Sunday, March 29, 2009

DEFINITELY, MAYBE

Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz,
Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Kline


"Three relationships. Three disasters. One last chance"


HBO


Definitely, Maybe


This romantic comedy presents the different nuances of love relationships. The happy ups and the depressing downs one naturally has to deal with. The different emotions involved as well as the contributing factors towards maintaining a healthy romantic relationship. It is displayed in flash back scenes and narrated by a soon to be divorced guy Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) to his precocious daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin of "Little Miss Sunshine" fame).

I like how the father treats his child with maturity. He doesn't sugarcoat his past love adventures as he recounts them to his young daughter. Although he did change their names in his narration, he recounted them with such conviction. So much so that his daughter exclaims that she is shocked to find out that her father drank, smoked and was a 'slut' during his younger days. That was a hilarious scene.

His romantic entanglements with three different women is realistically portrayed by 3 good actresses (Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher) They all get involved with him during different stages of his adult life. Since it was set in the early 1990s with Will being an active Democrat volunteer campaigning for Bill Clinton, the setting of the film was made believable with some actual footage of the presidential race.

"Definitely, Maybe" is a coherent love story with all the right ingredients. It presents romance without it being too mushy (well except maybe towards the ending but it was tolerable). Nor is it too serious that it would turn audience off and they would lose interest in the lives of the characters.

It is nice to watch Ryan Reynolds in a 'serious' romantic lead role. I always found him to be an obnoxious character in his earlier comedic roles. So he redeems himself nicely as Will Hayes. He has good rapport with all of his 3 leading ladies as well as with his daughter portrayed subtly in a somewhat brief role by Abigail Breslin.

Another pleasant feel good love story with endearing characters, a solid plot and some nice.to.hear.again 90s soundtrack.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BREAKING AND ENTERING

Jude Law, Robin Wright Penn, Juliette Binoche,
Martin Freeman, Vera Farmiga


"Love is no ordinary crime."




The main attraction of this film is the stellar cast composed of Jude Law, Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright Penn. That it is directed by the late Anthony Minghella is an added bonus. The talented director whose film repertoire include "The English Patient", "Cold Mountain" and "The Talented Mr Ripley".

This specific film is set in London and tells the story of complex characters whose lives interconnect due to a robbery. It presents the multi-cultural spectrum of present day London with its characters being immigrants from various European countries. You have a British architect, Will (Jude Law) who is married to Liv, a Swedish (Robin Wright Penn) mother with an autistic child from a previous marriage. The firm Green Effect which Will co-owns is burglarized one night by a young Serb lad named Miro. He is part of a Serbian syndicate that steals computers from offices. Miro leaves in an apartment with his mother Amira (Juliette Binoche) who sews for a living.

A movie that implicitly presents various themes through its myriad of flawed characters and its numerous side plots. It deals with the desire to belong somewhere. A need to fulfill a void in one's life. The complicated issue of being able to forgive someone as well as learning to forgive one's self for past indiscretions in order to move on from feelings of inadequacies without losing one's dignity.

The cast convincingly essay these complex issues with subtle performances aided with meaningful dialogue. Modern day London provides the stark contrast in the cinematography. It is documented through the disparaging differences in economic stature. From the ultra rich lifestyle of Will to the low cost housing estate where Amira lives with her son.

By the end of the movie, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the course of action pursued by Will and his family, the fact remains that the film was successful in conveying its murky message across the screen.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

CHANGELING

Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Colm Feore, Gattlin Griffith, Michael Kelly


"To find her son, she did what no one else dared."




This Clint Eastwood directed period piece is not to be confused with the haunted house horror flick, "The Changeling". That film with George C. Scott was pretty creepy.

"Changeling" is set in the early 1930s and it traces the true story of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie). A single mother whose son Walter goes missing. A few months later, the LAPD claims to have found her son but much to her agony, he isn't her son. He isn't Walter.

The authentic set design accurately depicts Los Angeles in the early 1930s from the streets, the apartments to the trams. The wardrobe as well as the hair style of that era suits Angelina Jolie's frame. The film also showcases the Los Angeles Police Department in a bad light. Back then, the police force was marred with true allegations of corruption, bribery and acts of brutality against common criminals.

But before anything else, the film's main focus is Christine Collins. The hardships and personal struggles she went through to find her real son is painfully documented in this neatly edited film. I say painfully because Christine went through hell and back and never lost hope that one day her real son would resurface. I'd admit certain scenes were disturbing to watch. I guess it helps that Angelina Jolie did a good job in portraying Christine as a helpless yet hopeful sympathetic character with a never say die attitude. A strong woman who back in those days would have received a lot of criticism for being (a) a working woman and (b) a single parent raising her son on her own.

As usual, Clint Eastwood once again regales us with another masterpiece of human triumph realistically set in an era besieged with mayhem. A poignant film dealing with personal tragedy yet at the same time there is a small (a very tiny) tinge of hope that shines through.

Monday, March 16, 2009

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU
Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore




Let's all admit it, we have all been in the same scenarios as the characters in this film during several points in our adult dating life. From the one who waits eternally for that 'follow up' phone call, the one stuck in a relationship that goes nowhere and most especially the only single person left who has to attend family gathering and weddings of friends and relatives.

This film composed of several characters whose lives are intertwined with each other is set in Baltimore but it carries a universal theme. The various travails and pitfalls of trying to form a relationship, being in a relationship and how to get out of a relationship without losing one's dignity in the process.

Essentially it is a fun movie to watch. No major plot crisis to worry about. No hateful villains to make the lives of the little melee of ensemble characters, miserable. Yes, even those guys who don't return phone calls seemed harmless in this film. A situational romantic comedy with an interesting enough bunch of characters whose stories could have provided more than enough materials to turn into 3 different movies. But since their stories were intertwined, happy endings were to be predictably expected. I like how each character simply contributed their part to the story without overshadowing the other characters.

My one observation is how Bradley Cooper was a miscast as Jennifer Connelly's husband. If I am not mistaken he is a tad younger than her. But that's a minor oversight. He is such a cutie to watch. Teehee!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A MIGHTY HEART

A MIGHTY HEART
Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Punjabi


"It was an event that shocked the world.
This is the story you haven't heard."




This poignant film based on a real life event will touch your heart. It is based on the book "A Mighty Heart: The brave life and death of my husband Daniel Pearl" pegged by Mariane Pearl, the French Cuban journalist wife of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan by extremist in 2002.

As told from her perspective, it is an authentic view of the-behind-the-scenes of the story which gripped the whole world with abated breath. Filmed in a semi documentary format, the movie traces the combined efforts by all the concerned parties (the local police, the US Embassy, his Wall Street Journal colleagues) in piecing the mystery (which group abducted Pearl?) together. So there were some exciting scenes mostly about the police investigation while the rest of the film would focus on Mariane's anguish. Neatly spliced with flashbacks scenes of their happy life together that certainly added a personal touch to the film. This film could have easily turned into a human tragedy story of the month like those on the Hallmark channels. But fortunately it did not.


The horrific tragedy that unfolds on screen is given a humane treatment through the credible acting ability of Angelina Jolie who portrays the bereaved wife. Her in depth and subdued performance of a pregnant woman going through a very difficult time filled with troubling anxiety gives this gripping thriller its soul. Her ability to essay different emotional expressions on her face without resorting to hysterics was a big factor. She even spoke softly with a French accent just like the real Mariane Pearl.

I remember reading many articles about the Daniel Pearl incident and religiously following the news on cable TV. But this film reaffirms my belief that his family, his colleagues and the authorities did everything to the best of their ability to rescue him. They never gave up nor did they lose hope. It also gave a personal account of his life, his dedication as a reporter and his devotion to his wife. The film humanized Daniel Pearl as a passionate man yet unfortunately it also gave a face to the very real threat of terrorism especially in that part of the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

SHOOT 'EM UP

SHOOT 'EM UP
Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti


"I'm a British nanny and I'm dangerous"


HBO



This non stop action thriller was shown constantly over HBO this past week. I first caught bits and pieces of it and actually liked what I saw. A few days ago, I finally managed to see it in its entirety and got sense of what the action was all about.

A wisecracking bystander with an attitude named "Smith" (Clive Owen) gets himself involved with some shady villains after he helps a pregnant woman give birth. After the woman dies, "Smith" has no choice but to protect the baby at all cost. Even if it means having a steady stream of men clad in black out to kill the poor baby. The bad guys are led by a man named Hertz (Paul Giamatti) who is relentless in his pursuit. He is fierce, violent and a totally despicable person. Tagging along for the ride is Donna (Monica Bellucci) a lactating prostitute whose sole purpose is to appeal to the male audience with her voluptuous body.

A fast paced action drama which strangely enough does have an interesting plot. It helps that it has well developed characters who despite being soulless are still fascinating to watch. Clive Owen as the carrot eating, wisecracking 'shooter' with a nasty attitude is perfect for the role. His rough facade disguises his soft side like when he actually cares for the welfare of an innocent baby. He delivers his witty lines eloquently and can manage to stay unfazed even when his character gets into pretty sticky situations.

Paul Giamatti is probably the most under rated 'supporting' actor there is in the Hollywood film industry. He can play any roles with ease without stealing the limelight from the main lead but it doesn't mean he is forgettable. Hardly so since his characters are equally significant in every single frame. More so in this film where his evil streak is creepy to watch yet at the same time you never lose focus on the fact that he has a mission to accomplish, at all cost. And Monica Bellucci well she is merely eye candy with her leather outfits and high heels.

So yes the film is filled with violent scenes of bullets flying off in every direction, blood spurting from broken bones as well as car chases. But it was really fun to watch in a pure adrenaline pumping action romp sort of way!
 

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