accomplished performance in a chilly East-end London gangster psychodrama that remains among some of the star's greatest roles.

Simon says Legend receives:


Monday, 19 October 2015

Film Review: "Bridge of Spies" (2015).





"In a world on the brink the difference between war and peace was one honest man."
This tagline is what Bridge of Spies stands for. This historical dramatic thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. Based on the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War. The film tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan, an American lawyer who is recruited and entrusted by the CIA with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers - a U-2 pilot detained in the Soviet Union - in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a captive Soviet KGB spy held under the custody of the United States.

Like most of Spielberg's war-themed projects, Bridge of Spies is no exception when the director has a personal history and connection with the project. Just as Schindler's List (1993) resonated with Spielberg's Jewish upbringing; Saving Private Ryan (1998) connected with him because of his father's wartime service, and Munich (2005) showing Spielberg's own relationship with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The events in the film has another seemingly amazing connection with the director. Spielberg's father actually went on a foreign exchange to Russia as an engineer during the cold war, right after Francis Gary Powers was shot down, when there was tremendous fear and hostility between the two nations. Spielberg's father recalled seeing Russian citizens line up to look at Powers' crashed gear and "see what America did". When they saw the American engineers, they pointed at them and said, "Look what your country is doing to us", demonstrating the fear and rage the nations felt towards each other. After Spielberg's father agreed to read the script, he showed Spielberg photo slides of Powers' crashed gear.

The film was first commissioned by screenwriter Matt Charman. He then pitched it to DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg, who became interested in the film and decided to direct. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen were then brought in to revise Charman's original script. In June 2014, Fox 2000 Pictures agreed to co-finance the film with DreamWorks and Participant, with the film's distribution rights being divided up between Disney and Fox. In May 2014, it was announced that Tom Hanks would star as James Donovan, and Mark Rylance would star opposite Hanks as Rudolf Abel. Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, and Eve Hewson were reported to star in the film as well. This is Hanks' fourth film collaboration with Spielberg in over ten years. They previously worked together on Saving Private Ryan (1998), Catch Me If You Can (2002) & The Terminal (2004). It is their first collaboration in over ten years. Principal photography began in September, 2014 and shot for 12 weeks on locations in Brooklyn, New York; Berlin and Potsdam, Germany and Wrocław, Poland, including many of the very places where the events in the story actually took place. The film was shot under the working-title of St. James Place. The European production kicked off in Berlin, where the actual prisoner exchange of Abel and Powers took place, and would last there through the end of November. To film the crucial Berlin Wall sequences, production also traveled to Wrolcaw, which more accurately resembles the East Berlin of 1961 than Berlin itself. During December, filming took place at Beale Air Force Base, Marysville, California before Principal photography officially ended. During production, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., founder of The Cold War Museum and the pilot's son, was brought on as a technical consultant and has a cameo in the film. This film is particularly notable for being the first Spielberg film not to be scored by John Williams since The Color Purple (1985). In March 2015, after Williams' schedule was interrupted by a minor health issue which reportedly has since been corrected, Thomas Newman stepped in to replace him as composer.

The film stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. The cast gave superb performances, especially Hanks as Donovan. Hanks characteristically delivers in this witty, dignified portrait that immerses the audience in its world and entertains even as it informs. The hallmark of this performance, performed so powerfully by Hanks, was playing a calm self-confident and patient man who had a willingness to play politics and justice in a realistic and human way. As he is the one who is defending the ideals and principles of his nation and showing us never to sacrifice those qualities no matter what, in this case being whether someone is guilty or how much a situation escalates to. Even going so far as to using the same words that his real-life counterpart used when he made arguments to the Supreme Court when taking about and defending Abel. In addition, Rylance was equally magnetic as Hanks in delivering a portrait of a calm and quiet man whose mutual respect for Hanks' Donovan made great chemistry on screen. Their scenes together alone were all cinematic unto themselves, and could have easily taken up the entire film. And their final bow was the most magnetic and warmest of all.

Bridge of Spies is one of the most remarkable movies Spielberg has made in the subsequent years, and one of the things that makes it remarkable is how it fulfills those expectations by simultaneously ignoring and transcending them. The fourth collaboration of Spielberg and Hanks has brought forth another triumphant piece of historical and cinematic journalism, a profound work of popular art and a rich examination of one of humanity's lesser-known triumphs. Like Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse (2011) and Lincoln (2012), it is one of the finest historical dramas Spielberg has ever committed to film. In conclusion, it is finally a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize its ill-fated relationship with Russia. However, there's so much material, not much revelation to the film. Nonetheless, the film does contain Spielberg's reliable cinematic flair to elevate this film to its peak. In the end, this film is a noble humanistic masterpiece. 

Simon says Bridge of Spies receives:



Saturday, 17 October 2015

Film Review: "The Throne" (사도) (2015).




The film's tagline reads "The tragedy between father and son begins", which is at the heart of The Throne (사도). This South Korean historical period drama film directed by Lee Joon-ik. Set during the reign of King Yeongjo in 18th century Korea, the film is about the life of Crown Prince Sado, the heir to the throne who was deemed unfit to rule and, at age 27. It also chronicles his struggle with his father and long-ruling King Yeongjo, until he was condemned to death by his own father by being locked in a rice chest for eight days until he suffocated and starved.

Based on true historic event called 'Im-o-hwa-byeon' in 1762, which King Yeongjo decreeing Crown prince to climb into and be sealed within a large wooden rice chest. Crown prince died eight days later. History indicates Sado suffered from mental illness; accused of randomly killing people in the palace and being a serial rapist. By court rules King Yeongjo could not kill his son by his own hands. As a result, Yeongjo, with the consent of Sado's mother, Lady Yi, issued a royal decree that ordered Sado climb into and be sealed within a large wooden rice chest on a hot July day in 1762. After eight days, Sado died. Sado was buried on Mt BaebongSan in Yangju. In 1789, his body was moved by his son King Jeongjo, to its current location, then called Hyeollyungwonnear Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul. Five years later, the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was built by King Jeongjo, specifically to memorialize and honor his father's tomb (the construction lasted 1794-1796, while the official reception was 1795). In 1816, Lady Hyegyeong died and was buried with her husband. In 1899, Prince Sado and Lady Hyegyeong were posthumously elevated in status and given the titles Emperor Yangjo and Empress Heonyeong. Their tomb was upgraded accordingly and renamed Yungneung. However, despite the story told in History classes and in the film, during the 19th century, there were rumors that Sado was not mentally ill, but had been framed; however, these rumors are contradicted by his wife, Lady Hyegyeong, in The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong. Sado's death remains an issue of debate as to whether his death was a retribution for his actual misconduct or if he was the victim of a conspiracy by his political opponents.

The film stars Song Kang-Ho as King Yeongjo, Yoo Ah-In as Crown Prince Sado, Moon Geun-Young as Hyegyeong Hong, Jeon Hye-Jin as Youngbin Lee, and Kim Hae-Sook as Queen Inwon. The cast gave exceptional performances despite the lack of authenticity to their historical counterparts. The performances between Song Kang-Ho and Yoo Ah-In proved to be the film's most compelling of all.

The Throne may lack the complex political context and historical authenticity of the real-life event, but the cast, including Song Kang-Ho and Yoo Ah-In, surprisingly bring an emotional level to this profoundly mistaken interpretation of one of the most controversial periods in Korean history.

Simon says The Throne receives:


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Film Review: "Crimson Peak" (2015).






"Ghosts are real, that much I know. I've seen them all my life..." These words should not be taken lightly in Crimson Peak. This gothic romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro, and written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins. In the aftermath of a family tragedy, the film follows an aspiring author who is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds...and remembers.

"... Basically what it is a really, really, almost classical gothic romance ghost story, but then it has two or three scenes that are really, really disturbing in a very, very modern way. Very, very disturbing, it's a proper R rating. And it's adult." This was the inspiration behind Crimson Peak when del Toro and co-writer Matthew Robbins wrote the original spec script back in 2006 after the release of Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro called the film a "ghost story and gothic romance". Del Toro wanted the film to honor the "grand dames" of the haunted house genre, intended to make a large-scale horror film in the tradition of those he grew up watching, such as Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963), Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961) and The Shining (1980). British playwright Lucinda Coxon was enlisted to rewrite the script with del Toro in hopes of bringing it a "proper degree of perversity and intelligence", but is not credited. Del Toro and Robbins wrote 11 or 12 versions of the film before settling on the final draft. Del Toro was coming up with new scenes during production.

The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver. The cast gave intense and tour de force performances, especially the first three: Wasikowska giving an excellent portrait of a headstrong woman, Hiddleston giving a sympathetic performance as the mysterious and tormented outsider and Chastain giving the most intense performance of all and portrayed, oddly enough in my opinion, the most sympathetic character of all; regardless her psychotic and 'needy' nature. She gives a performance with an intensity that is frightening in itself.

As a ghost story and a gothic romance, Crimson Peak is one of the most highly regarded gothic romance films ever made. Davis Boulton's cinematography extraordinarily dexterous and visually exciting, and Tom Sander's production design of the "monstrous" house most decidedly the star of the film. The film is a cinematically elegant and literate work of art. This time del Toro does it all his way, does a splendid job and has a splendid cast to do it with. The visually rich beauty of the film enhances the dread by intensifying our sense of how feeble even the most luminous of surfaces can be in hiding the horrors beneath, which is appropriate for a film awash in gothic romantic subtext. However, the film is not completely a stroke of triumph for del Toro. With a story that has major shortcomings and is incomprehensible at points. On the other hand, as an example of directorial bravura and as a study of madness and the dark, ugly side of love. The film is like a near-miss auto accident: You don't know how scared you really were until you start shaking a few hours later.

Simon says Crimson Peak receives:


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Film Review: "Black Mass" (2015).





"Based on the true story of one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history."
This is the story that is explored in Black Mass. This crime film directed by Scott Cooper and written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. The film follows the true story of James 'Whitey' Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

James Joseph 'Whitey' Bulger, Jr. is an Irish-American convicted murderer and a former organized crime boss of the Boston Irish Mob crew known as the Winter Hill Gang. Bulger was indicted for 19 murders based on grand jury testimonies from Bulger's former associates. Bulger served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1975 to 1994. As a result, the Bureau largely ignored his organization in exchange for information about the inner workings of the Winter Hill Gang's rivals, the Italian American Patriarca crime family. In 1993, the New England media exposed criminal actions by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials tied to Bulger. Bulger then fled Boston and went into hiding on December 23, 1994, after being tipped off by his former FBI handler about a pending indictment under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). For 16 years, he remained at large. For 12 of those years, Bulger was on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. But in 2011 Bulger was arrested, the $2 million reward the FBI offered for information leading to his capture was larger than that for any other fugitive on the list except Osama bin Laden. Bulger had been living under the alias Charlie Gasko. According to FBI agent Scott Gareola, Bulger immediately put his hands in the air. When he was ordered to get on his knees, Bulger replied, "I ain't getting down on my f---ing knees." He was wearing white pants, and reportedly didn't want to dirty them on the oil-stained garage floor.

The film has an ensemble cast starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll. The cast gave stellar performances, especially to Depp who gave a magnetic performance. Probably his most mesmerising and best performance in years. The performance Depp gives is something else. For once an actor playing a gangster does not seem to base his performance on movies he has seen. He starts cold and stays cold. He plays Bulger with conviction.

Featuring outstanding work from an excellent cast, especially Johnny Depp, Black Mass is an engrossing gangster drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality. However, at times, there are elements that seem borrowed from movies like Goodfellas (1990), The Departed (2007) and Public Enemies (2009), which makes the film feel pretty much like a "been-there-done-that" movie.

Simon says Black Mass receives:


Monday, 12 October 2015

Piano Concert 2015



Leo Shin as the Host.






Rosa Shin & Chris Ryu playing Spring Song, composed by Felix Mendelssohn and arranged by Francis Shaw.







Naa-Eun & Bomi Kim playing Sonata in D major for Two Pianos K. 448 1st Movement, Allegro con Spirito, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.






Andy & David Wang playing Golliwog's Cake-Walk from Children's Corner, by Claude Debussey.






Naa-Eun Kim & Winnie Zhang playing Eighteenth Variation for Two Pianos, from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, by Sergei Rachmaninov. 






Rahil & Savesh John playing Lieberfreud, by Fritz Kreisler.









Rosa & Leo Shin and Joo-Eun Kim playing Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV. 531 3rd Movement, Allegro, by Antonio Vivaldi.








Ahimsha & Abinaya Saravanapavan playing Witches' Flight, by H. M. Russell.








Dahvin Kim & Esther Oh playing Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos Op. 15 1st movement, Romance, by Anton Arensky. 









He-Min Lee & Miles Boermans playing Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos Op. 15 2nd movement, Waltz, by Arensky. 








He-Min Lee & Dahvin Kim playing Sonata in G major K. 357 lst movement, Allegro, by Mozart.









Rosa Shin, Jae Ho Lee, Irene Yang & Choong Won Park playing Fantasy on Themes from Bizet's Carmen, composed by Georges Bizet and arranged by Mack Wilberg.