Movie afterthoughts: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

(Source: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/going-clear-scientology-and-the-prison-of-belief-2015)

I like good documentaries, and this one does lives up to my expectations of a good documentary. I have always been curious about Scientology ever since I heard about this “religion” and many would have taken a greater interest on this topic when in recent years the media has been reporting that Tom Cruise is a really high-level member of Scientology.

Oh yes, you will see some Tom Cruise (and John Travolta) footages in this documentary.

I don’t undermine people who believes in Scientology. In fact, we should not undermine anyone who believes in any religion. Extremism within a religion, especially in one like Scientology, is amusing though. From this documentary, I had learnt the great lengths people will go to achieve the highest level of the membership (mostly paying large sums of money), and how Scientology manages to avoid paying billions of tax by making the IRS recognising it as a tax-exempted organisation.

One thing that still leaves me amused is that they actually holds a lavish conference (annually?) and the whole set up looks like Oscars… Very much Hollywood style.

I won’t say it is a though-provoking documentary, but it is entertaining and not so much on the heavy-side. Considering I am not very much knowledgeable of the religion, I find the documentary is easy to follow and narrated nicely. I would consider buying the book to read too.

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Movie afterthoughts: Spy

(Source: http://www.flickeringmyth.com/2015/03/uk-posters-for-comedy-movie-spy-featuring-melissa-mccarthy-jason-statham-and-jude-law.html)

Not your average spy movie.

Melissa McCarthy as a spy? Who would have thought! But she is deceptively funny and lethal as a spy in this movie. There are few really funny scenes which I think only Melissa McCarthy can pull off. Though I find it quite distasteful to have a stereotype on fuller size women (stool softener, wet wipes?).

It did took me some time to recognise Jude Law as the spy in the beginning of the movie though. And Jason Statham is as badass as he was in Furious 7, a badass spy with a complex for danger… and a lack of wit.

Probably my favourite characters in the movie, is the unassuming sidekicks, Nancy and Aldo. Aldo, in particular, is as horny as he can get but deceptively good for leaving the audience with the question whether he is part of MI6… or whether he really learnt the accent from Downton (that was the highlight for me).

In short, just go give yourself an excuse that you need some laugh and go watch this movie!

Movie afterthoughts: When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー)

Marnie poster

(Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2015/04/15/marnie-was-there-exclusive-trailer-debut/25811877/)

There’s only a few Studio Ghibli’s movies I’d watched. My favourite will definitely be My Neighbour Totoro, because Totoro is very cute indeed.

When Marnie Was There is said to be the last movie produced by Studio Ghibli before it goes on a hiatus. That aside, this animated movie is beautifully directed. The storyline itself is interesting, focusing on Anna (the short-hair girl in the picture) and her lack of interest in her life and her foster family. She was sent to stay with her relatives far out from the city after her asthma attack in the beginning of the movie, and the rest of the film then focuses on how she came across Marnie, how she rediscover family love and friendship, and lastly, how she is related to Marnie.

The revelation in the end of the film on Anna’s relationship with Marnie may not be a surprise for many (for myself, I’d read the Wikipedia entry), it was nicely presented and the whole movie, in my opinion, was aptly made to illustrate this.

In general, if you are into some supernatural (not the spooky kind though), family-themed film, this is a really good one and not to be missed. Even if the storyline is not appealing, just sit back and enjoy some of the nicest scenes and animated setting in an animated film.

p/s: my favourite is probably the house where Anna was having her retreat. It has a great view, a vegie patch, and few short-cuts explicitly written out on sign posts.

Movie afterthoughts: Fast and Furious 7

(Taken from: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/markhughes/files/2015/04/Furious-7.jpg)

Though I’m not a close follower of the Fast and Furious series, I tend to enjoy the actions and dramatic scenes in these movies. I just find it odd to look at two extremely muscular men going against the bad guys (it’s probably just me). And I find it really hard to follow Vin Diesel’s lines in the movie, mostly due to his husky voice.

I got to say, the actions in this movie couldn’t get any better than cars parachuting out from a plane, crashing through three high-rise buildings and tumbling down from cliffs. I just find it funny that it kept on relating back to what Brian (Paul Walker) said to his son in the start of the movie: “Cars don’t fly!”

The antagonist of the movie, Ian Shaw (John Statham) could be the most bad-ass bad guy I’d seen in a long time. He leaves a trail of mess behind him and could walk away from bombings and fires. The best part of all… his accent!

The last scene of the movie as a tribute to Paul Walker is definitely a touching one. Nicely closes the movie. Paul Walker driving his car on a different direction from Vin Diesel and Vin Diesel’s last words in the movie… definitely a tear-jerking scene to end an action-packed film.

Movie Afterthoughts: While We’re Young

Source: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/02/while-were-young-poster

A bit of comedy, a bit of irony, it’s a slice of life kind of a movie. Though I have to admit there’s not a lot of memorable scenes I can recall from the movie.

It’s a movie about a 40-ish couple trying to set into their mid-life crisis, contrasting with another 20-ish hipster couple who are deceivingly generous. It sets with the undertone that reliving youth again may probably cost you your friends… and hipsters don’t use electronic gadgets?

And since when the practice of staring at your own phones during dinner is acceptable? If I was at the table seeing 3 other people staring at their phones, I’ll be pissed!

In a nutshell, it’s a light-hearted comedy but not something that I truly can relate to. Each of the main characters have their own story to tell and I like the interaction and contrast of generational gap as portrayed in the movie.

Oh! And the final scene with the baby playing with a smart phone? I’m not sure why it’s there but definitely a food for thought for parents with young kids.

PhDrants watches the movies…

… on most Mondays in the cinema. Great way to cure that Monday blues and the best way to escape my imaginary PhD prison.

I thought it might be a great idea to keep a list on the movie I’d watched this year. As a way to keep track of the movies that have spark some thoughts in me. If I have time, I might throw in a few comments (a few summarising words) on the movies listed and my favourite or memorable movie/scenes of the year.

(This list will be updated frequently)

5th Jan: The Water Diviner (Battle of Gallipoli, father-son bond, brothers, fortune telling ala Turkish coffee style – need I say more how significant this movie is to Australians?)

12th Jan: The Imitation Game (Stunning performance by Benedict Cumberbatch! But I’m more intrigued by the MI6 guy in the movie.)

19th Jan: Unbroken (Comes with a strong message on survival and forgiveness. Memorable quote: a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory)

Rest of Jan: American Sniper (Unbelievably surreal, but is it anti-war? You need to watch it to judge for yourself)

2nd Mar: Kingsmen: The Secret Service (British accent, mindblown actions… save for the CG part)

16th Mar: Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Richard Gere!!!)

23rd Mar: Chappie (Dev Patel 2 weeks in a row… and I did not see that sort of ending coming)

27th Mar: Dior & I (Always have loved pretty things and the fashion industry fascinates me all the time. Learnt a great deal about the brand, the atelier and the people working behind the scenes… Made me Google (and spell the word correctly) “haute couture”)

30th Mar: A Little Chaos (… Professor Snape in wigs. At least he is not singing like in Sweeney Todd. Though I find the storyline and romance interesting, I would definitely love to see more of the actual Versailles… and less romance?)

13th Apr: Love Is Strange (afterthoughts)

20th Apr: While We’re Young (afterthoughts)

27th Apr: Fast and Furious 7 (afterthoughts)

4th May: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Hmmm… I kinda got bored in the middle, feeling a little lost with the storyline. But hey, Hulk and Black Widow as an item? Never really see that coming. And James Spader as the voice of badass Ultron… can’t help wiping away his character as Reddington from The Black List.)

11th May: The Age of Adaline (Though I am not a big fan of chick flick, this movie has an interesting enough storyline to get me sit through the whole movie. I was loving Adaline’s character up to the point where she fell in love and became irrational. Putting the irrational side of love story, Harrison Ford did a great job as Adaline’s ex-boyfriend from ages ago. I can’t help but feel doubtful of his 40th wedding anniversary speech. Pretty sure he still is very much in love with Adaline.)

18th May: When Marnie was There (afterthoughts)

25th May: Woman in Gold (Based on a true story, read all about it in this Wikipedia entry. No surprises in the movie, but it was interesting to watch Helen Mirren and her little accent in the movie)

1st June: Spy (afterthoughts)

23rd June: Minions (got to say, can’t resist the charms of the little yellow aliens! Even if you don’t follow the Despicable Me series, it’s nice to watch the animated movie to get some doses of laughter. I really enjoyed the movie a lot, especially when I am actually watching and laughing along with my mother by my side!)

27th June: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (afterthoughts)

6th July: Inside Out (Yes… there’s a bit of tear-jerking moments in there. Now whenever I thought of my emotions, I will imagine them as little people in my head that push the buttons to generate those emotions… which then leads to memories. Got to say, it is a very entertaining way to depict humans’ (and cats and dogs) emotions and memories.)

27th July: Jurassic World (I vividly remember watching the original one when I was really small… It was scary to me. But this new one might have stretched the story to show that dinosaurs have feelings too… and all the least favourite characters usually die last.)

3rd August: Mr Holmes (Sherlock Holmes is my all time fiction hero and it’s a bit sad to watch an ageing Sherlock Holmes living in seclusion because of his last case in this movie. The movie is almost like a fiction within a fiction within a fiction… Mind-blown. The plot overall is quite simple, and it leads the audience in through flashbacks of Mr Holmes. Probably the biggest mystery of all, for me, is whether Mr Holmes really did met the Japanese father in person.)

10th August: Ant Man (I was wondering what was the rave about the newest superhero movie but YES this is a good one to keep track of. Not saying that Captain America or Iron Man is bad, but Ant Man gave a fresh look into the superhero movie industry. Have to remember that this happens in the Marvel world, so superheroes are pretty common in that particular society. I especially enjoy Michael Pena as the comedy filler in the movie. Will I look forward to see Ant Man in future Avengers movie? Not sure but I would love to see how he would attempt to lift Thor’s magic hammer if people are not tired of the running gag yet…)

24th August: Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation (I like the anti-hero story line and particularly enjoyed Benji’s scenes. Best comic relief ever! The movie definitely gave me the thrill but I won’t expect Ethan Hunt to die in the movie even though he got himself into situations where normal people will not survive well)

7th Sep: Man from U.N.C.L.E (This is one funny espionage movie that I absolutely loved. I almost could not recognise Hugh Grant in the movie, is he that old now? Good plot, not much of thrilling scenes, but absolutely enjoyed the chemistry between the two main casts.)

21st Sep: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (I was deliberating whether to watch this with the thought that this might be a romantic, sappy kind of movie. I was quite wrong. Although there was not much of a romantic plot in the movie, I can see the close friendship between the main casts, and I was laughing my heads off watching the snippets of parodies. What I could not comprehend was how the dying girl doesn’t look like she’s dying though, save for the lack of hair due to chemo?)

12th Oct: The Intern (Just purely by a glance on the poster, I might have thought the movie was about Anne Hathaway as an intern to Robert De Niro. But a quick watch of the trailer proved me to be wrong. This is definitely one interesting way to hire interns for sure. I really admire De Niro’s acting here, he was such a fatherly figure and so wise. Reminds me of my own dad… On a downside, it is kind of hard to believe that couples can work it out after an affair… I am a bit skeptical there.)

19th Oct: The Martian (An addition to the space/sci-fi themed movies, this is probably a good take on what would happen if humans were to live on Mars. Discounting the science stuff, I think The Martian definitely made a huge impression on me. It is definitely less serious as Interstellar and Gravity, and to me, seemed to paint a more realistic picture on what happens in space missions. Presumed dead, scarce food supply, harsh conditions in space… probably worst case scenario any astronaut could have imagined. Definitely a new take on the space-themed genre, and I really do admire the optimism in Matt Damon’s character)

26th Oct: Crimson Peak (I didn’t picked this movie but my movie partner did… I am a total wuss when it comes to scary/horror/supernatural movies. I read the synopsis ahead of watching the movie so that I can be prepared for any nasty stuff that may pop up in the movie. I got to say it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but it does have some parts which made me cringe.)

9th Nov: Burnt (I have a soft spot for food-related topics. This movie depicts the behind-the-scenes of high-class restaurants, and I do wonder whether Bradley Cooper got inspired by Gordon Ramsay for his character here… with less profanities.)

16th Nov: Bridge of Spies (Another World War movie for the year. I think Tom Hanks did a fantastic job in the movie and I really admire the character’s determination and brokering skills. The movie had the undertone about “being caught in the middle”, as can be seen from many characters in the movie. The lawyer, his family, the Russian spy, the American pilot, the American student… all in all, I won’t say it is on par with Enigma in terms of suspense, but nonetheless the story-telling felt real to me.)

23rd Nov: The Dressmaker (Adapted from a fiction writing, this movie delivered dark humour, the Australian way. Beyond that, I think understanding the harsh conditions of the Australian outback and the rivalry between townships are some of the interesting parts of this movie for me.)

7th Dec: The Lobster (Another dark humour… with an ending that no one knows. That left me a bit frustrated though the rest of the storyline was pretty interesting.)

14th Dec: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2 (Phew… this finalises the entire Hunger Games installments. I have yet to read the books but a lot of my friends who watched the movie told me it is pretty close to the books. The emotional roller coaster for Katniss must be pretty draining I assume…)

21st Dec: Spectre (Would this count as a sequel from the previous James Bonds installments? Was a bit lost in between all the chasing and killing actions. But I love the parts where Q and M and Moneypenny were helping James Bond to hunt down the bad guy and save the world. The end where Bond just left with the girl… that was a bit of a let down though. It’s not clear whether Daniel Craig will return for the next installments… but to me, Pierce Brosnan will always be that perfect James Bond.)

35 movies for 2015… to pick one favourite movie, I would go for Minion. Just because I’ll never be able to go pass the cuteness of these yellow creatures and their silliness. Love them!

Movie Afterthoughts: Love Is Strange

I never though this movie could be a sappy one. When I watched the trailer, I thought it would be a simple love story between two men (together for 39 years!)

It got me almost to tears towards the end and I can hear people sobbing behind me… Though, the title of the movie is simple, the storyline itself is truly thought provoking. It’s not just about gay men getting married and living together. It’s also about how they deal with generational gaps, family and friends, high cost of living in NYC, and loss.

I am not a chick flick kind of person (and I don’t see this movie as one). This movie struck a chord in me and there are many touching scenes which I absolutely loved. The most touching one is probably seeing how the couple embrace each other and the look of love in their eyes. It felt so real and genuine.

I could be biased as I am no fan of romantic films, but this one has the perfect balance of romance and reality of life. The poster of the film with a backdrop of NYC, and the canvas paint in the movie (also with a simple backdrop of NYC) made a lot of sense once I watched the movie.

I will definitely put this on my rewatch list.