Title Year Critic rating Date
 
Bad Santa 2 2016 1.5 21 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Bad Santa 2

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

The first Bad Santa wasn’t a great work of art. But it took a one-joke idea and made something enjoyably twisted of out of it. For any curmudgeons who would prefer a lump of coal in their stocking than to participate in warm-fuzzy festive cheer, Billy Bob Thornton’s memorably cranky performance as Willie Soke, a sexist, alcoholic, thieving misanthrope, was the ideal whiskey-soaked respite. This sequel, arriving like a grubby gift no wanted some thirteen years later, repeats the same schtick all over again, but ups the ante in political incorrectness to a degree that’s frighteningly dull. Bad Santa 2 can’t help but feel exhausted, coming after a whole generation of Bad Teachers, Bad Moms, Dirty Grandpas, and other garden variety Todd Phillips/Judd Apatow gross-out joints. Kathy Bates is occasionally fun as Willie’s butch, tatted-up long-lost mother Sunny, but the novelty’s worn off, and all that’s left is an overlong, unfunny and awfully desperate desire to shock and offend.

Train to Busan 2016 4.0 21 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Train to Busan

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Pitched somewhere between the character-driven, road movie intimacy of Jeremy Gardner’s terrific indie The Battery and the colossal, big-budget action of the Brad Pitt misfire World War Z, Train to Busan more than lives up to its Snowpiercer-with-zombies premise. As per zombie movie formula, the flesh-eating pandemonium is served with a helping of social commentary, here embodied by the film’s privileged fund-managing prick of a protagonist, Seok-woo (Gong Yoo). Hardened gorehounds might feel a little shortchanged by the relative lack of splatter and the familiar nature of the zombies. But Train to Busan finds tremendous narrative propulsion in its mode of transport, exploiting its every nook-and-cranny for claustrophobic, nerve-jangling suspense while leaving ample breathing space before each obstacle hits. Sharp, visceral fun for genre fans.

Moana 2016 4.0 14 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Moana

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Although not as refreshingly “woke” as Zootopia, Disney’s second feature of 2016 sees the studio on a clear winning streak. Moana is easily one of their most gorgeous GG-animated features, its attentive cultural specificity producing eye-wateringly lush images that wash over you with euphoria-inducing warmth. Disney’s signature tropes are in abundance: the journey of self-discovery and courage of its plucky seafaring island princess (voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho), the comic buddy element of shape-shifting demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), the goofy, slapsticky animal sidekicks. But they’re all executed appealingly, and buoyed by catchy, soaring songs and crackling action scenes, some of which rival the recent Mad Max for wild inventiveness. All in all, a triumphant, feelgood adventure that’ll have your kids begging for repeat viewings.

Our Little Sister 2015 4.0 14 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Our Little Sister

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Here’s another exceptionally lovely film from Hirokazu Koreeda to remind us that dramas need not always be filled with dark conflict and subject matter to make them effective. Light on plot, Our Little Sister is a heartwarming tale of three sisters who decide to invite their 13-year-old stepsister to live with them after their biological father passes. For Koreeda, there’s no desire to treat the latter as a problem or hindrance in their lives -- instead she’s a gift to be treasured. Even the minimal “dramatic” backstory we get -- their father’s less-than-seemly behaviour, and mother’s estrangement -- are tempered with a refreshingly compassionate, optimistic outlook. Koreeda gently observes the warming sisterhood between them, mapping their respective daily journeys into a serene, contemplative and beautifully etched film that will sneak into your heart.

Particle Fever 2013 4.0 7 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Particle Fever

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

In Particle Fever, you’ll see physicists excitedly discuss “supersymmetry” and “multiverses”, the type of jargon that, for anyone else, would normally be heard on sci-fi movies. But Mark Levinson’s doco about the Hadron Collider -- the world’s largest man-made machine that could hold the answer to the creation of the universe -- delivers its science in an engaging manner that never feels overly academic nor dry to the layperson. Sure there’s stuff here that will completely bypass your understanding, but for the most past, Particle Fever allows us to get caught up in the thrill of scientific discovery along with its subjects, some of whom have been working for years to get a breakthrough. Well-done animated sequences and graphs help us visualise the science, while the procedural aspects, from the launch of the collider to the final data-crunching results, hold genuine suspense and intrigue. Throughout Levinson emphasises a human thread -- notably in the focus on the personalities of the experiment’s key scientists -- making Particle Fever a thoroughly accessible, mind-expanding, and funny geek-out.

Jackie 2016 4.0 7 Apr 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Jackie

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s first English language film is a wondrous, hypnotic, compelling dream of a movie, a stylish rejection of Hollywood biopic conventions. Rather than roll out the standard birth-to-death structure, Jackie zeroes in on one shattering moment in the former First Lady’s life: the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Accompanied by Mica Levi’s haunting, deeply evocative score, the film that unfolds is an intimate, naked probe into Jackie O’s headspace, a character study that’s equally about grief and mourning, and celebrity and legacy. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be half as potent and poignant if not for Natalie Portman’s astonishing performance. Her mimicking of Jackie’s strange, breathy drawl sounds a little alien and affected at first, like an otherworldly mangling of British and American accents. But we get used to it quickly, and by the end of the film, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Portman selling her iconic poise and elegance so perfectly.

Snowden 2016 3.0 31 Mar 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Snowden

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Snowden is possibly Oliver Stone’s most consistent film in years, but it’s no exciting return to form, noticeably lacking the formal daring and punch that defined his best mid-period work. Anyone who’s seen Laura Poitras’ superior doco Citizenfour will find this conventional biopic take on the NSA whistleblower unsatisfying, since it operates as a slickly packaged, blandly watchable 101. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an uncanny, convincing job of mimicking Snowden’s vocal cadence -- whether it’s distracting or not will depend on the viewer. Personality-wise, the character remains somewhat of a cipher, leaning too hard on Stone’s overly saintly treatment and getting lost inside an unfocused screenplay that bounces back and forth between Big Brother-paranoia and crumbling-relationship melodrama. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle can always be relied on to gussy the visuals up a bit, and occasionally he'll distract us from the fact that Snowden is essentially a glorified TV movie.

Girl Asleep 2015 3.5 31 Mar 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Girl Asleep

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

If you are averse to heavy doses of super-stylized indie quirkiness -- a la Wes Anderson, Napoleon Dynamite -- Rosemary Myers’s coming-of-age flick Girl Asleep may prove initially off-putting. It’s sort of the film that screams its aesthetic intentions: shot in ye olde Academy ratio, it’s filled with symmetrical compositions, garish retro wardrobe and art direction, affected camerawork (e.g. using a lazy susan as a mount) and choreographed dance sequences. But as the film switches up into Lynch-like dream-state abstraction at halfway point, Girl Asleep begins to coalesce into something beguiling. Within its fairy-tale trappings -- cryptic symbols and messages, mask-wearing forest dwellers -- the film finds a surreal, even creepy, allegory for adolescent social pressures. Bethany Whitmore (The Family Law) is engaging in the lead, expressing a nuanced mix of awkwardness and self-realisation that feels authentic to the teenage experience.

Equity 2016 3.5 24 Mar 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Equity

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

With recent films like Margin Call and The Big Short covering similar ground, Meera Menon’s Equity might not contain too many revealing insights into the wheelin’ and dealin’ world of Wall Street. However, the film makes for a welcome alternative as it puts a distinctively female spin on a largely male-dominated subject. We’re used to seeing greasy Gordon Geckos in our cinema, but not Naomi Bishop (Breaking Bad’s solid Anna Gunn), a tough-talking investment banker who provides a gateway into the film’s examination of how workplace sexism continue to affect career women in positions of authority. The corporate thriller stuff is reasonably straightforward, with standard two-faced scheming and dog-eat-dog power-plays fuelling the narrative. But Equity is still a work of particular interest, especially where it grants the female characters strong, driven arcs and assertive characterisations generally reserved for men.

Allied 2016 2.5 24 Mar 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Allied

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

You can see what Robert Zemeckis and writer Steven Knight were gunning for with Allied: an old-fashioned spy yarn, set during World War II, mixed in with a bit of sweeping romance, and a dash of Hitchcock. There are obvious nods to the Bogie classic Casablanca. But the final product, however handsomely mounted, can’t hold a candle to the films it labours to emulate. Sure, Zemeckis can be relied on for one or two dazzling set-pieces -- an early shootout in the film stands out. But the rest of the film is rather tepid, resting too much on Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard’s unevenly matched chemistry to do the heavy lifting. The radiant Cotillard seems to be putting a lot more effort in than Pitt, who sleepwalks through the role in one of his dullest performances to date. Bored perhaps? He’s certainly been here before with Mr. and Mrs Smith and Inglourious Basterds. For a more exuberant and entertaining take on similar material, catch Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book.