Sunday, February 26, 2006

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams

"Love is a force of nature."

Cinema 4, Greenbelt 3

Jack Twist

Annie Proulx provides us with a poignant tale of two cowboys who despite their tough and rugged exterior develop a deep friendship that spans throughout the years. Then Ang Lee enthrall us with a beautiful cinematography that simply takes your breath away. The snow capped Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming (although it was filmed in Alberta, Calgary) symbolizes a calm place in their world of forbidden passions and hidden secrets. After that summer on Brokeback Mountain tending sheep amidst gorgeous scenery, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist share a bond that is not meant to be yet the yearning continues to build. They get married to women, bore them children and live a normal existence. Their 'fishing' trips together is the only thing that adds spice to their otherwise dreary existence. Men of few words, they don't expressly voice out their feelings towards each other. A very poignant scene is when they part ways after their first summer on Brokeback Mountain and we see Ennis break down in tears hiding behind a shed, unable to control himself.
The fact that it is a love story between two men at a time and a place where it is taboo is what makes the movie so poignant. Yet it doesn't necessarily treat the subject matter in a vulgar way. You are drawn towards the characters for who they are not for what they stand for. It goes beyond homosexuality. The beauty lies in its simple portrayal of a love that is wrong yet deep inside you know is right in some surreal sense. It touches a raw nerve to anybody who knows how it feels to long and yearn for someone you cannot have. I'm sure we have all been there at some point in our lives.
Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are just like decorations on a Christmas tree. Heath Ledger has a strong powerful presence even when he portrays a shy quiet man of few words. Three words: Jake Gyllenhaal rocks! His soulful expressive eyes just twinkle and brighten up the whole screen. But of course kudos goes to Ang Lee for giving us a simple yet touching sensitive love story and making us grow to love two compassionate yet conflicted characters. Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

VANITY FAIR
Reese Witherspoon, Gabriel Byrne, Rhys Ifans, Romola Garai, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Bob Hoskins, James Purefoy, Jim Broadbent

"All's fair in love & war"

HBO


Rebecca Sharp

I guess it is rather unfortunate that I've never read William Makepeace Thackery's novel. But surely it can't be as bad as this movie portrays it to be. The story of a poor orphan named Rebecca Sharp who manipulates her way into society is set in London in the 1800s. In short, she is the epitome of the ultimate social climber. The film spans from her early childhood up to a period of about 20 years. She encounters several characters all of whom she manipulates somehow all for the purpose of establishing her way in a harsh society which looks down on her poor heritage. Pretty much the norm during those days, the intrigues, the rumors and all those malicious gossips which can ruin someone's reputation. So blessed with such a rich array of material to work on, it is unfortunate that Director Mira Nair didn't do the book, justice. Most of the characters hardly age throughout the entire film, the scenes are scattered and poorly edited. There were also a lot of Indian undertones from the music, a dance and some really gaudy costumes. Reese Witherspoon who portrays Rebecca Sharp doesn't come across as being cunning enough. Her youthful demeanor makes it hard for us to believe she can be anything but manipulative. Her English accent comes and goes which was annoying. Gabriel Byrne is relegated to a small role. You have a whole bunch of English actors vying for attention as their characters are not allowed to really shine and flourish in the movie.
The only positive thing in this film is the beautiful landscape as well as the colorful attires depicting that era. Otherwise you better just grab a copy of the book and get lost in Thackeray's words about a girl named Becky Sharp.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
Zyang Ziyi, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Mako, Suzuka Ohgo, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Koji Yakusho

Shang Cineplex, Cinema 1

A geisha is an artist

I certainly remember loving the book but I read it a long time ago I might need to re-read it one of these days. That is, if I can find it. But this is certainly a case of "Do not judge a book by its movie". I believe the director who gave us the film version of the hit musical "Chicago", Rob Marshall shortchanged us. He fed us a Western idea of what a geisha is supposed to be. The film lacked a certain poignancy which could have been achieved if the entire film was shown in the Japanese language with English subtitles. The fact that they chose Chinese actresses to talk in English and make us believe that they were Japanese is very distracting. First, we all know that English is their second language. Second, their thick accent and enunciation of certain words totally ruined the beautiful dialogue from the book. But don't get me wrong, I think that Zyang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li are very talented artists. It is just unfortunate that they were given roles which didn't really flesh out their intricate characters. And despite the fact that they are Asians, the film lacked a certain 'Oriental' flair to it. Sure, the scenes are very authentically portrayed. The backdrop is uniquely Japanese and very panoramic yet somehow you cannot escape the fact that these are just sets from a California studio. I remember in the book I was very moved by the love story aspect between Sayuri and the Chairman. How her love for him endures throughout the years. A very deep love that is clearly forbidden which makes it very tragically sad. But in the movie, I didn't feel much chemistry between Zyang Ziyi and Ken Watanabe. I could go on and on about the inadequacies of this film because I was clearly disappointed. But in some way, I guess it is difficult for any director whether Asian or Western to come up with a genuine film version of a book that clearly deals with a very mystical and mysterious subject matter, the Geisha. I suppose we should salute the entire cast for their effort. But I'm sure they could have done much better!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

MUNICH
Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Mathieu Almalric

"The world was watching in 1972 as 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. This is the story of what happened next."

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

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Most of us (that is if you are old enough to remember) are aware of what happened on that fateful night at the Munich Olympics but I don't think we were made aware of the retaliation the Israeli government undertook to extract revenge on those responsible for those brutal crimes. So Steven Spielberg takes us on a journey as we follow a hit squad hunt down several people supposedly responsible for the massacre of the athletes. Rome, Paris, Cyprus, Athens, Amsterdam, London. Every nook and cranny is explored, information is readily available for a hefty sum but money is not an issue ... They have a mission and they will fulfill it even if their own lives are in danger. Eventually the hunters become the hunted and they fall into a world of paranoia. Yet amidst the whole treachery, we are treated to three dimensional characters with human characteristics. They are not portrayed as soulless assassins. The international ensemble cast is good, especially Eric Bana as the conflicted leader of the squad. We get to watch the new James Bond in action. Daniel Craig with his strong features make him quite believable as an actor. I know for a fact that Mathieu Kassovitz who plays the Belgian toymaker is the director of that horror/thriller flick "Gothika" starring Halle Berry. And if you paid close attention, you would have noticed that a certain character during the Beirut raid introduced himself as Ehud Barak. The former Israeli Prime Minister who succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu. For all it's worth, Munich is a pretty good movie, it doesn't necessarily take sides. It just portrayed the facts as it is. Spielberg's direction was good. I like how he would intersperse several scenes together. He did a good job in portraying events that was a top secret of the highest level. I've always been a sucker for movies that depict contemporary history so I'm glad this movie didn't disappoint me at all.
On a personal note, in the mid 70s when my father was transferred to Belgium from India, we had a stopover at the Ben Gurion airport (Israel) to make a transfer. I distinctly remember even though I was only about 10 years old at that time, there were soldiers everywhere and security was extremely tight they rummaged through every single piece of luggage. Those were very precarious times.
But let me just add ... Yes, terrorism in any form is condemnable. But I firmly believe that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Enough said!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

JUST LIKE HEAVEN
Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo

"It's a wonderful afterlife"

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A perky little romantic film about finding love through the astral plains of the afterlife. Elizabeth is a doctor totally engrossed in her work thus she doesn't really have a life. One night she has an accident while on her way to her sister's place. Enter David who is apartment hunting and he decides to rent her place after he finds her couch to be just right for him. One problem though Elizabeth well her spirit still lingers around so she proceeds to stake her claim on her apartment. So while one person refuses to join the afterworld, the other person still distraught over his wife's death refuses to join the living.
It is basically a light comedy with some amusing moments even though the tone I've used to narrate it ... might come across as a morbid horror flick. I actually enjoyed it even if I'm not exactly a fan of Reese Witherspoon. She is talented though no doubts about it. But I don't know. Mark Ruffalo is the main reason the film appealed to me. He is just a delight to watch. Playing a romantic lead suits him although I've seen him in various other roles too in films like "Collateral", "In the Cut" and "The Last Castle".
So it was a good idea to borrow it and watch it as some post Valentine chick flick treat.

Monday, February 13, 2006

FUN WITH DICK AND JANE
Jim Carrey, Tea Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins

"See Dick Run"

Cinema 5, SM Megamall

Run Dick Run

A typical Jim Carrey film. Funny antics, him making silly faces to garner some laughs. Yet at the same time I thought it was a good spoof on the whole Enron, Worldcom debacle. Dick and Jane's lives are suddenly turned upside down when Globodyne, the company where Dick was just recently promoted as VP for Communications folds up. They do try to apply at other jobs but they are just not cut out for blue collar menial labor. So they resort to robbing coffee shops, 24 hour mini marts and make quite a bundle - enough for them to return to their former lifestyle. The ONLY funny part of the movie is when the couple would dress up as characters like Sonny and Cher when they committed their heists. The rest of the movie is pretty inane and doesn't take much brain power to absorb. Carrey and Leoni work well together, I like their repartee. But I think Jim Carrey should consider more meaty roles ("The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") and stop resorting to making silly faces to rake in the audience to the theaters. There is just so much one can take.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Tilda Swinton, Jim Broadbent, WIlliam Moseley, Anna Popplewell, James McAvoy

"Evil has reigned for a 100 years ..."

Cinema 12, SM Megamall

AslanTwo solid hours of being lost in a magical land named Narnia with great scenery, snow capped mountains, an icy evil witch with great hairdo and attractive outfits, talking animals, 4 innocent children in a grand adventure, great battle scenes between the good and evil forces and a talking lion that spews words of wisdom ... what more can you ask for? Nothing really but to just sit back and enjoy the ride and get lost in the magic!

Saturday, February 4, 2006

DARK WATER
Jennifer Connnelly, Tim Roth, John C. Reilly, Dougray Scott, Ariel Gade, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim

"Some mysteries were never meant to be solved"

NatashaI'm not a fan of horror movies at all. But this wasn't one of those ghost apparitions ones so I was assured I would be alright even if I was watching it past midnight. Jennifer Connelly portrays a woman who is fighting a bitter custody battle with her husband over their daughter, Ceci. Recently separated, deeply distraught with her own demons, she needs to find a suitable apartment. She finds one in some dilapidated building way out in some remote part of New York City. Then trouble begins when she discovers a leak on the ceiling of her bedroom. Despite her numerous complaints, things just seem to get worse. She gets numbing headaches, her daughter is acting up with her imaginary friend, her husband is threatening to get full support, the apartment above hers is constantly flooded, the leak just gets bigger and bigger, strange things happen. The ending was a bit off for me, like it was alluding to a sequel or something. But overall it was ok not as frightful as I thought it would be. More of a psychological thriller that plays games with your mind. The cast of the movie is pretty good especially the little kid who plays her daughter. I know it is based after a Japanese movie pegged by the same director of "The Ring" and "The Grudge". But like I said earlier those type of movies don't interest me at all so I couldn't compare which one has more substance.

Friday, February 3, 2006

PROOF
Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis, Anthony Hopkins

"The biggest risk in life is not taking one."

Cinema 8, SM Megamall


Proof


This is one of those obscure movies that just sneaks up on you. By obscure I mean, it doesn't get much publicity and it has the risk of being converted into the DVD format soon after its release. It is based on a play by David Auburn and I read that Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role on the stage for the film version. She is the daughter of a brilliant deceased mathematician who unfortunately became insane. She is conflicted and somehow convinced that she is also going mad because it is in her genes. We are shown glimpses of her close rapport with her father before and after he loses his battle with dementia. The entire movie is centered around the house as Catherine, her sister Claire and a former student Hal sort through the numerous documents/notebooks of the late professor. Shouting matches between the two estranged sisters, Catherine airing out her torment and Hal trying to prove and convince Catherine that she isn't insane. It is a very 'intellectual' film, you need to pay close attention to the dialogue. It also deals with deep seethed emotions like caring for an afflicted father, sacrificing your own life and trying to prove you are also a genius in your own right.
Gywneth Paltrow is good and it seems that her stage acting has added more confidence in her performance. Jake Gyllenhaal still has the same spaced out look he had in "Moonlight Mile" but he delivers his lines well and eloquently you don't go like "huh what did he say?". Anthony Hopkins has a very small role here but it still creates quite an impact.
I believe it isn't really a movie for everyone. It might suit those in the academe profession as well as the intellectual types yet it isn't tediously stuffy at all. Maybe because it deals with human emotions.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

DERAILED
Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Rza, Melissa George, Xzibit

"They never saw it coming."

Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

DerailedI never saw it coming either. I guess my radar was totally off. It is a bit difficult to review a movie without revealing too much. The main premise - an adulterous affair that takes a bad turn. Betrayal, blackmail and harassment ensues. The main character played by Clive Owen is forced to make very drastic decisions involving his family, his finances and his guilty conscience. Twists after twists unfold till the very end. This is totally up Clive Owen's alley. He is good in portraying down on their luck but somehow gets to redeem himself characters. Jennifer Aniston just breezes through the movie without creating much of an impact. Vincent Cassel is always rather intense and a very believable villain. I'm surprised I found myself liking it because most of the reviews I've read about this movie were not positive at all. Yes, I know ... next time, I will read the reviews AFTER not before I enter the cinemas.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

THE ISLAND
Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Djimou Hounson, Sean Bean, Steve Buschemi

"They don't want you to know who you are."


Action blockbuster

Everything you would expect from a Michael Bay movie. Car chases, explosives, wide angle shots of scenery, death defying stunts, very Hollywood blockbuster type! Never mind that the plot is highly implausible since it deals with cloning human beings and some scientific brouhaha about living forever. Stuff which doesn't really appeal to me at all since I'm more of a realist. But yeah sure it was entertaining enough for me. Ewan McGregor's Scottish accent is a hoot to listen to, Scarlett Johansson is blossoming into a voluptuous babe a far cry from her role in the Horse Whisperer huh? I do have to admit I've been a fan of Steve Buschemi since like forever. I don't recall exactly when. His wise cracking lines really make me chuckle. So don't really expect much 'after the movie discussion' from this film, just enjoy the action, you won't regret it.

 

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