Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Ja Rule, Brian Dennehy, Drea de Matteo, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Matt Craven, John Leguizamo

"Unite and fight."

Precinct 13

A remake of John Carpenter's 1976 film, it is set on New Year's Eve (2004)at a soon to be demolished precinct in chilly Detroit. It is being manned by Roenick, the sergeant in charge, Jasper an old cop who will be retiring and Iris, the secretary. Soon enough during that dark chilly icestorm, they are joined by a bunch of prisoners who make a stop to spend the night at Precinct 13 to wait till morning when the storm subsides. Among the prisoners is Marion Bishop, a notorious gangster played superbly by the impeccable Laurence Fishburne. Soon enough the action starts when certain elements want to kill aforementioned gangster before he testifies about their criminal activities. To defend themselves, the good guys (cops) team up with the bad guys (prisoners) and stand united against the massive assault on precinct 13.
Ethan Hawke delivers a good performance, his morose angst ridden frame projects well as the pill popping cop with a past. Laurence Fishburne is always good and he masterfully becomes the character he portrays. Gabriel Byrne in a small yet vital role is always a gripping presence on screen. The supporting cast all contribute well to this overall compelling action drama.
A suspenseful action movie with a couple of witty lines, good ensemble cast, well directed, the pace fluctuates between a lull to full blown violence (many are shot point blank in the head) and noisy gun fires. I have no idea if it stuck to the original plot of John Carpenter but overall I'd say it builds up enough excitement to keep you glued till the very end.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, Richard Burgi

"Friends. Rivals. Sisters."

Chick Lit flick

Based on Jennifer Weiner's chick lit novel, which I never read, this movie is about two sisters who are complete opposite. One is a party gal type who is fancy free and just goes from one job to another while her older sister, Rose is a successful lawyer. Soon the two of them have a falling out after Rose catches Maggie in bed with a guy she dated briefly. Younger sister hies off to their grandmother in a retired seniors community, finds job and mends her partying ways. Older sister takes leave of absense from her firm, becomes a dogwalker, meets a nice Jewish guy, he proposes, she accepts. The two sisters reconcile, Rose gets married, end of story. Heh.
That simple, no major plot, no crime to solve, no brainer, just a feel good picture. Toni Collette and Shirley Maclaine are good as usual, I won't comment much on Cameron Diaz's acting abilities (I'm not her biggest fan) but this role really fits her, ditzy and flirtatious party animal. I enjoyed the movie because it relates this special bond between sisters, no matter what happens in life, she will always be your sister. Sisters rulez!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Tobin Bell

"Every piece has a puzzle."

Star Movies


I'm not a horror flick fan so the entire time I was watching SAW I was asking myself "Why on earth don't I just change the channel and watch something else like Oh I don't know ... Cartoons? But the intriguing plot kept my eyes glued to the set. In between squeals of "Oh merde" (that's French for s**t) whenever there was a gory scene on the screen and "I'll be damned", I would have to say this was a pretty good movie.
It basically revolved around 2 guys who are held captive in a large bathroom in some dingy basement. They are chained to pipes and with the help of devices like a tape recorder, a saw and other objects must decipher a way to get out of that horrifying situation. In between we are shown other gruesome images of the real sick objective of the serial killer only known as the Jigsaw. The different twists which unfolds throughout the entire movie catches the viewer by surprise but as you slowly begin to piece the puzzle together you are hit by yet another strange angle till the film finally ends. Then you are left with one terrible chilling thought. How can people be so evil? But hey Jigsaw does have a moral lesson behind these gruesome killings so you better just stick it out till the very end to find out his rationale behind this evil game.
Cary Elwes projects well as one of the guys trapped in this hellish situation, you can't help but commiserate with his character. Leigh Whannell who is the screenwriter of this film does relatively well too, quite believable. A short but rather pivotal role for Danny Glover.
So you are not skirmish about really gory and bloody scenes and are in the mood to be scared shitless then watch this film because it does make you ponder and think and not just scream and cover your eyes as other horror flicks tend to do.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank aquaria, Steve Zahn

"Read between the lies."

Lifestyle channel

Stephen Glass

A film based on a true story. It (the film) hardly made any ripples, I probably missed its run in the theaters but I've heard about its controversial subject matter - Stephen Glass. He was a young reporter for the New Republic Magazine who was eventually exposed as a phony fabricator who made up stories/articles for the paper. He was hailed as a brilliant writer and his pieces for the magazine had a loyal following among its readership. Yet his articles were exposed as lies when a writer for the online version of Forbes magazine stumbled upon his article about a young hacker who it turns out never existed. Everyone in the movie is based after real people and real events which happened in the mid 90s in Washington D.C.
Being the daughter of a former editor and a sibling of a writer/journalist, I more or less know about the inner trappings in running a magazine. As well as the moral ethics involved in bringing fair and good journalism to readers who get their news from these publications. So I cringed and squirmed in my seat when Glass was slowly being exposed as the liar and cheat that he was. His moral fiber as a journalist blown into bits and pieces, his credibility totally out on the line. As my sister told me during the movie, it was painful to watch!
So I give kudos to Hayden Christensen for giving us a realistic portrayal of Glass. His acting was a lot better here than in the Star Wars movies. He came across as being an amiable character at first, always ingratiating himself with his editors and colleagues. The defining moment comes when he starts to unravel after all his fabricated lies were discovered.
The ensemble cast of supporting characters like Hank Azaria and Peter Sarsgaard did well too.
Overall, a good film about journalism, the real truth and the downfall of a supposedly brilliant writer/journalist.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rosario Dawson, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascual, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Tracie Thoms

"No Day but Today"

Cinema 4, Greenbelt 3

525,600 minutes

Woot, I've always loved musicals and plays. So I really wanted to see the movie version of this well known Broadway musical. Even if I've never had the fortune of watching the original play itself, I immediately fell in love with all the characters, their plight and their conscious effort to bring forth an important theme, AIDS. Their daily struggle to make ends meet. Their personal conflicts in life. Even if the time frame is the early 1990s, the issues involved are still quite relevant to this day!
It is well directed, all the actors sing and act their parts with such vibrant energy, the songs are very well developed with powerful lyrics, the setting in the bohemian part of New York is very distinct. I loved it and can't wait to download all of the songs from the soundtrack. Ooops I meant to buy the CD. :D
I was pleasantly surprised to hear Rosario Dawson sing, she has the lungs for it. The rest of the cast are familiar to me in some ways or another as I have followed their acting/musical career through the years. Jesse L. Martin (from Ally McBeal fame) is a very beautiful man and has a pleasant voice too. My favorite character would be Angel, the drag queen stricken with AIDS yet she still has an aura about her. Her beautiful spirit shines out. Such a lovely inspirational human being too!
Yes this movie isn't for everyone because you really need to have a knack for musicals because most of the dialogue are sang with such fervent passion. So please if you don't value such genre, please refrain from even entering the cinema! Don't ruin the ambiance for me like those 4 young people seated in front of me. They kept mocking and laughing out loud whenever a character burst into song. Geez if only I could press an eject button when I am confronted with such idiots, I would be a happy camper.
Anyways, now I can't stop humming this tune:
"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles in laughter in strife. In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love... seasons of love."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell

"Before Romeo and Juliet there was ... Tristan & Isolde

Cinema 4, Edsa Shang Cineplex

Tristan & Isolde

I had no idea what this movie was about except that it is a love story. Normally I would have done my 'research' about a certain movie before I decide whether it is worth watching on the big screen or just wait to rent it from the local video store. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually liking this period film. It might be the fact that Rufus Sewell who I've long been a fan of (I believe he is one of the most underrated actors in the cinema world) was in it. But I have to say I'm not a fan of a certain genre of period movies. Films like "Excalibur", "Braveheart", "King Arthur". Anything that has to do with Merlin and wizardry. But it doesn't mean I won't watch them, I still do but I don't particularly like the genre, per se. Well anyways, this is indeed a forbidden love story between an Anglo Saxon knight and an Irish princess who becomes his ehem aunt. Set during the times after the Romans left the Celtic part of the world and where Ireland ruled over most of England. Quite ironic since nowadays it is the other way around. Heh.
As most forbidden ill fated lovers saga go, it has all the standard elements present - the intense passion, the lovers sneaking around to satisfy their lust, their guilty conscience and the aggrieved 'he doesn't have a clue' third party character. Beautiful cinematography, authentic wardrobe depicting the era, furious battle scenes, Rufus Sewell and a young refreshing actress Sophia Myles (who looks like a younger prettier version of Kate Winslet) portraying Isolde all make this movie quite enjoyable. The only 'flaw' would be James Franco who I mistakenly thought was Hayden Christensen (of "Star Wars" fame) when I first saw the trailer - he is rather wooden. I don't know for some strange reason, I always found him in no matter what roles he portrays ("Spider Man", "James Dean") rather bland!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Lucas Black

"Welcome to the Suck!"


I have to admit I have a penchant for 'serious' war movies. I've seen all types from World War I (Joyeux Noel), World War II (Saving Private Ryan), the Vietnam War (Platoon), the Korean War (M.A.S.H) and the first Persian Gulf War (Three Kings).
It has more to do with the fact that wars have always been a part of every country's rich history and not because I like violence.
I like movies about war that depict the characters as three dimensional and not mere killing machines who would annihilate their enemies just for the sake of killing. My favorite is Thin Red Line which featured a spaced out Jim Caviezel pondering out loud his inner thoughts. So there was no way I could miss Jarhead but I waited till it came out in VCD. That way I could watch in the comforts of my home and rewind some scenes over and over if I felt the need.
This film is based on a book by an ex Marine, Anthony Swofford who served in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm Persian Gulf. Ably portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, we witness his journey as a soldier who is stationed in Saudi Arabia to 'protect' the oil wells of Kuwait. Then they are engaged in battle so to speak once Saddam started his so called "Mother of all Wars" when he invaded Kuwait. History tells us that during the first Persian Gulf, most of the US troops stationed along the Saudi/Kuwait border didn't see much action. Although they were a powerful presence with as much as 500,000 troops stationed in the harsh desert. So most of the films depicting that period in history are mostly portrayed in a comical manner. Not much action scenes, mostly bored soldiers trying to cope with the vast desert, its harsh climate and just itching to go kill some Iraqis. So we are shown scenes of the Marines playing American football wearing their nerve gas gear, goofing around and just being silly and nonsensical. I didn't read the book so I cannot really say if it captured the real essence. But I suppose Swofford did go through all of those things shown in the film except of course a few 'Hollywood' touches here and there which is to be expected. Now, if you are expecting to see a lot of action/battle scenes, you will be disappointed with this movie. But if you are interested in the interaction among the soldiers and want some angsy dramatics then by all means, watch it. Plus you get to see an almost naked Jake Gyllenhaal gyrating in the movie. What else can you ask for? Yes this would appeal to the female population, male too if that's your thing, it isn't up to me to question your preferences. Heh.
Ok, seriously! I believe we owe it to ourselves and to the troops (no matter their nationalities) doing their duties (no matter where they are stationed, be it in Iraq or Afghanistan or as peacekeepers) in a harsh world torn by conflict to see movies which show us how it is like to be miles away from home to serve one's country for the sake of democracy. As well as for world peace to reign so that we can all sleep better at nights.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Judy Greer, Jessica Biel

"It is a heck of a place to find yourself"


Alright so let's try to forget the fact that this movie stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst for a few minutes ok? Just focus on the fact that it was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. The director who gave us "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous" yet unfortunately it seems he didn't quite make the cut in this movie. So do we blame the script or do we blame on the actors? I would go out on a limb and say yes the actors didn't do justice to their roles.
The plot though rather long was interesting enough. A young man who just experienced a major setback in his career is about to kill himself (not as morose as it sounds). He receives a phone call from his sister that their father died while visiting his hometown in Kentucky. He is then sent to go bring his father's cremated remains back to Oregon.
So far so good, right? Wait! There is more.
He meets a stewardess during his flight and they end up sharing this platonic relationship. He also begins to find some meaning in his sorry existence of a life. Learn from his failures, as well as reconnect with his deceased father in some way albeit a bit late in the game. That part is when it gets a bit tedious because you have the 'romantic' lead actress spewing some existential lines in her effort to project some positive energy upon his depressing life.

She says:
"Men see things in a box, and women see them in a round room."
"I don't know a lot about everything, but I do know a lot about the part of everything that I know, which is people."
"I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that's happened."
Lines which are rather witty enough except they were delivered by Kirsten Dunst and she was talking to Orlando Bloom. Double eeps!
I personally couldn't connect with either of them and kept thinking maybe it would have been more poignant if they cast other actors for these roles.
But all isn't lost, I liked the last part when Drew goes off with the urn containing his father's ashes on a road trip. We are shown glimpses of what each US State he passes by is famous for. Places like Oklahoma (the memorial for the Oklahoma bombing victims), the hotel room where Martin Luther King, Jr. slept before he was assassinated. Important historical places in the USA. For someone like me who has never traveled to the States, it provided some interesting tidbits. I also loved the soundtrack in this movie. But it would have been much better if Cameron Crowe didn't bombard us with songs in every other scene. It worked fine in "Almost Famous" because afterall it was a movie about a band on the road but here it just seemed too much. It might as well have been a long music video of various hits.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Jane Seymour, Christopher Walken, Bradley Cooper

"Life's a party. Crash it!"

Wedding Crashers

No, I haven't neglected this blog, I've been busy and even went off on a little vacation at the beach for some sand, sun and seafood thus I haven't been watching movies as much as I want to. But I've rented a few films and hopefully I can come up with coherent reviews.
First up is Wedding Crashers about a pair of con artists that's how I define them because the movie doesn't clearly state what their true occupations are. They are two guys who crash weddings, mingle with the guests, ingratiate themselves just to score with the ladies. Early on, we are shown a melange of all types of weddings they 'attend' - Italian, Jewish, Asian - you name it they have gatecrashed! As well as a brief scene of them jumping into bed with all types of women. Soon enough they decide to pull their old routine in the high society wedding of the year. The daughter of US Treasury Secretary Cleary played with aplomb by the indefatigable Christopher Walken marries her 'Captain and First Mate'. Breaking their rule of going beyond the wedding ceremony and the reception to seal the deal, they manage to get themselves invited to spend the weekend with the Clearys at their summer mansion. Their adventures posing as New Hamphire venture capitalists begin. In the process they break all their rules like rule no. 1 "Never leave a fellow crasher behind" when both of them end up falling for the 2 other Cleary daughters. Their friendship is put on the line, they briefly go their separate ways but of course reunite for the sappy ending. Moral of the story even 'con artists' repent and mend their ways.
Good comedic timing by the duo of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Rachel McAdams is a refreshing sight as the typical nice girl next door type. You have Bradley Cooper, who I will forever know as Will Tippen in the series "Alias" play a total stuck up preppie Ivy Leaguer fiance of Rachel McAdams.
The film has good entertainment value, a few laughs, other scenes which just merit a few chuckles, some witty remarks and is peppered with cheesy yet funny dialogue such as:

Claire Cleary: What is true love?
John Beckwith: True love is your soul's recognition of its counterpoint in another.
Claire Cleary: It's a little cheesy but I like it.
John Beckwith: I read it on a bumper sticker


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