Title Year Critic rating Date
 
In a Valley of Violence 2016 3.0 1 Sep 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

In a Valley of Violence

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

In a Valley of Violence sees horror director Ti West taking an admirable if formulaic genre aboutface to dabble in the dusty Old West. Pacier than the slow-burning horrors he’s usually known for (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), the film is a straight-up, no-frills B-western, with a dog-revenge plot that many viewers will find similar to John Wick. Few surprises are in store for veteran western buffs, but they will probably still find much to like about its unambitious straightforwardness. Ethan Hawke is in enjoyably flinty, laconic Eastwood-esque form playing a drifter up against James Ransome’s one-note blowhard moron. There’s also fine, lively support from Taissa Farmiga as a young widow who befriends Hawke, and John Travolta as Ransome’s marshal father. Jeff Grace’s score apes Morricone’s operatic twang superbly, lending urgency to the drama.

Tomorrow 2015 4.0 1 Sep 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Tomorrow

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

One could probably argue that Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Cyril Dion and their cohorts didn’t really need to appear on screen for their eco-doc Tomorrow. Cutting them out won’t lose much information, and may even help shape the narrative into sharper focus. But considering the grassroots nature of many of their subjects, their presence has a mobilising effect. It’s a way to inspire the apathetic to embrace systemic changes required for a Brighter Future. A future where the Earth’s resources aren’t being depleted at an exponential rate in the name of economic growth. The team’s globe-hopping excursion unearths a variety of environmentally conscious, self-sustaining initiatives, but extends its reach to include subjects like democratically empowered Indian villages and the progressive Finnish education system. Tomorrow’s relentless upbeat approach might frustrate viewers favouring a more critical outlook, but given the grim socio-political climate at the moment, its optimism feels like the best tonic anyone could ask for.

Their Finest 2016 3.5 25 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Their Finest

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

The genteel old-fashioned Britishness of Their Finest is probably both its greatest asset and flaw. The film, wonderfully acted and handsomely photographed, concerns the making of a British propaganda film during WWII, and it’s most satisfying in that mode, grappling with the trials and tribulations of the creative process, notions of fact versus truth, authenticity versus entertainment. Gemma Arterton gives her best performance to date as a talented scriptwriter who has to assert herself in a sexist, male-dominated workplace. Though there’s a smattering of wartime distress, Their Finest rarely deviates from its sweetly nostalgic tone, which unfortunately goes a little sappy during the later portions where Arterton’s romance with Sam Claflin takes centre stage. For Brit cinema fans, the who’s-who supporting cast, including Bill Nighy, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan and Jeremy Irons, will be hard to resist.

Unforgettable 2017 1.5 25 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Unforgettable

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

If you’re thinking about renting Unforgettable because it might look like a decent throwback to ‘90s-era psycho-thrillers like Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female et al, don’t. This is downright awful, bog-level stuff. The only real reason to watch this is for Katherine Heigl’s berserk, histrionic performance, which definitely has moments of chuckle-worthy campiness. She plays an unstable, vindictive WASPy divorcee who can’t make peace with the fact that her ex has now moved on and is ready to start a new life with Rosario Dawson. Heigl’s ridiculously elaborate plan to make Dawson’s existence a living hell offers a few delightfully trashy scenes, but there’s not enough of anything here, besides telegraphed twists, to lift the material from sleep-inducing mediocrity.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017 3.0 18 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

The box office success of the first Guardians of the Galaxy reinforced the populist strength of Marvel’s cinematic brand. By that stage, it need no longer rely on its well-known comic book characters -- it was confident enough to raid its catalogue for more obscure properties. The winning formula that writer/director James Gunn settled on did wonders, of course. The motley, likeably scrappy characters, snarky, irreverent humour, catchy pop songs and cosmic, kaleidoscopic colour palette all contributed to an exuberant space opera. Vol. 2 repeats more of the same, but with more uneven results. There’s a respectable attempt to frame the story with a more personal arc -- the origins of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord’s father (Kurt Russell) -- but the film lacks a sense of momentum, and suffers from bloat. The humour also feels more forced this time out (David Hasselhoff?). Still, even if it’s one of those sequels that demonstrate how quickly formulas can grow schticky, there’s enough colourful effects spectacle to keep our eyes occupied.

Winter at Westbeth 2015 3.5 18 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Winter at Westbeth

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Docos featuring greying, wrinkled seniors living their twilight to the fullest haven’t exactly been in short supply in recent years. Films such as Young@Heart, Bill Cunningham New York and Herb & Dorothy all inspire and uplift in their emphasis on the youthful exuberance of their elderly subjects. Rohan Spong’s Winter at Westbeth taps into similar age-transcending territory. A moving, intimately scaled year-long chronicle of three elderly artists living at a rent-controlled residency in New York’s West Village, the film contributes further proof that there are folks over 70 who aren’t just sitting around, waiting to make their deathbeds, but bursting with creativity, passion and a lust for life. Winter at Westbeth works not only as a tribute to the apartment complex’s legacy, but also the restless creative drive that connects the vivacious trio at the centre of the doco. It’s difficult to deny the emotional pull of their unyielding quest: the defiance of mortality’s looming pall by bolstering their fecund minds.

Krisha 2015 4.5 11 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Krisha

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Holy shit. Now THIS is an indie film debut. Despite its meagre budget ($30,000??), Trey Edward Shults’ raw, gut-punch of a drama Krisha is so accomplished it feels like he’s been making movies for years. On the surface, it’s yet another entry in the overcrowded dysfunctional family genre that first-time indie filmmakers are generally drawn to. But not many can evoke masters like Robert Altman and John Cassavetes in the same way as Shults, who exhibits a deeply assured sense of technique that’s both controlled and experimental. Krisha Fairchild (Shults’ real-life aunt) gives an astonishing, heart-breaking performance as a recovering alcoholic who turns her family’s Thanksgiving dinner upside down when she falls off the wagon. A complete wrecking ball, powerful but not easy viewing for sure. File under: Rachel Getting Married, James White.

A Street Cat Named Bob 2016 3.5 11 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

A Street Cat Named Bob

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Perhaps pleasant to a fault, A Street Cat Named Bob packages a human interest story, animal buddy movie and redemptive drug-recovery arc into an unabashed, likeably modest crowd-pleaser. Resembling a blend between Time Out of Mind and Kedi, Roger Spottiswoode’s film follows real-life London busker James Bowen (a fine, well-cast Luke Treadaway) as he attempts to set his rocky, aimless life straight with the help of a stray ginger tomcat. Few surprises, but plenty of familiar elements (junkie relapses, animal slapstick, estranged family members). Its one stinging condemnation of how people are only able to humanise the homeless when an adorable animal is in the picture doesn’t get examined in too much depth. But if you’re simply after sweet-natured feelgood fare, A Street Cat Named Bob ticks all the boxes. Bump the star rating up if you’re a feline fanatic.

Logan (Wolverine III) 2017 4.5 4 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Logan (Wolverine III)

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Wolverine couldn’t ask for a better send-off than James Mangold’s masterful Logan. Hugh Jackman’s 17-year-history of playing his iconic X-men character weighs heavily and emotionally on the film, which often doesn’t feel like a superhero or comic book movie at all. The grounded, gritty style Mangold brought to The Wolverine is further employed here to perfection, imbuing the action and drama with the mythic feel of a character-driven western. The narrow focus helps too. By keeping the story locked on a smaller set of characters -- Logan, his mutant daughter, and a deeply exhausted Charles Xavier in tow -- Logan emerges a soulful, searching piece of work, equally concerned with notions of guilt and mortality as it is with dishing out savage R-rated set-pieces of Wolverine ripping people to shreds. A fitting, bittersweet farewell to a beloved character, and a tremendous, muscular action pic, Logan is a truly transcendent example of the genre.

Aquarius 2016 4.0 4 Aug 2017 Aaron Yap Read review Close review

Aquarius

Reviewer: Aaron Yap

Controversially excluded from its home country Brazil’s submissions to the 2016 Oscars, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius concerns the kind of subject matter that cries out for a politically impassioned work of righteous indignation. However, he tempers its anti-capitalist rage and bitter class-conscious narrative with a patient, fittingly languid reflection on the temporal soulfulness of physical space and objects. It’s about the warm, human connection we have hearing someone’s voice over the phone, taking an LP out of its sleeve and cueing it up on the turntable, and surrounding ourselves with furniture and framed pictures infused with memories accumulated over a lifetime. Reminiscent of Paulina García’s superlative turn in Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria, Sonia Braga is exceptionally good as widowed music critic Dona Clora. She delivers a wholly invested, subtly riveting character study that’s still uncommon these days: a vibrant, dignified woman in her 60s who refuses to let the ravages of age hinder her desire to simply live on her own terms.