If you are desperate to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in another aging tough cop role, then Sabotage isn’t such a bad bet. Don’t get me wrong, it is in every way a truly terrible film, but like the best Arnie flicks, there is just enough tongue-in-cheek to keep you watching. The film is violent, sadistic, misogynistic, gratuitously nasty, and often stupid and confusing, but then you aren’t going to pay money to see Sabotage if you expected finely crafted drama. Sabotage moves forward with all the subtlety of a Hummer, ignoring gaping plot holes as it moves on to its next violent encounter between an elite DEA unit and a drug cartel out for revenge. Director David Ayer has had a mixed track record, but hit pay dirt with the outstanding cop buddy drama End of Watch in 2012 and also wrote the screenplay for another outstanding cop drama Training Day. Sabotage aspires to the same kind of ambiguity about the fine line between crime and law enforcement, but fails to find the same level of emotional involvement in the characters or thoughtfulness about its themes, and is content to make lots of noise and spill lots of blood.
Another teen fantasy about being different and discovering who you really are. Divergent is at best mildly entertaining, but one-dimensional characters and the dominance of style over content pull the plug on the film’s appeal. Set in a dystopian future, there are echoes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and ultimately a debt to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Sadly, it doesn’t have the entertainment value or depth of the above mentioned, and relies on the usual tropes of teenage rebelliousness seeing through the hypocrisies of adult society to do most of its work. In a society divided into factions based on innate physical and mental qualities, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she is a Divergent, a person who cannot be categorized within the system. Divergents are regarded as a danger to society and when Tris discovers a plot to destroy all Divergents, she joins with others in a race against time to find out what really sets her apart. There is plenty of room for sententious platitudes about conquering your fear and being true to who you are, and director Neil Burger fails to show restraint, making Divergent a disappointing comedown from films such as The Lucky Ones and Limitless.
The Way, Way Back
A charming film. Even an enjoyable film. It is heartfelt and warm. It is also trite and utterly predictable from beginning to end. And that does not really matter too much. It is a coming of age story in which 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on a summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). He has trouble fitting in until he finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a water park. He starts to blossom as a thoughtful, sensitive and adventurous teen. The cast does excellent work throughout, and James and Rockwell build up a real chemistry that keeps the film afloat even though we know everything about it before we are halfway through. It has the same kind of oddball aspirations of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, but without the edgy humor and anarchic sensibility of these films, it manages to be no more than a craftsmanlike piece of filmmaking that entertains but is not particularly memorable. You could do worse.
A mirror possessed by evil that has brought death and desolation to families over a number of centuries. It all sounds a bit too familiar. And, for sure it, Oculus does follow the well-worn horror template, but director Mike Flanagan has taken something that sounds familiar and, by focusing on performance and the small details, created something that elevates the formula. The lives of teenage siblings Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) are forever changed when Tim is convicted of the brutal murder of their parents. Ten years later, Kaylie finds the mirror that she believes was the real murderer, and seeks to exonerate her brother, but soon realizes that the brutal nightmare of their childhood has begun again as her grip on reality begins to slip under the mirror’s malign influence. Flanagan swirls the viewer up in his dexterous reshuffling of horror conventions to create a deep sense of unease broken by occasional jolts of the unexpected.
A Tale Of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story
The latest in a line of a stream of Japanese films looking at the lives of samurai beyond the common caricatures of stoic, sword-wielding superheroes, A Tale Of Samurai Cooking — A True Love Story tells the story of a careerist samurai relegated to the kitchens of a powerful lord. Initially angry and unresponsive, he eventually finds a purpose and achievement with the help of his culinarily gifted wife. The film has echoes of Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor, which also had a background in the kitchens of a feudal lord, and while director Yuzo Asahara goes for a more conventionally romantic tone, focusing on the difficult relationship between husband and wife that gradually grows into love and respect, he stays away from the usual comic antics in films involving cooking contests and culinary connoisseurs. A background of feudal politics provides a sense of context without blurring the more intimate focus on the relationship between the protagonists.
In terms of life expectancy for its citizens, in recent decades Taiwan has caught up with and overtaken a number of Western countries. According to the most recent edition of the CIA’s World Factbook, Taiwanese now live longer than Americans, Czechs and Poles. Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may shake up the rankings. Taiwan’s single-payer healthcare system, set up in 1995, is one reason why people here can stay healthy for a long time. Before the postwar Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime introduced the piecemeal health-insurance schemes (covering government employees, farmers, and others) that preceded the universal system, sick people
Nowhere are the effects of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) postwar Sinification campaign more visible than in the toponymic revisions that the regime undertook after assuming power. Taipei’s streets were renamed after Chinese cities or quintessentially Chinese values, and with the kind of self-aggrandizing flourish to which the party was partial, the process even referenced itself, Guangfu (光復) — which translates as “retrocession” — becoming a mainstay of urban nomenclature. Above all, the KMT’s top brass was memorialized: the given names of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) — Zhongshan (中山) and Zhongzheng (中正) — were conferred on locations
April 6 to April 12 Han Chinese settlers from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou were such fierce rivals that simple activities such as buying supplies for festivals would often result in armed violence. It’s said that this was especially severe just before Tomb Sweeping Festival, and to prevent bloodshed Qing Dynasty officials ordered them to conduct their rituals on different days. This is not unlike the government urging people to visit their ancestors’ graves on days other than yesterday’s official Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Chinese Nationalist Party
As students wait outside an exam room in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district, the air is tense. A girl in a school uniform rocks a guitar back and forth in her hands next to a boy who stares nervously into his fringe. Another girl sitting on a nearby bench adjusts her crop top. But in a neighborhood filled with English and maths crammers, this is no normal exam room. Mudoctor Academy is a K-pop training school, where dozens of students between the ages of 12 and 26 line up for their chance to audition for a visiting entertainment scout. Kevin Lee is