Tuesday, November 29, 2005

THE HUMAN STAIN
Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Wentworth Miller

"How far would you go to escape the past?"

Star Movies

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An obscure movie with a great cast based on a novel by Philip Roth. An author I am not familiar with but the film caught my interest. It is a story as told by a writer about a Classics professor in a small academe town. The setting is in the late nineties when the sex scandal of former President Clinton rocked America. Coleman Silk, an erudite mentor is wrongfully accused of racism by one of his students. He is therefore unceremoniously fired by the university. His wife of several years suddenly dies of a heart attack so he is left alone to fend for himself. He seeks out a reclusive writer to help him write his story, a memoir of his life. His life unravels when he meets and falls in love with a troubled younger woman, a janitor in the university. His reckless behavoir shocks the whole community. To further complicate matters, her ex husband stalks her. This adds to the messy turmoil that the unfortunate Coleman has to deal with. We are also shown glimpses of his younger years as a student in the mid forties, his boxing hobby and his romance with a fellow student. But Coleman Silk has a dark secret which he has managed to hide throughout the years. His parents are Afro Americans, both of his siblings are dark skinned. He is the only "white" person in his family. Back in the days when the color of a man's skin determines his standing in society, Coleman chose to hide his true ancestry. Shunning his heritage and breaking away from the restrictive bonds of being a "colored" individual.
Anthony Hopkins gives life to the professor with ease, his academe personality shines throughout the movie. Gary Sinise is the reclusive writer trying to find out the truth about Coleman Silk. Nicole Kidman as a trashy lowlife takes a bit of getting used to but as usual she is a consummate actress who can essay all types of roles. Ed Harris complete the cast as the ex husband with an axe to grind. Good movie with a sensitive theme. When I said obscure I meant it wasn't given due credit since it doesn't have the standard Hollywood flare of sex, gore and violence. A pity, since you rarely find a film with a good cast.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

CELLULAR
Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy

"When the signal dies, so does she.

HBO

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Due to my current computer problems, I'm now sitting in an internet cafe, trying to wreak my mind and come up with a good review of this film. Not easy given that I got a young teenager playing a computer game to my right and a young woman talking on her mic and making silly faces on her webcam.
I wasn't able to see the beginning of the movie because Gilmore Girls was still on at Studio 23. But it is fairly easy to follow and get caught up in the excitement of watching a gorgeous hunk, Chris Evans be a good Samaritan by helping a stranger through his cellphone. Kim Basinger, the damsel in distress is making the poor chap roam all over the city so he can warn her husband of some very bad guys. These guys turn out to be rogue cops caught on tape (recorded by the husband) killing off some drug dealers. So we follow good Samaritan drive through the city, avoiding tunnels, carjacking a vehicle and holding up a telecoms shop so he can get a charger. Everything humanely possible not to lose the signal on his cellphone. His only link to said damsel in distress. Somewhere in between the chase, we are introduced to a cop (played by William H. Macy who is miscast in this film) who is retiring to put up his own spa. Of course we know for sure, he will be the one tasked to play the good cop who catches the rogue ones. It was a fairly entertaining film and it was exciting enough to grab my short attention span. I also think it was a neat concept to show the end credits of the movie on the cellphones used by the actors in their different scenes.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

YENTL
Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin, Amy Irving

"Nothing's impossible"


Yentl

I grew up watching Barbra Streisand movies such as Hello Dolly. So I have no qualms about characters suddenly bursting into song in a film.
Yentl is an endearing delightful tale of a young Jewish woman living in Eastern Europe in the 1900s. Strict rules advocate the women aren't supposed to study, let alone have opinions about anything. But Yentl is different, she is always inquisitive about everything and loves to argue about numerous things with her Rabbi father. Her father is a kind hearted soul who willingly teaches her the Talmud but of course only behind closed doors. Upon the death of her dear father, she decides to move away to another town and in her quest to continue her thirst for knowledge, she disguises herself as a young boy. She changes her name to Anshel and is readily taken in as a protege by Avigdor and admitted to a yeshiva. The two are inseparable as study buddies. But poor Yentl/Anshel develops feelings for the dashing Avigdor who is engaged to be married to Hadass. Things get tricky when due to some strange twist, Anshel is forced to marry Hadass. But eventually it all ends happily - it is revealed that she is indeed a woman, Avigdor and Hadass end up together. We see Yentl leaving on a ship for America. A place where women have more rights and where she will be accepted for who she is.
Barbra Streisand's voice is impeccable as she croons some of the most memorable songs such as "Papa can you hear me?". Her acting is flawless too. Mandy Patinkin is brilliant as Avigdor. I know he is a good singer too but fortunately he doesn't get to sing in this movie. It would be too mushy if he did. But hey we do get a glimpse of him naked as he is frolicking in a pond. So that sure makes up for us not hearing his voice.
It is an inspiring film about love, religion and a woman's right to be accepted for what she is and not what society dictates she should be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

IMAGINING ARGENTINA
Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson, Ruben Blades, Leticia Dolera

"An extraordinary story of love, compassion and danger."


Star Movies

At first I thought it was going to be a haunting film about the "Desaparacidos". Those people who were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the dark bleak period in Argentina's history. (1976 - 1983). But it turned out to be a long tedious film about one man's (Antonio Banderas) ability to see in his mind what really happened to some of the victims. You know he has some sort of clairvoyant powers. After his own wife is 'arrested' from their home, he suddenly develops images in his mind which flash the whereabouts of the victims. So every Thursday evening, some of the relatives go to his house so he can tell them if the missing persons are still alive or not. In the meantime, he relies on some clues he sees in his flashes to find his own wife. He wanders off to strange places even ending up in some remote part of Argentina where a couple who are survivors of Auschwitz reside. By this time, the film totally lost it. Turning into a long and winding twist into unknown territory but certainly not in a macabre way, it just felt strange that's all. Emma Thompson who plays his wife, Cecilia has a short role, you only get to see her in some scenes where she is being tortured. Good acting as expected from her even when she tries hard to develop a Spanish accent. I've always believed that Antonio Banderas was a good actor until he ventured into Hollywood and he allowed them to corrupt his talent. But I guess there isn't much he can do when presented with a bad script such as this film. It had the potential to delve deeper into a very sensitive theme and serve as some sort of political propaganda. But it failed miserably because it instead focused on him being a psychic. We are never told the reason why he has this supernatural powers/abilities. The only positive thing I can say about this film is that love indeed conquers all.

Monday, November 14, 2005

FLIGHTPLAN
Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean

"If Someone Took Everything You Live For... How Far Would You Go To Get It Back?"

Cinema 1, Edsa Shangri-la Plaza


Flight Plan

I will try not to compare this film with "Red Eye" even though they share the same premise. The claustrophobic riveting thriller of being in an enclosed space with no escape. But I prefer this one more than the other one. Jodie Foster as an anguised mother distraught and desperately searching for her daughter is highly convincing in her role. Despite her tenacious physical appearance, you can feel her heart break into a million pieces upon waking up to find her daughter missing. Sean Bean in a far cry from his usual villain role is a bit miscast though in this movie. He didn't seem too sympathetic towards his hysterical delusional passenger. I guess it is understandable since she is really disrupting the entire flight at the expense of the other passengers. Peter Sarsgaard in his typical underacting style as the flight marshall looked like he was asleep most of the film. There wasn't a single dull moment. You are kept at the edge of your seat going through different scenarios in your head trying to figure out what really happened to the child. I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern people so to portray them as potential terrorists in the movie is really unfair. But I guess most people would react that way especially after September 11. I also noticed the director trying to drum up the excitement by focusing on close up shots. Such as the loud dripping sound from the umbrella when she went to the morgue to view her husband's body. Or the sideway angle as the plane landed. The blinding snow storm. Good cinematography. The clever twist in the end is good enough to sustain the entire film. If you want to get a rush then watch this movie. It made me really miss being aboard a plane. But hopefully, I don't encounter such a horrifying situation.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

URBAN COWBOY
John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn

"Hard hat days and Honky-Tonk nights"


Urban Cowboy


I totally blame my insomnia for actually lasting through this movie which I caught on HBO. A very young John Travolta plays a redneck cowboy who goes to the big city to find a job. Instead, he finds a woman to marry and gets obsessed with winning the mechanical bull contest at the local pub. Sure, he gets a job too thanks in part to his Uncle Bob. The film is peppered with a lot of country songs so that gives John Travolta enough music to display his slick dancing moves. I must admit, the guy is a good dancer! Debra Winger who has such a refreshing face plays Sissy. The woman who captures his heart and becomes his wife. They separate midway through the movie, hook up with other partners but towards the end get back together because they really love each other. Boy, she sure can ride that mechanical bull too. I believe this film was done during John Travolta's heydays. That whole period after his success with Saturday Night Live. Then he faded away. But was thankfully resurrected by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction.
It is a forgetful country movie but now I can't seem to get the catchy song "Lookin' for love" by Johnny Lee out of my mind. Gosh!
I spent a lifetime lookin' for you
Single bars and good time lovers were never true
Playing a fools game, hopin' to win
Tellin' those sweet lies and losin' again.

I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' her eyes, lookin' for traces
Of what I'm dreamin' of
Hoping to find a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover,
You - lookin' for love.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

CAVALCADE
Titoff, Marion Cotillard

TV 5

TV5

This is a true story based on an autobiography of Bruno de Stabenrath, an author/writer. The first scene shows a man being wheeled into a hospital and he says "I am dead. I cannot feel anything. I cannot see. I cannot hear." Then his story unfolds. Leo is a happy go lucky ladies man, an artist with his own band living a metrosexual lifestyle. Late night parties, booze and an array of women in his life. He has a faithful girlfriend though and they have been living together for 5 years. He has also a big supportive family composed of his parents and siblings. One day, his girlfriend leaves him. She has had enough of his decadence. While vacationing with his family in their summer home in Biarritz, she calls him issuing an ultimatum. She will be at the airport and if he still wants to be with her, he should come get her. On his way, he has an accident and careens the car into a ravine. He is comatose for a few months and wakes up to find himself a quadraplegic. The rest of the movie focuses on his recovery, his daily therapy. As well as his fears and how he copes with this life altering incident. He realizes the true meaning of life through the strong support of his friends and his family.
The film deals with a powerful theme but it isn't overbearing. It doesn't delve into a surreal and dark probing of how precious life really is.
I understand from the various articles I've read about the film that the actor who portrays Leo is a comedian. Titoff (who sort of reminds of Adrien Brody but with more meat to his bones) did justice to the role.
By the way, his girlfriend had no idea he was comatose. She figured when he didn't show up at the airport, he didn't care for her. She only finds out a year later when he is wheelchair bound but doesn't love him anymore. So yeah love can be cruel sometimes. Yet Leo is full of zest with a joie de vivre despite being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Truly inspirational story.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

LA SECONDA MOGLIE
THE SECOND WIFE

Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Lazar Ristovski, Giorgio Noe


The 2nd Wife

I bought this film several months ago then totally forgot about it. Rummaging through my collection for something to watch on a boring Thursday night, I decided to finally watch it. A simple story of a single mother who is the second wife of a widower. She moves in with him and his son from his previous marriage. She is tall and statuesque, the whole town gets mesmerized by her beauty. Yet she remains simple and loyal to her husband even when he is wrongfully jailed for a crime he didn't commit. During his incarceration, his teenage son falls for her but she resists his advances. Set in a small Italian rural town, where people still enjoy simple pleasures as well as spreading rumors and gossip about other people. A coming of age movie with some dramatic moments which resembles a typical Tagalog film. Except it is in Italian with English subtitles. Not that I really watch Tagalog movies. But you know what I mean. Or maybe not!

Friday, November 4, 2005

SALUT LA VIE
(HELLO LIFE)

Fanny Cottencon, Francois Marthouret

"For life and beyond"

TV 5


TV 5 telefilm



Charlotte and Paul are a married couple who have been together for almost 20 years. She is a midwife and he is an expert in developmental agriculture who has worked with several relief agencies mostly in Africa. They decide to return to France and live on their farm after his mission was cut short mostly because his methods are deemed obsolete. They have never lived a day apart from each other so they are distraught when they find out that Paul has developed cancer. Flashback scenes of their idyllic stay in Africa are shown from time to time to view their deep commitment to each other. A black and white picture taken 20 years ago when they first met is signed by both of them with the phrase "For life and beyond". So when she finds out that Paul's life is threatened with cancer, she fights to keep her promise. She wants to join him in his final journey. Paul in turn, returns to Africa alone so she won't see him suffer. But eventually he is too sick and has to go back to France and be with his beloved Charlotte. Although the entire movie deals with a sensitive theme, the actors do not get too melodramatic and their subtle acting conveys poignant emotions. A simple movie that deals with life, love, euthanasia, suicide and grief.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang

"I sacrificed three years for you. How could you love him after only three days?"


I've read many positive reviews about this movie that's why I was determined to buy it. So I made the rounds of all the video stores and finally bought it for P150 at SM Department store of all places.
Anyways, it is a hauntingly beautiful movie, set in a long forgotten era of the sleeping giant, China. Cinematography is excellent, gorgeous shots of vibrantly colorful scenery. It also helps that the 3 main characters are physically attractive and pleasing to the eyes. The fighting scenes are intricately choreographed and flawless in nature. I especially like the scene in the bamboo forest where the soldiers were pursuing Wind and Mei - the bright green of the bamboo trees clashing with the colorful attire of the two ill fated lovers. Fantastic! But the main core of the movie is that it is rather sad love story. The twists all unfold towards the end and it takes a while to let all of them sink in. My only beef is that it took her some time to really die which made it a bit comical but I guess that can be overlooked.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Kite Runner

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


This is a review of the book by Khaled Hosseini. I know that the movie based on this book is currently in the pre-production stage. It is a very poignant story about 2 childhood friends, Amir and Hassan. One is the son of a distinguished merchant living in luxury in Kabul while Hassan is the son of their servant, Ali. Together they form a deep bond despite the difference in their ethnic and civil background. Their main activity is to go kite running. A favorite past time of all the children living in Afghanistan during the glorious years of the monarchy. We witness their friendship take an ugly turn when Amir betrays his friend, Hassan. He forces his father to let the servants go when he falsely accuses them of stealing. We are also lead to experience the turmoil that Afghanistan goes through when the Soviets invade the land. Amir and his father are lucky enough to escape during the Soviet invasion and make a fresh start in the United States of America. There, Amir and his father get a second chance to mend their awkward relationship towards each other. Amir meets his soul mate, Soraya, a young Afghan woman marries her and despite their inability to have children, their life is blissful yet routinely ordinary. Until, one day, he receives word from an old friend of his father, Rahim Khan about Hassan. After almost 15 years, Amir returns to Afghanistan to sort out his life and tries to redeem himself, to correct his past mistakes. By this time, the Talibans have driven away the Soviets and Afghanistan is transformed into a strictly Islamic state where total anarchy reigns. Amir discovers the truth about Hassan's identity and must make extreme sacrifices to save Sohrab (Hassan's son) from the hands of the Taliban.

I won't reveal the significant ending of the story. I admire the simplistic approach of the author to describe the events in the story. The characters are amazingly humane. You get the feeling that they are not merely fictional caricatures but actually exist in real life. The extreme turmoil that Afghanistan and its citizens went through and is still experiencing right now is graphically detailed in several sentences. This is the author's first English book so he uses very basic words yet the message comes across in a very powerful manner. You can feel the poignancy in its sheer simplicity. I was drawn into a really different culture. A very vibrant society thriving in a land steeped with a rich colorful heritage. A world away from the dark propaganda that the media tends to portray when we think of Afghanistan. I am certainly looking forward to watching the movie. I just hope that they don't make it into a big Hollywood production. This would be very unfortunate because it would ruin the raw essence of this very emotionally charged book.

My favorite line in the book is when Amir says:

"If someone were to ask me today whether the story of Hassan, Sohrab and me ends with happiness, I wouldn't know what to say.
Does anybody's?
After all, life is not a Hindi movie.
Zendagi migzara, Afghans like to say:
Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end, kamyab, nah-kam, crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of kochis.
I wouldn't know how to answer that question."
 

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