A Gallic take on the culture of greed directed by Oscar-winning director Costa-Gavras (Missing) and starring Gad Elmaleh, probably best known to local audiences for his star turn as clueless nice guy-turned-gigolo in the comedy hit Priceless. Capital, which runs with the subtitle “Money is the Master” is a hard-hitting piece of satire about corruption and stupidity in the financial institutions of the western world. The story is about a newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank who fights to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company. What Costa-Gavras achieves might not have the same iconic power as films like Wall Street, but the propulsive pace makes it the cinematic equivalent of an engrossing page-turner. There is little that is new here, but the director shows forceful determination in building a meticulously researched procedural that goes deep into the grime of greed, deception and cynical exploitation. It doesn’t quite match Margin Call in managing the finely tuned mechanics of the financial thriller but Capital still manages to provide excitement while still have something incisive to say about the evils of cowboy capitalism.
The Truth About Emanuel
A troubled girl becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. There are echos of a whole host of movies dating all the way back to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and other maternal-issue psycho-sexual dramas. Writer-director Francesca Gregorini clearly has some interesting stylistic mannerisms, and the supporting performances by Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina are splendid, with a solid showing from Kaya Scodelario as the titular Emanuel. The trouble is that we have seen most of this before, and despite, or possibly because of, its poetic pretensions, the film has a self-regarding seriousness that undermines its strengths as a work of horror. Good acting cannot quite overcome the fact that the story does not know where it is going, and the fact that Gregorini doesn’t seem to have found right tone. Many excellent moments, but The Truth About Emanuel just doesn’t quite come together.
Edge of Tomorrow
We all remember Groundhog Day, that delightful comedy directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray. The fact that this story has been utterly plundered for this time-travel scifi alien-bashing picture starring Tom Cruise may not be something that everyone will take pleasure in. What is remarkable about Edge of Tomorrow is that, flagrant plagiarism aside (and it steals from far more films that just Groundhog Day), it really is not too bad. Director Doug Liman’s ability to mix humor with action makes this rather better than Cruise’s inscrutable mind-game scifi Oblivion. Cruise plays a soldier fighting in a war with aliens who finds himself caught in a time loop in his last day of combat; each time he comes back, he becomes increasingly skilled at battling the tentacled cyborg squid who have been co-opted from the Matrix trilogy. Cruise plays against Emily Blunt, who as combat veteran Rita Vrataski, manages a soot and torn combat vest look that provides yummy eye-candy for the boys. And for those who truly hate Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow does allow us to watch him being killed by aliens or flying metal objects many hundreds of times, and this may be cathartic for those who have had to endure his more heroic antics in the past.
Folkloric reinterpretation hits full swing with Maleficent, which explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty and the backstory of what ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. This is a tale imbued with a strong, almost Tolkien-esque, environmental themes that see the cruel stepmother transformed into the character Maleficent an amoral protector of the dark forests who in her quest for vengeance against human culture realizes that the girl she has cursed may be the only person who can reestablish peace. The title role is taken by Angelina Jolie, doing a slightly more sophisticated take on her outing as Grendel’s Mother in Beowulf, looking sexy in a totally unreal, airbrushed sort of way. There is a perfectly able supporting cast including Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton and Sam Riley, but one cannot help but wonder if this is Disney scraping the bottom of the barrel, dredging up minor fairytale characters and giving them their own feature-length show as a substitute for creating something new.
Yves Saint Laurent
A haute couture biopic about one of the biggest names in the fashion business sadly does not tell any tales. In fact, it doesn’t even manage to tell a particularly interesting story, for although the film’s hero is clearly a fascinating human being, a wild mixture of manic depressive, genius, wisdom and naivety, Yves Saint Laurent never comes over as more than a very mechanical sum of his parts. Director Jalil Lespert has made a jigsaw from various manifestations of Saint Laurent artistry and emotional see-saw, but despite the best efforts of the highly talented Pierre Niney, he never comes alive as a person. There is, of course, an overload of beautiful people in elegant costumes prancing about against a splendid backdrop, and for some, this will make the film worthwhile, but we don’t get much insight into the fashion industry and the surreal world in which Saint Laurent lived and made into his own exotic habitat.
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 They called him the “No Problem Doctor” (沒關係醫生) because that’s what he always told his patients when they couldn’t pay up. Operating the only clinic in Changhua County’s Pusin Township (埔心) during the 1950s, Hsu Tsai-chih (許再枝) knew that life was difficult in his remote hometown. “They barely had enough to survive, so it was pointless to chase after them for the money,” an 81-year-old Hsu told the United Daily News in 2002. “I just went with the flow, some offered to pay me back years later but I had already forgotten
Chen Wang-shi (陳罔市) doesn’t know where to go if she is forced to move. The 78-year-old Chen is an active “sea woman” (海女) in Taiwan’s easternmost fishing village of Makang (馬崗) in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮). When the waves are calm, she ventures out to forage for algae, oysters and other edible marine morsels. She lives alone in the village, as her children have moved to the cities for work, returning for weekends and festivals. “I cannot get used to living in Taipei, and I feel very uncomfortable if I don’t go out to the ocean to forage. I
A widely criticized peer-reviewed study that measured the attractiveness of women with endometriosis has been retracted from the medical journal Fertility and Sterility. The study, “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study,” was first published in 2013 and has been defended by the authors and the journal in the intervening years despite heavy criticism from doctors, other researchers and people with endometriosis for its ethical concerns and dubious justifications, with one advocate calling the study “heartbreaking” and “disgusting.” The study’s conclusion was: “Women with rectovaginal endometriosis were judged to be more attractive than those in the two control groups.