Movie review: Green Book
Bumpy ride for this Oscar favourite
Civil rights dramedy Green Book is suddenly looking like an Oscar frontrunner, after most recently being crowned best film by the Producers Guild of America.
But its road to Oscar glory has been a bumpy one.
Viggo Mortensen put his foot in it by uttering the N-word during a panel discussion - a faux pas of epic proportions, considering the film's subject matter and the fact that his African-American co-star Mahershala Ali was also present.
Then the writer of Green Book - the son of real-life protagonist Tony Lip - got burned by his 9/11 anti-Muslim tweets (Ali is a practising Muslim), and director Peter Farrelly was, well, exposed for his on-set penis-flashing behaviour early in his career.
Apologies were made by all three men, driving forces of the movie, but the only person who emerged unscathed is Ali, undoubtedly the best thing about Green Book.
He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Moonlight just two years ago, but it's never too early to give him another trophy for his profound, nuanced and heartbreaking turn as the uber-cultured Don Shirley, who craves acceptance but finds it neither with the blacks nor the whites.
Everything Ali does, whether pounding on the piano or wordlessly surveying the situation and people around him, is gold.
Disappearing behind the pasty flesh, bulging belly, chain-smoking and mafioso accent, Mortensen isn't too shabby either. Tony goes from racist thug to woke ally, but is still less interesting as a character study.
However problematic Green Book may be off-screen, you will end up being so engrossed in the unfolding story and so invested in the unlikely buddies who eventually arrive at common ground that all the noise gets drowned out.
Humour arises out of their differences (involving love letters and Kentucky Fried Chicken), the lighter moments balanced perfectly with the darker tones when the pair are confronted with outrageous examples of racism and real physical danger once they hit the Southern states.
You will be floored by the blatant double standards perpetrated, especially when you realise these '60s-era injustices - and worse - are far from merely fictional.
Green Book does wield enough "courage to change people's hearts", as one character puts it.
The final destination may feel a tad too precious, but embarking on this inspirational journey is still well worth it.
RATING: 4 stars
MOVIE: Green Book
STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
DIRECTOR: Peter Farrelly
THE SKINNY: When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive a world-class black pianist, Dr Don Shirley (Ali), on a two-month concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans.
Movie reviews: One Cut Of The Dead, The Vanishing
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (NC16)
RATING: 4.5 stars
This Japanese horror-comedy and box office phenomenon is truly a fresh take on the usual zombie apocalypse movie.
But in order to fully appreciate its brilliance, you will have to exercise some patience.
It opens with a 37-minute single take showing a film crew shooting a low-budget zombie flick in an abandoned warehouse, only to be interrupted and attacked by real zombies.
However, once that's over, the audience is rewarded with a delightfully humorous twist, and at this point, One Cut Of The Dead redeems itself as we finally realise what the preceding confusing mess had been building up to.
Although it serves up laughs aplenty, the movie isn't devoid of genuine human emotion, as it also journeys convincingly into the personal struggles of its main characters.
This crazy ride is made even more spectacular by its highly original plot, unique humour and captivating raw performance by Takayuki Hamatsu as the footage's hack director, outperforming its measly 3 million yen (S$37,000) budget. - JASMINE LIM
THE VANISHING (NC16)
RATING: 4 stars
The Vanishing is a deeply contemplative and thrilling tale inspired by the true Flannan Isles mysteries, concerning the disappearances of the Scottish island's lighthouse keepers in 1900.
The action, taking place on a remote island, revolves around three lighthouse keepers (Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells) who stumble upon a hidden trunk of gold.
The violence and greed that the trio demonstrate are constantly and artfully juxtaposed with shots of the serene, picturesque ocean.
Butler, more widely known for his action or romantic lead roles, is nearly unrecognisable as a tortured man - a testament to his skill as an actor.
However, Mullan delivers the most solid performance, keeping what might have been a dull movie afloat and injecting it with the zest it needs.
The Vanishing is slow-burning and the dialogue is delivered in thick Scottish accents, so you may struggle to comprehend conversations without English subtitles.
Persevere through it though, if you love a good study of human frailty. - JASMINE LIM
Still in cinemas
M. Night Shyamalan's sequel to 2016's Split finds David Dunn (Bruce Willis) pursuing Kevin Crumb's (James McAvoy) superhuman figure of The Beast while Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
The Upside (PG13)
Inspired by a true story, this heartfelt comedy is about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a paralysed billionaire (Bryan Cranston).
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
The Old Man And The Gun (PG13)
Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin prison at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded the authorities and enchanted the public.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Swing Kids (NC16)
In this musical drama set during the Korean War, the soldiers at a prisoner of war camp plan a tap show to distract both themselves and the prisoners from the hardships of war.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Schindler's List 25th Anniversary (M18)
Winner of seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, this incredible true story from Steven Spielberg follows the enigmatic Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
On The Basis Of Sex (PG13)
Inspiring true story that follows young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) as she teams up with her husband to bring a groundbreaking case before the US Court of Appeals and overturn a century of sex discrimination.
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%