Every Cloud has a Silver Lining
Confessions, directed by one of my favorite Japanese directors, Tetsuya Nakashima, is one of the most disturbing and depressing movies I have watched this year. It is a psychological thriller of a grieving teacher turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back the students who were responsible for her daughter's death.
In the story, the major characters make confessions one by one. The more perspectives from which the murder is looked at, the more we know about the characters and their motives, which may remind the audience of A Stranger of Mine. As the story is unfolded, there are several surprising twists. While making confessions and sometimes touching on the subjects they are ashamed of, some characters refuse to accept the truth, tell lies and point the finger of blame at others to salve their conscience.
The director tries to explore the reasons why innocent children become evil teenagers with no conscience. Some seek attention because they are abandoned or physically abused by their parents. Some become vulnerable owing to their overprotective parents. Some feel lonely because they are nerds neglected and bullied by their peers. Some commit suicide or other crimes because they follow suit. Some tragedies are also attributed to the internet which allows people to gossip anonymously, the mass media which places too much emphasis on violence, and the law which exempts teenage murderers from being punished. Thanks to the convincing cast, the characters become lifelike.
The black-grey-and-white setting, which is very different form the flamboyance of Memories of Matsuko, is stifling and depressing. After watching the film, the images of crimson blood, white milk, snow-white sakura, the bleak classroom, the lifeless homes and the dimly lit school hall will linger in one's mind. Apart from these, the gloomy skies in the movie were reminiscent of the ones in Elephant by Gus Van Sant. Despite the ominous dark clouds gathering overheard, every cloud has a silver lining, which symbolizes that the director still believes in the goodness of human nature, despite its dark side. This belief is also reflected in the scene when the female teacher stares at the strawberry given by a kid and another scene in which she says "your new life has begun".
The mesmerizing classical music, spiced with a hypnotizing female voice, not only creates a shocking contrast to the disturbing scenes shot in slow motion, but also adds eeriness to the story. The sound effects are also memorable. When the female teacher puts down the last stroke of the word LIFE on the blackboard, the ear-piercing sound chilled me the bone. When the bubble pops, we feel hopeless.
The film would have been more gripping if the first confession had been shorter and less talky. Besides, the CG images at the end are mediocre. Also, it is a difficult movie for the faint-hearted to sit through.
On the whole, Confessions is a darkly disturbing, visually stunning and thought provoking movie ruthlessly exposing the root of various teenage problems and the dark side of human nature. After watching the movie, I left the cinema with a heavy heart. It conjured up images of several parricides committed by Hong Kong teenagers recently and I pondered on what had happened to our post 90's generation.
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Kenji Chan 4.5 / 5
Let's Define a Family
The Kids Are All Right is a humorous and heartwarming drama with a terrific ensemble cast and memorable characters. The movie talks about family problems and the definition of a family.
The movie delivers a message that straight families and gay families are no different and they should be treated on an equal footing. First, marriage is hard, be it straight or gay. Their kids are as rebellious as the ones in straight families. Second, the kids can still grow up healthily in a gay family. Third, the kids treat their lesbian mums as their beloved family members, despite their sexual orientation and the intrusion of their biological father, because it is the two women who raise them and under no circumstances can the biological father replace the mums. Hence, a family should not be defined as a social group made up of a man, a woman and their children. Instead, it should be defined as a group of persons, the adult members of which assume responsibility for caring for children and loving them unconditionally.
Despite the politically correct message, the film has some flaws. First, the problem is resolved too easily at the end. Second, (spoiler warning) that Jules does not even spend a minute considering developing a formal relationship with Paul is not convincing. After all, Jules enjoys having sex with Paul (She is probably a bisexual). He is not only a biological father who gets along with her kids, but also the owner of a restaurant. What's more, their marriage has reached crisis point. Nic is not only a control freak, but also an alcoholic.
At the end of the movie, their love to each other in a family can be deeply felt. The ending is so touching that some members of the audience will be moved to tears. Despite growing up in a gay family, the kids are all right.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% Positive
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Metacritic: 86 / 100
Kenji Chan: 4 / 5
A Rehash Less Scary than the First Film
Paranormal Activity 2 is a low-budget mockumentary rehashing the first installment.
The film is slow-paced in the first hour. Despite the director's attempt to build the tension step by step, the similar images repeatedly shown by the cameras fail to engage the audience. In the last 30 minutes, there are some creepy moments which will give you goose pimples, thanks to the demon's rumble, the dog's growls, the creaks of the door echoing eerily in the house, etc, whereas those who have watched the first film may find the tactics used familiar and the story formulaic.
To make the most out of the film, you should watch Paranormal Activity 1 first because it starts as a prequel and ends with a twist related to the first film. Besides, you should avoid spoilers and watch it in a cinema with as few talky people as possible.
Those who have watched the first film may find Paranormal Activity 2, whose tactics we have already seen, less scary.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% Positive
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Kenji Chan: 3 / 5
秘密潛行 Secret Reunion - 4 / 5
死魚 Coldfish - 4 / 5
社交網絡 The Social Network - 4 / 5
公路．電影 Road, Movie - 3 / 5
愛麗絲蒸發奇案 The Disappearance of Alice Creed - 3.5 / 5
詩 Poetry - 4 / 5
實驗囚室 The Experiment - 3 / 5