Sunday, June 12, 2016

Belle Familles

French Film Festival 2016
Greenbelt 3 Cinema 

When Jerome makes a side trip to Paris (before he heads to London for a business venture) to visit to his family, he learns that the sale of their ancestral mansion has encountered a bureaucratic problem between city hall and a potential buyer. 

Jerome who has lived and worked in Shanghai for a decade is accompanied by his Chinese fiancee whom he wishes to introduce to his family. But soon enough, his involvement in the sale of their house entails him to stay much longer than he expected to as he discovers the secrets attached to his childhood manor. In the process it affects his business trip, his relationship with his fiancee as well as his filial duties.

This farcical comedy boasts of a great ensemble cast (I'm familiar with a few of the actors as I've seen them in other movies) who portray a myriad of high strung characters who act out a very energetic and fast paced story line. 

It is a typical French milieu with the provincial town of Ambray providing the picturesque setting to a complex narrative about  family secrets, strong childhood ties, nostalgia and also throw in an unexpected romance to the mix. All the ingredients needed to make it a watchable movie without any nagging existential questions clouding your mind.

It is an entertaining but somewhat predictable movie that is so French that you can't help but think of the hashtag #BourgeoisProblems!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

La Caja 507
(Box 507)

Cinematique of FDCP

I took a break from the French Film Festival to catch this Spanish movie at the Cinematique all the way in Kalaw, Ermita Manila. Every Saturday for the month of June at 4 P.M. you can watch Spanish thrillers with English subtitles. It is a first-come, first-based basis so better get there early.

In a small southern Spanish town, a group of criminals tie up and drug Modesto Pardo, the manager in a bank. They ransack the safety deposit boxes to steal loose gems and diamonds. After gaining consciousness, Modesto discovers a document in box 507 that implicates a major crime syndicate organization which may have caused a fire, 7 years ago. A fire which sadly claimed his only daughter's life.

He sets on a crusade to uncover the truth and this leads him to an intricate web of corruption involving local government officials and a powerful mob boss. His vengeance is fueled by his desire to seek justice for the murder of his daughter, an  innocent victim in a maelstrom of corruption, extortion, violence and crime.

Action packed with violent scenes as well as very dramatic moments, the film is fast paced and peppered with well developed characters. All of them on a relentless mission to protect their own interests. "La Caja 507" uses a visceral approach to portray events which are still prevalent in today's society, unfortunately!

This 2002 film was indeed a thriller! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Un Homme Ideal
(A Perfect Man)

French Film Festival 2016
Greenbelt 3 Cinema

Mathieu Vasseur, a wanna be writer who works for a moving company has hit a snag. After several rejections from publishers, he has lost his writing mojo. One day in the course of his work as he sorts through the belongings of a guy who died and whose things are being vacated, he discovers a diary. 

An extensive personal account about the guy's stint as a soldier in the Algerian war. With no known relatives, Mathieu decided to pass the diary as his own original novel and publishes it as a fiction entitled "Black Sand".  It is a huge hit and he is celebrated all over town as a best selling author. 

3 years later, he is engaged to a wealthy PR publicist and although being hounded by his editor for his second novel, his life is basically all nice and cozy. Until his dark secret catches up with him through a blackmail and the lengths he goes to to make sure his lies are kept hidden is what gives the film a gritty edgy factor.

This suspenseful thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat as the drama unfolds through sleek, flawless editing and the credible acting skills from the cast. Set in the picturesque French Riviera, I admit there are some loopholes in the plot. 

Yet the decent twist towards the end helps to mark him as a sad and lonely character with enough drama conveniently buried in his dark past to certainly last the rest of his earthly lifetime. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Toute Premiere Fois
(I Kissed a Girl)

French Film Festival 2016
Greenbelt 3 Cinema

34 year old Jeremie wakes up in bed with a Swedish woman after a drunken one night stand. Only problem is ... Jeremie is gay and has a partner named Antoine, a mild mannered doctor. They have been together for 10 years and are engaged to be married. Yet Jeremie finds himself getting obsessed with Adna and even hires her in his polling company which he co-owns with his childhood friend, Charles.

It is quite rare that a same sex relationship is fully explored in a film. Same sex marriage has been legal in France for almost 2 years now so this romantic comedy doesn't aim to shock nor exploit this type of relationship. 

I'm amazed though that Jeremie begins to doubt his sexuality after he meets Adna. He manages to hide his 'true' identity from her through a web of lies and deceit. Although it is presented through comedic scenarios and is pretty light weight, the fact remains that yes, indeed ... it is possible to simply 'switch' back to one's original sexuality ... just like that.

Relying heavily on the ridiculous and silly antics of the lead actor and his very heterosexual best friend to draw in a few laughs, this film is pretty absurd and not to be taken seriously. Specifically since it seems to be based on the Katy Perry song "I Kissed a Girl" which is the English title of the film even though the literal translation is "First Time Ever".

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Nia Vardalos, John Corbett.
Elena Kampouris, Michael Constantine

"People change.
Greeks don't."

Would you believe it has been over 14 years since the first movie was shown? So I was eager to see what the Portokalos family were up to since Toula (Nia Vardalos) married Ian (John Corbett) her non-Greek boyfriend.

It seems that nothing much has changed as Toula still works at the family's restaurant, she's still as plain as before her make-over and still a pushover when it comes to her overbearing family and extended family.

Unfortunately, this time her teen aged daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) has to bear the whole brunt of the intervention of the whole clan. From finding her a Greek boyfriend to which college she will attend after her high school graduation. Throw in another Greek wedding (this time of Toula's parents who it turns out were never married) and expect things to be as chaotic as ever.

While the first movie was fun and hilarious as far as mismatched pairings go, this sequel went way overboard to be appreciated for its own merit. It is still peppered with the same eccentric characters and they were still up to their annoying peculiarities and strange customs and traditions.

Sadly the novelty has worn off and it failed to grab my attention as much as I intended it to do. My only consolation is the cast - they all did good despite having a redundant, run-of-the-mill story to interpret. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz,
Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes,
Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris

"The Dead are Alive"

I've always been an avid fan of the 007 Bond movies. My fascination began when Roger Moore portrayed the debonair spy with a fine combination of charm, wit and humor in the 1980s.

I still believe the Bond films are relevant and quite current even with stiff competition from other franchises like the Bourne series and the action-packed Mission: Impossible features that crop out every now and then.

This time Bond (Daniel Craig) has gone rogue after an encrypted message from the departed M (Dame Judi Dench) leads him to pursue a huge criminal syndicate named Spectre headed by his arch nemesis Ernst Stravo Blofield (Christoph Waltz) who it turns out has a deep connection with Bond.

I'd say that Spectre's nefarious aim which is to control all the information data available worldwide and use surveillance to propagate mayhem and destruction is a bit feeble. Yet it is current as we live in an information age and certainly technology has advanced since the first Bond movie was released.

The signature action scenes are abundant with car chases, helicopter crashes and spectacular hand to hand combat stunts filmed in exotic locales - those are the moments worth watching out for.

Daniel Craig, craggy faced but extremely fit both physically and mentally as James Bond still exudes the traditional suave and charming wit of the character and at the same time he still manages to remain as elusive and secretive as ever by adding more layers of mystery to his intriguing persona. 

It is also good to note that since he took over the role, he has been surrounded by strong willed Bond girls who are no longer the damsels in distress types of previous years. 

As for the villain, I felt that Christoph Waltz as the head of Spectre wasn't as menacing enough, well not only physically but as a megalomaniac as well. Granted that he and Bond share a well hidden history together, his character was underdeveloped and too one dimensional.

"Spectre is officially the 24th James Bond film and by mixing an old school Bond with modern day elements that keeps his character relevantly fresh, it still hasn't lost its touch and delivers on every point of a standard Bond flick. 

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