Saturday, 21 November 2015

Movie Reviews (Inside Out, Fantastic Four, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Gentle)

I watched 5 movies on the 14 hour flight back from Dubai to Sydney, having slept throughout the 6 hour flight from London to Dubai.

Inside Out:

For an animated film, this is surprisingly deep in the seriousness of its content. While I'm no psychologist, I was impressed by its analysis of human behaviour and the functioning of the brain. The story is that of a hitherto happy young girl of 11 who is suddenly uprooted from familiar and pleasant surroundings and thrust into a markedly less pleasant world, with traumatic results. The five emotions in her brain, normally dominated by Joy, develop new dynamics when Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust also get a chance to exercise their influence.

The main takeaways for me from this movie are an improved appreciation of the so-called "negative" emotions. Sadness, for example, is useful to analyse problems and also to prompt connections with other people, Fear is useful to protect oneself from danger, and Disgust is also useful in preventing oneself from eating poisonous substances. One needs a healthy balance between all of them.

The best scene in the movie is the family dinnertime conversation between the three main characters. This is picked apart in fine detail using the mechanism of the five personified emotions within each character's brain.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

Fantastic Four:

Compared to the 2005 and 2007 versions of the franchise, the 2015 movie failed to impress. I thought the characters were much better developed in the older series. Ioan Gruffud as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Chris Evans as Johnny Storm and Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm were much truer to their comic book versions (and much more engaging as characters) than Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael Jordan and Jamie Bell in the 2015 version. Even the special effects, which one would expect to have improved in a decade, are not as good.

The 2015 film does attempt a change to reflect diversity. Johnny Storm and his father Dr. Franklin Storm are now played by black characters, while Sue Storm, still Caucasian, requires a change of background to become the elder Franklin's adopted daughter. While I favour diversity on screen to mirror society, I'm also a purist and therefore not sure whether tampering with the origins of comic book legends is such a good idea.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan:

They say people tend to cry more when watching movies on planes, and I was fully prepared to use this as an excuse when watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan, but thankfully, the much-anticipated need for tissues did not arise. Perhaps the combination of humorous scenes and some over-the-top situations made it far lighter. The film is a bold attempt at confronting both religious prejudice and ultra-nationalist sentiment within India, and it does succeed to a great extent. However, don't expect me to develop the warm-and-fuzzies for the Pakistani military and the ISI as a result of this film. Also, my negative feelings towards Salman Khan the actor prevented me from warming sufficiently to his character. You can't run over homeless people and ask your driver to take the rap in real-life, while posing as a sincere and devout person for the movies.

Still, when judged on its own merits, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a pretty decent film.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong:

I saw this movie on the way to Europe from Dubai, and I mentioned in my previous review that I wouldn't mind watching it again. Well, I made good on that by watching it again on the return journey. I have nothing to add to my previous review except to stand by it. It's certainly worth a watch.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.


I try to watch at least one example of "world cinema", i.e., neither Hollywood nor Bollywood, during every flight, and this time I chose a Vietnamese film ("Gentle"), mainly because it was just 84 minutes long. I found out during the final credits that this film has been loosely based on the Dostoevsky story "A Gentle Creature". The movie deals with the feelings of isolation and the tragic suicide of an emotionally delicate young woman who is married to a well-meaning but excessively formal and distant husband. Set as a series of flashbacks after the suicide, it has the depressing sense of hopelessness of an unpreventable train wreck. This kind of movie is definitely not my cup of tea, and I only watched it because it was short and I had not read the depressing storyline beforehand.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

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