Movie review: Lopez steals the show in Hustlers
Just as Lady Gaga started dominating awards season this time last year with A Star Is Born, 2020 is shaping up to be yet another pop superstar's shot.
Enter Jennifer Lopez.
And wow, what an entrance.
Critics are salivating themselves silly over the much-hyped pole dancing sequence that introduces her character, as well as her performance as Ramona, mastermind of the scams, in this flashy, highly entertaining crime drama.
Indeed, after seeing Lopez gyrate so impressively on that pole while wearing a string up her butt, your jaw will drop and eyes will pop at how unbelievably hot and flexible she is at 50.
She has been churning out Hollywood fare since the mid-90s, but it is only now that she is finally given her due.
As the magnetic Ramona, she strikes a compelling balance between light and dark, maternal and manipulative.
The first half of Hustlers is sexy fun, as new girl Destiny (Constance Wu) learns the ropes from Ramona and other co-workers (rap queen Cardi B plays a small part but blesses us with the cheekiest line). Business is good and debauchery is everywhere.
Think of it as the other side of The Wolf Of Wall Street-meets-The Big Short, but with boobs, bronzer and body glitter, especially when you have Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice) as a producer.
But when the financial crisis hits, the sex industry gets dodgier and the women fall on hard times. So they decide to rig the game, seize back control and make their own rules – by fishing for Wall Street targets, drugging them and embezzling their money. There is a cautionary tale in there somewhere, but Hustlers is so girl-powered, you still end up being on the side of the "criminals".
The film is also making headlines for casting Asian actress Wu as the lead.
Unfortunately, as in Crazy Rich Asians, she is still a weak link and does not leave much of an impression. Her lap dances and stripteases are not exactly comfortable to watch or convincing, and she comes across like a little girl playing dress-up.
When Ramona muses that the country is a strip club with people throwing the money and people doing the dance, let us just say Lopez dances circles around Wu, and I am throwing my money behind the former for a shot at the Best Supporting Actress Oscar next year. -
STARRING: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart
DIRECTOR: Lorene Scafaria
THE SKINNY: A crew of savvy former strip club employees (Wu, Lopez,
Palmer and Reinhart) band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients after the
global financial crisis hits.
Movie reviews: Weathering With You, Ne Zha
WEATHERING WITH YOU (PG) - 4 ticks
Japan's entry for Best International Feature Film at next year's Oscars is a romance-fantasy that evokes a storm of emotions and has grossed over 10 billion yen (S$129 million) at the domestic box office.
It follows runaway high school boy Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) as he falls for and pursues elusive "Sunshine Girl" Hina (Nana Mori), who has the ability to change the weather.
Unfortunately, with all of the film's ambition and complexity, his character remains underdeveloped while supporting characters like Hina and Suga (Shun Oguri) are far more compelling.
The start is a tad haphazard, but what follows is a sublime juxtaposition of spirited runaways evading the law against a beautifully backdrop and a budding love story amid Tokyo's streets.
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, best known for the 2016 hit Your Name, Weathering With You may throw adult audiences into an exquisitely existential mood, a testament to its triumph as a coming-of-age story that grapples with notions of love and loss. - JASMINE LIM
NE ZHA (PG) - 3 1/2 ticks
An Oscar winner once told me that for every good movie, there must be laughter and tears.
And this China-made animation by first-time film-maker Jiao Zi scores high in that aspect.
Based loosely on the classic Chinese myth, Ne Zha tells the story of an underdog demon-child who battles hard to show the world he is no hell boy.
The recurring line - "If fate isn't fair, fight it till the end" - comes across preachy at times, but this universal message is why Ne Zha has seen such success and made more than US$660 million (S$911 million) worldwide since its release in July.
The film is packed with colourful characters who sometimes take the momentum away from its titular lead, a child forbidden to step out of the house because of prejudice and discrimination.
There are several eye-popping action sequences, and while the final act feels over- indulgent, Ne Zha is still a praiseworthy effort. - JOANNE SOH