Quickies: Dheepan, Demolition, Cat People, Rocketeer, The Secret Life of Pets, The Sugarland Express, Timecrimes, David Brent: Life on the Road, The Girl on the Train

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Dheepan (2015) tells the story of three Tamil refugees who flee the civil war-ravaged Sri Lanka and come to France, in the hope of reconstructing their lives. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Jacques Audiard’s (The Prophet and Rust and Bone) latest film immediately feels different from his earlier offerings. It has less showiness and is not immediately memorable for just a couple of scenes. I find the story of Dheepan deeply powerful and compelling. We are treated to a fake family built on soul-shattering irony and then it sets out to become a real family, but the journey they each take to reach there is gut-wrenching. It is about three characters running away from their past but the past continues to rear its ugly head. The film has a climatic third act and a moving epilogue that are truly earned. (4 / 5)

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Demolition (2015) is one morose mess of movie. It has no idea what it wants to be and it feels like a stitching of sketches of flawed people angry with the world and at themselves. What a waste of a stellar cast. (2 / 5)

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Cat People (1982) doesn’t age well at all. I remember watching this on VHS in the 80s when I was a virile teenager and thought it was one cool horror-fantasy sexy movie. Nastassja Kinski sure could fire up my loins. Well… she could still do it. Nice to know some things don’t change. The tone is good – dreamy at times and intense at others. Kinski holds up the movie well and I can still believe there’s a leopard inside her. But watching it again, I find the film’s pacing dragged down by a languorous plot that could do with some major slicing of scenes, but keep the sexy ones intact pleaseeeeeee. (3 / 5)

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Rocketeer (1991) is cheesy and tacky but it captures the spirit of the 1930s comic book feel. There is an overall sweetness to it that is inherent in a Disney film. I wouldn’t say it is memorable though, just a good family entertainment kind of film. (3 / 5)

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The Secret Life of Pets (2016) is harmless and good natured fun for the family, but it lacks a meaningful edge that will make you start to look at your pet differently. I am trying to glean more so I can fill up a few more lines, but it is just impossible. (2.5 / 5)

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The Sugarland Express (1974) is a crime drama film co-written and directed by Steven Spielberg in his theatrical feature film directorial debut. It is based on a true story of a pair of husband and wife who wants to outrun the law to their baby.

I have always found it fascinating to see a great director’s genesis through his early films. Most of the time you will chance upon a moment of pure genius and you will tell myself that was how he began. Try watching Christopher Nolan’s Following (1998) and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), and it is impossible to not notice you are witnessing the birth of a new incredible storyteller. However, with The Sugarland Express, I barely notice the aesthetics, verve and prowess Spielberg would possess later. The characters are heavy-handedly drawn and unsympathetic. I especially find Goldie Hawn’s character obnoxious and manipulative. The film quickly dissolves into a mass of careening police cruisers, silly tensionless shootouts and social polemic jackhammering. I guess it is in Spielberg’s next movie that the world will truly see his greatness. That film is called Jaws. (2.5 / 5)

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Timecrimes (2007) is a Spanish time travel movie and it is an awesome one. It melds an ordinary man’s psychodrama with a crime energetically. The time travel contraption looks like a giant metal pot but thankfully writer-director Nacho Vigalondo paid more attention on telling a good yarn. It may be a low-budget little flick, but it has cleverness up the Ying Yang. I watched this with a big smile on my face and each time a new twist comes up my smile got wider and wider. Sadly, the film lost its footing in the last act and doesn’t end on a high, but the first two acts are so risk-takingly good, I can forgive the misstep. (4 / 5)

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David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) is Ricky Gervais revisiting his brilliant creation from The Office (2001-2003). He slips into the role like a glove and it doesn’t feel a day has passed since the ending of the seminal comedic-mockumentary. He can still get the painful pathos, OMG social awkwardness and horrific embarrassment right, but in a 96-minute film the antics can wear thin very fast. Thankfully, when it almost becomes too tiresome, a nasty song will liven things up. I don’t know…. but I think this movie should have stayed buried because it sort of tarnish the mythology of the TV series. For fans of The Office only. (3 / 5)

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The Girl on the Train (2016) is a fricking bore! It is faithful adaptation of the novel by Paula Hawkins, but perhaps it was too faithful. I had my doubts it would make a good film and I was right. The movie tries to replicate the three distinctive female voices but that angle was jettisoned really fast. The casting also feels suspect and their character motivation never painted with fresh clarity. After a while, it was just Emily Blunt carrying the movie on her own but I just wasn’t in a mood to see her in drunken stupor for 3/4 of a movie. The one thing I feel didn’t make the book a good film is the revelation-heavy last act that doesn’t feel earned. IMHO for an investigative thriller to work, it has to obey certain rules like red herrings must stand out roses in a pile of dirt. You can get away with it in prose, but in a film, no fricking way. When the film moves through a mire of cloying melodrama, it totally got lost with the twists dropping like rain-drops in a thunderstorm. But by then you will realise how shallow the characters were and you are thankful the torture is over. (2 / 5)

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