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 outbreak of COVID-19 among the tech firms in Miaoli County — a complete failure by the brokers, firms and the local and central government, any one of whom could have taken action to prevent it — has triggered a serious outbreak of another endemic disease: racism towards migrant workers. The firms themselves led the way, sending around circulars that warned the workers that they would have to pay for their own COVID-19 care should they become infected. One circular I saw even said that workers who contract the virus will be liable for any harm they cause the firm.
Vaccines are the latest flashpoint inflaming cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, as the latter tries to fend off its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began with a mostly unvaccinated population and the former rails against outside assistance from Taipei’s allies. Global vaccination drives are widely seen as the only way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in Taiwan, just 3 percent of the population has received at least one dose. Now it is battling hundreds of cases a day and does not have enough vaccines for its 23.5 million people. Affected by global shortages, low initial orders and accusations of
Returning to Ciliwa (唭哩瓦) a couple of weeks ago, it took me a few minutes to get my bearings. This time, I’d approached by a different route. It bypassed the village’s so-called “new community” (新社) and brought me direct to the “old community” (舊社). Outsiders won’t notice many differences between these two settlements in an inland and ruggedly hilly corner of Tainan. Both are a mix of traditional single-story homes and more recent reinforced concrete structures. In the “newer” part of the village as in the “older,” several houses are empty, and it’s obvious nobody is trying to maintain them. The “old
With no way to make money during the outbreak and a developmentally delayed third-grader to raise alone, the only thing Mr Lin (林) can do is pray for vaccines. “I just hope that people can get vaccinated and life can go back to usual soon,” Lin says during a Line interview. “It’s unfortunate that Taiwan’s awkward international status prevents us from getting vaccines.” A foot masseuse catering to tourists in Taipei, Lin’s income already took a hit when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year. With the latest outbreak shuttering massage parlors across the nation, he is now out of a