Saturday, March 25, 2006

Alan Arkin, Jon Voight, Martin Sheen, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Arthur Garfunkel, Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Bob Newhart, Buck Henry, Jack Gilford


The phrase "Catch 22" now signifies a no win situation. It was taken from Joseph Heller's novel about a bunch of American fliers during the Second World War who are stationed in Italy. They go on bombing missions across Europe. A satire that condemns war as seen through the eyes of the men based in that military camp. It is a rather difficult movie to review with all of its powerful undertones of anti war and attacks on imperialism so I shall continue when I am in a better frame of mind. I figure I would have to watch it several times for me to truly comprehend the message behind the book/movie so it is a good thing that I bought the film and can do so any time I want.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cecilia Roth, Kuno Becker, Carlos Alvarez Novoa

"She's on an adventure that could change her life ... If she doesn't turn back."

Star Movies

LuciaIt is a bit difficult to watch a Mexican film with English subtitles at 4:45 am in the morning. Trying not to nod off and keeping my eyes wide open to read the subtitles. But I persisted because I'm such a sucker for foreign language movies.
The first scene is at the airport where Lucia is waiting for her husband to return from the men's room so they can board their flight to Rio de Janeiro for their vacation. Well what do you know? He never returns and despite looking for him everywhere around the airport, it seems he has vanished into thin air. Thus the story unfolds as she begins the frantic and really chaotic hunt for her missing husband. She discovers secrets regarding her husband and together with 2 of her neighbors she embarks far and wide trying to make sense of her life, his life and life in general. Ably narrated by her creative mind being a children books writer, she fluctuates between different personas of her character. Appearing as a brunette bombshell in one scene then reverting to her plain old blonde maned self. The plot is really a big mess, many characters weave in and out, high dramatic histrionics in most scenes - just what you would expect from a Mexican movie. The only salvaging point is that Lucia is portrayed by a good actress named Cecilia Roth. I saw her great performance in movies like "All about My Mother" (Pedro Almodovar's masterpiece) and "Talk to Her". She tends to realistically portray women who are down on their luck yet somehow redeem themselves towards the end. Either that or she simply just accepts that there are certain things in life one cannot really change so she just makes the most out of her fate.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch

"A Comedy about the moments that touch us in ways we've never been touched before."

Andy Stitzer

I was a bit wary about borrowing this film although I've heard a lot about it being a 'sensible' comedy. I have an aversion for slapstick comedies with their vulgarities and inane nonsensical jokes just to draw in laughs. For instance, movies that star Rob Schneider and Pauly Shore. Glad to note it wasn't that way! Although there were some obnoxious moments, the subject matter (virginity) wasn't dealt with in a vulgar manner. In fact, the central character Andy was quite endearing in all his naivete and came across as a decently sweet guy. A rare find if you ask me but then it was just a movie! Pretty good supporting cast too that contributed to it being a good for a few laughs movie. I especially like the songs they used in the movie, good choice! The really hilarious part was the end when the cast start singing "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine" dressed in funky hippie outfits and doing some great choreographed dance moves. This film proves it is indeed still possible to make movies without resorting to racial slurs, cheap vulgar tricks and sickening sexual innuendos.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bruce Willis, Michael Madsen, Mickey O'Rourke, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Alexis Bledel, Josh Harnett

"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything."

Basin City

The film adaptation of Frank Miller's comic book graphic stories about a town called Basin City. Sex, gore, graphic violence, merry assortment of (strange) characters, black and white effect, film noir genre, directed by Robert Rodriguez. I wasn't sure whether I would appreciate this sort of film because (a) I don't read comics (b) I read it was co-directed by Quentin Taratino. So it would be really violent. Well lo and behold, I found it quite interesting and it totally captured my attention. I loved the black and white effect it masked the gory violent details like blood spurting and bodies being blown to bits and pieces. Thus it wasn't graphically repulsive. Certain dialogue was really lame and sounded like it came right out of the comic pages which naturally it did. Duh! The scenes are well edited and the story was free flowing. The plot was engaging so despite the fact that it was peppered with a lot of characters it wasn't hard to follow at all. By nature I am very squeamish when I watch blood spurting or bodies being blown apart with bullets but "Sin City" didn't repel me at all. I guess I'm pretty much stoic now that I can tune off violence on the screen. Just the occasional ewww or I'd gasp whenever someone was blown to pieces. But I didn't get too emotional and freak out about it. All the actors fit their parts to a T. I actually saw them as their characters not as actors portraying their roles, if that makes any sense. I like the film noir aspect of it just like those old black and white (Humphrey) Bogart movies about unscrupulous criminal elements albeit sans the graphic violence. I also like films where there is an ongoing narration being spewed by the characters it makes it all the more comprehensible to follow. I found it interesting and appreciated the fact that it was a different genre and that it was filmed digitally which is a technique I've rarely seen in other films. Not the usual Hollywood fare of John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer car chases and really loud sound effects which masquerade the fact that it doesn't have a solid plot to sustain the movie. But having said that I don't think I would now go out and rent all those comic book based movies, once in a while it is highly entertaining but too much of it would ruin the experience for me. I'm glad though that "Sin City" was a good film for me to appreciate this genre.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Chris Evans, Jason Statham, Jessica Biel

"A film about love and her victims.


London here doesn't refer to the city but it is the name of woman portrayed by Jessica Biel. The thing is Syd, her cocaine snorting boyfriend and London broke up about 6 months ago. So the guy is obviously a wreck, totally high all the time and looks like something the cat dragged in. He gets a phone call informing him that his ex girlfriend, London is leaving town the next day so there will be a farewell party for her, that evening. A party which he is obviously not invited to yet he gatecrashes anyway and worse he shows up with some forex trader/drug dealer he just met a few minutes ago. The drug dealer is portrayed by Jason "The Transporter" Statham with funny looking hair. The rest of the film is set in the big spacious bathroom on the second floor of the party where Syd and Bateman proceed to snort huge amount of cocaine every few minutes, smoke packs of cigarettes and talk about existential topics. Religion, love, relationships and a whole bunch of pseudo intellectual crap. Syd is deeply troubled, wants to get London back yet too messed up to even muster the courage to go down to talk to her. Throughout the bathroom scene, we are shown flashbacks of their together years. We see his fits of jealousy, his mean temper and also his inability to say the L word to London. The guy is insufferable and can get quite irritating to the point of exasperation. No wonder London left him. Yet in some twisted sense I thought he was endearing but that's just me I like guys that just rattle off and talk endlessly about stuff, always questioning about things we don't have clear answers for. Such as "Is there a God?" Towards the end at the airport, I like to think he sort of redeemed himself by finally saying that he loves London. But it was clearly a case of it's too late, you should have said it way earlier dude. Men are so stubborn!
Anyways Chris Evans is a stud even if he looks like crap most of the time in the movie, he is believable as a drug addict/loser. Jessica Biel doesnt really do much except look good in various stages of undress. Jason Statham is convincing as the guy with a lot of angst who has to battle some inner demons. Overall the film isn't as bad as some of the negative reviews it got but I have to admit not everyone would be patient enough to sit through 90 minutes of some guy gripping endlessly about his sorry life.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Jennifer Love Hewitt, Paul Nicholls

"He loved her like there was no tomorrow."

Second chances

A romantic movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and some British actor named Paul Nicholls. They star as Samantha and Ian, a couple who live in London. She is an American music student/teacher. He is her too busy, not attentive, non appreciative boyfriend. On the eve of her departure for Ohio to attend her mother's wedding, she succumbs in a car accident. Due to some fluke which of course only happens in movies, the next day he is given a second chance to make things go well on her 'last' day on earth.
Despite the improbability factor, I believe it is a well developed love story. The moral of the film is that if you had to spend one whole day with someone you love knowing there won't be any more tomorrows, then by all means be more demonstrative and expressive about your feelings. Jennifer Love Hewitt is a refreshing presence on screen, she just radiates although I do believe she could use some more meat on her bones. She shares a genuinely feel good chemistry with her co star. We also get to see good shots of London with its double Decker red buses, the London Eye (the giant ferris wheel), of course its famous rainy weather. Ok call me a cynic but I loved the twist in the ending and the fact that it doesn't end happily yet somehow it forebodes a sense of hopeful beginnings.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr, Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

Truman CapoteNo, I didn't watch Capote just because Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar. In fact, I planned on watching it before the Academy Awards but my sister was out of town and she wanted me to wait for her.
Alright moving on, the film is a quiet testament to the great acting skill of Hoffman. It focuses on an episode in the life of the famed writer of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" when he decides to base his next novel on the massacre of a family in a remote Kansas town. Accompanied by his good friend, Nelle Harper Lee he embarks on a quest to ingratiate himself to the killers. Being down right manipulative, Capote exploits one of the killers by coming across as a sympathetic soul who is interested in their plight. But it is all a guise because he is a greedy self centered author who wants to gather enough material for his new book "In Cold Blood".
Hoffman tackles the role with aplomb. His portrayal is superb and he is Capote in every sense. That in my opinion is what acting is all about. You forget that he is Philip Seymour Hoffman for all you know that could be the real Capote on screen. Catherine Keener's performance is humble and subdued. For some reason, my impression of her is stuck with her role in "Being John Malkovich". An eccentric always in a daze sort of floozy. I know that isn't fair but it is ingrained in my brain. Screenwriter Dan Futterman is a name I'm familiar with. I remember him as the son of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in "Bird Cage".
It is a rather slow paced movie. I remember thinking while I was watching "Capote" oh gosh the silence is deafening. It was so quiet, I hardly moved in case I disturbed the ambiance. But then in this age of short attention span and multitasking, it is refreshing to just focus intently on one subject (in this case, Capote) and not worry whether you are missing out on the details.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Peet, Alexander Siddig, Mazhar Munir

"Everything is connected"

Cinema 6, SM Megamall

Oil industry political thriller

Based on a book by Robert Baer and under the direction of Stephen Gaghan (of "Traffic" fame) comes a political thriller about the oil industry. 5 different characters each of them playing a vital part in an intricate web of wheeling and dealing, rich subplots which can be developed into separate films of their own, all intertwined to grab our short attention span. A CIA operative played by an overweight George Clooney, an energy analyst in Geneva portrayed by Matt Damon, a disowned Prince/heir of a Persian Gulf country, a poor Pakistani worker in an oil company in the Gulf brainwashed by religious zealots and a corporate lawyer played by a subdued Jeffrey Wright, caught in a quadmire.
We are exposed to a world most of us can only dream of. The manipulations by the key players to make sure that the oil industry is controlled by a select few. Vying and jostling for their positions in the vast oil rich playground in the Middle East. Greedy rulers of Gulf countries pitting the competitors against each other. Corruption and rampant bribery as oil companies merge together to form giant conglomerates that would control the oil supply. It is all very fascinating stuff. A very complex industry so it is only fair that the film is complicated. The trick is to listen to the dialogue and play close attention and try to piece the links together. A bit difficult when you are faced with a lot of characters and you are lead from one setting to another. Geneva, Paris, Beirut, Washington D.C., Teheran, Persian Gulf. It was also interesting for me to see Dubai (my residence for 6 long years)being featured extensively in the film even though they just identify it as a Persian Gulf country.
It is a powerful film and quite timely with what is going on in the world right now. The war in Iraq, the Dubai Port company taking over 6 U.S. ports, terrorism and the rising oil prices. Whether we agree or not, it does play an impact on our lives because after all oil is what makes the world go round.


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