Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Man not Wanted
Tony Servillo, Andrea Renzi

Cine Europa 8
Cinema 1, Edsa Shangri-la

Cine Europa 8

A film set in the 80s in Naples, Italy showcases the lives of 2 different men who share the same name, Antonio Pisapia. One is a soccer player in a major Italian league team, the other is a chain smoking, egocentric singer. Roughly at the same time, they both experience defeat sending them on a decline. The soccer player suffers a knee injury which terminates his contract, while the singer's career plunges because of his indiscretion with a minor. We are shown how each of them cope with disillusion and their frustrating attempts to get their lives back into order. The 80s music was familiar. I chuckled when I heard "Illusions" being played in the disco scene. Then I realized that probably most of the viewers in the audience weren't even born when that song came out. But I remember that song fondly back in the days when it was still called disco and not bars. I was also an avid European soccer fan back in the 80s so I know the mechanics of the game. But they don't really focus too much on the game itself more on the persona of the two main characters. Acting was realistic. You can't help but be drawn to their sad plight. Eventually in the fleeting moment when they both 'meet' each other, the film takes an intriguing twist. It ends with a redemption for one of them.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Alex Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon

"Five Saints, two Boys and millions of Pounds.
The countdown is on."

Cine Europa 8, Edsa Shangri-la Cinema 1

Cine Europa 8

This endearing little movie is the UK's entry in this year's Cine Europa 8 film festival. Admission was free so no wonder, the theater was full. Usually when I watch foreign movies, there are just a few of us. Anyways, the premise of the film is that a week before Britain converts to the Euro, two young boys (brothers) find a Nike bag with millions of Pounds inside. So faced with this sudden wealth, they must decide what to do with the money before it loses its value. The two young actors are refreshing to watch with their cute accents and freckled faces. They are the true stars of the movie. It focuses on their kind hearted nature, their need to help the poor and although there is a huge amount of money involved somehow greed never reared its ugly head. A feel good movie with some funny dialogues, great shots of the English coountryside and throw in a few saints too. A delightful film directed by Danny Boyle whose previous credits include 28 Days Later and Trainspotting.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rabiaa Ben Abdullah, Sabah Bouzouita, Hend Sabri

TV 5

TV 5

This is a Tunisian movie with French subtitles. The title refers to the period when the men return to their village (Djerba) after 11 months of selling tapestries in Tunis, the capital. It focuses on Aicha, considered a radical because she wants to break with tradition and join her husband in Tunis. Her conflict in raising her two daughters traditionally during modern times, the pressure of bearing a son to inherit the family name all under the watchful eyes of her mother-in-law. The setting is a small traditional village in Tunisia where all the women do is weave and wait with abated breath for the season of men. Several flashback scenes are brilliantly interwoven within the entire film. But it is done so subtly, you only notice it is a look into the past when Aicha sports a different hairstyle. An interesting film which is as intricate as the tapestries the women weave for their husbands to sell.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Jon Voight

"Sex. Murder. Betrayal. Everything that makes life worth living."

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A heavily indebted gambler mistakenly makes a wrong turn, he develops car trouble and ends up in Superior, a town near Phoenix in Arizona. Poor chap gets embroiled with the shady characters inhabiting the town. You have a dumb car mechanic, a blind old man spewing quotes, a sleazy sheriff, a waitress named Flo (same as that Johnny Cash song), a ditzy young lady, her over jealous boyfriend, a real estate agent and his exotic wife. A rather silly movie but you keep watching if only to see if the down on his luck chap would ever get out of that God forsaken town. It helps that you have talented actors like Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Joaquin Phoenix and Jon Voight to give credence to their roles. You have shots of crows, the sunset, the moon and a montage of flash back scenes as well. An eclectic mix of songs too from Country to Mexican ballads. Everything you expect from an Oliver Stone movie without the controversial conspiracy theory scenario.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen, Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing

"In any relationship, one person always does the heavy lifting

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It is always amusing to watch a Woody Allen film. He is a neurotic, witty, angst ridden, paranoia driven little man. I love the dialogue in his films. In this movie, he portrays a teacher who dreams of becoming a comedy writer. He takes on a protege, Jason Biggs, a budding writer to guide him through life with his funny anecdotes. Like in any Woody Allen movie, the women are often portrayed as the one with the issues and the flaws. In this case it is Christina Ricci who is the complicated, quirky and dysfunctional girlfriend of Jason Biggs. I certainly can't see the chemistry between the two lead actors. Perhaps I'm biased against Ricci who I always see as a little kid or the neurotic sex vixen in Ally McBeal. For all it's worth, the movie was engaging if only for the great lines delivered by Woody Allen. Although the final line in the movie wasn't uttered by him. When Jason Biggs's character said "Life sucks". The taxi driver said "Yes it does, just like anything else".

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia

"Fear takes flight"

Cinema 1, Robinson's Pioneer
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As someone who doesn't watch horror movies at the cinemas, I made an exception to see this one. Because when one mentions Wes Craven, visions of serial killers, gory slasher scenes enter my mind. But I knew this one wasn't a horror flick per se. So my easily frightened heart was safe. It sure was a thriller, though. I felt like I was a captive myself just waiting to see if Lisa would be able to escape. I like Rachel McAdams in this movie, she portrayed a feisty character able to defend herself well. Cillian Murphy despite being this pretty boy is indeed very convincing as a villain. His intensity is captivating. I was surprised to see Jack Scalia. I remember him from all those 80s miniseries. As well as his recurring roles on Dallas and Remington Steele. He still maintains a strong presence on screen, despite his short role. So we are not really told where the killers were from. I can only speculate they were from some Balkan State in Eastern Europe. I guess that is not relevant. Instead the director wants us to focus on the confined space of a plane there is no means to escape premise. That perhaps chatting up with strangers could have its repercussions. That in our busy lives, it can be refreshing to connect with others. But surely I don't think I would be so forthcoming with some personal details of my life. It reminds me of situations when I traveled alone. I'd be waiting at the boarding gate. I would look around and wonder which of the other passengers would be my seat mate. Silently hoping it was someone who would just leave me alone to enjoy my flight. Well anyways it was a good edge of your seat, little gulps of surprise flick!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Charlize Theron, Stuart Townsend, Penelope Cruz

"Three lives. One destiny"

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You assume that a movie with such a poetically lovely title would convey some form of romanticism. Then a boring story unfolds before your eyes, you begin to wonder if they somehow got the title wrong. It had the potential to be a good love story. All the elements were present. 3 strong characters, an era of conflict and wars, gorgeous settings like Paris, England and Madrid. So how come I didn't find it engaging? Some of the scenes seemed like they were badly edited and patched up. Charlize Theron is believable as an American photographer who lives in Paris. Her acting is always good. Penelope Cruz had a short role but she did convey a lot of passion. Although I still have some issue with her voice. Stuart Townsend though he was a disappointment. Of course, he is appealing to look at, no doubt about that! But at certain crucial scenes during the movie, I expected him to show more emotions, more range than just stare glazingly at the camera. But I guess you cannot fault them if they had to make do with a lousy script.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Bryce Dallas Howard, Willem Dafoe, Danny Glover, Lauren Bacall, Isaach de Bankole

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2
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Acclaimed director Lars von Trier's second installement of his trilogy on America, this film is set on a cotton plantation (Manderlay) in Alabama during the 1930's. I never saw "Dogville" so I cannot really say where it is taking off from. At first, you think you are watching a play on stage with the minimal props and the chalk board lines on the floor but eventually you get used to the idea. It is a very thought provoking look into the American system of slavery, the ballot system, democracy and idealism which still permeates till the present day. Especially with the current heart wrenching situation in New Orleans, you somehow believe that these people were never really freed. Their daily existence is still a struggle. Cleverly narrated by John Hurt and presented in 8 chapters, it is almost like you are watching a storybook unfold before your eyes. Bryce Dallas Howard's performance as the idealistic Grace who wants to uphold the rights of these slaves is very convincing. As well as good acting from Danny Glover and Isaach de Bankole who portrays the 'proudly' slave, Timothy. The last parts of the movie takes you by surprise and you finally piece together the missing parts, therefore getting a better understanding of the entire theme. The piercing point though is during the end credits of the movie where we are subjected to haunting images tracing back the struggle of African Americans throughout history. Images of the Ku Klux Klan, an angry mob, lynching, homeless people, even the Twin Towers is briefly shown. I highly recommend this very interesting movie for the brilliant way it presents a very tricky subject - slavery.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Om jag vonder mig om

Pernilla August, Jacob Eklund, Marie Richardon, Peter Andersson, Ann Petren, Ingvar, Hirdwall

"Same day, different lives"

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

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My first time to watch a Swedish film so it was interesting to hear the spoken language. The main theme would be a look into different situations all occurring on the same day. An older couple dealing with their fear of immigrants taking over the country as well as being burglarized hires a bricklayer. The bricklayer's conflict with his own family who feels he doesn't spend quality time with them. Another family who moves all the time because the father is a doctor. The doctor having an affair with the wife of his colleague who turns out to be copying his entire life. Sort of keeping up with the Joneses situation. A woman whose husband leaves her for a physiotherapist, a younger woman he met during his recovery from a car accident three years ago. The flow of the story is continuous. When one family is having dinner the other family is doing the same. None of them get to interact with each other but you see them having the same problems. A good ensemble cast in a plot that reveals how ordinary people deal with their fears, conflicts, problems and life itself.


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