Sunday, May 24, 2009

DAN IN REAL LIFE

Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dan Cook, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt


"Something is happening to Dan. It's confusing.
It's awkward. It's family."


HBO



Dan (Steve Carell) is a widower and father of 3 daughters. He earns a living by writing an advice column. This is his story. He is an ordinary guy. A bit of a loner until he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche). But there is a problem. It turns out that "the woman at the bookstore" is none other than his brother's girlfriend. Poor Dan. To make matters worse, he has to endure a weekend with his entire family consisting of his parents, his siblings, their wives, a whole bunch of nieces, nephews and of course - Marie!

This family themed romantic comedy is totally predictable yet it succeeds due to the valiant efforts of Steve Carell. He is what I call an "intelligent comic". He can be funny (without resorting to slapstick or vulgar humor) one second and then be serious in another frame, effortlessly. Thankfully, he was able to overshadow Dan Cook in most of their scenes together. I couldn't grasp the concept that Dan Cook and Steve Carell could be siblings nor the fact that Juliette Binoche was cast as Dan Cook's love interest. In that sense, the film was predictable because of course Dan is much better suited for Marie. They have so much in common. They look good together. So naturally they will end up together.

So give or take a few dragging sequences, this film was a delight to watch. It had a solid ensemble cast headed by Carell and Binoche. Their performances as a group was infectious and rowdy as large families are expected to be. I, specifically like the 3 daughters of Dan. They conveyed with firm conviction the various hang ups/pitfalls of being nurtured by a widower.

The soundtrack was filled with fun upbeat songs. Well except for the really silly corny songs which Dan Cook would enforce on our eardrums. Pure torture, I tell you. Yes it is pretty apparent I don't like Dan Cook! Heh!

The storyline although predictable (yes I repeat myself a lot!) was coherent and uncomplicated.

I conclude by saying that when Dan uttered this line:

What don't I understand, Cara? Please, help me out. What is it? Is it frustrating that you can't be with this person? That there's something keeping you apart? That there's something about this person that you can connect with? And whenever you're near this person, you don't know what to say, and you say everything that's in your mind and in your heart, and you know that if you could just be together, that this person would help you become the best possible version of yourself?
I smiled and nodded in agreement.

Friday, May 22, 2009

NE LE DIS A PERSONNE
(TELL NO ONE)

Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josee Croze, Kristin Scott Thomas,
Jean Rochefort, Francois Berleand


"8 years ago, Alex's wife was murdered. Today ... She e-mailed him!"


Star Movies



Every Friday nights of May, Star Movies shows a French movie as a tribute to the ongoing Cannes film festival.

This week, the featured film is a gripping thriller guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. That is, if you can keep up with the numerous twists and turns which kept cropping up during the film. That said, it was still well presented and nicely edited in a coherent, dramatic fashion albeit with the occasional slow paced scenes. Despite being a thriller with various nuances of a whodunit crime story, it is also a narrative of a poignant love story that endures through time. An interesting observation is how some scenes would focus on powerful images of scenery without any characters in it yet convey so much to the audience in terms of providing clues. Shots which make you go "ohhh, right! Now I get it"!

The characters are well developed and multi-dimensional and portrayed by believable and serious French actors. Actors who use subtle yet expressive facial expressions to convey their emotions. A bit too many characters though to hold your concentration, if you ask me.

Setting varies from the chaotic urban jungle to serene rustic surroundings. Dialogue is entirely in French with English subtitles for the non Francophone viewers.

It has been a while since I got enthralled by a French film. So I was glad I caught this thriller from start to finish. A movie which doesn't disappoint. A narrative with all the right ingredients. A solid believable plot. Interesting characters. Crisp cinematography. Under the able direction of Guillaume Canet, a French actor/director who starred in "Joyeux Noel" a war themed masterpiece and "Mon Idole" a quirky dark humor comedy. Two French film I had the good fortune of watching at past French film festivals in town.

Friday, May 15, 2009

ANGELS & DEMONS

Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard,
Armin Mueller Stahl, Pierfrancesco Favino


"The holiest event of our time. Perfect for their return."


Cinema 9, Robinsons Galleria




I read this Dan Brown fictional novel and actually preferred it over "The Da Vinci Code".

It is set in Rome and the Vatican in particular. A place I've visited several times and never grow tired from exploring its many nooks and crannies. A beguiling city steeped with historical, architectural and religious splendor.
The narrative is laden with intriguing stories of a secret society called the Illuminati. Who doesn't love them conspiracy theories? Throw in a side plot of an invention called the Anti Matter which could revolutionize the science world.
It also brought back Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to solve another mystery which strives on cryptic symbols with implied meanings and have him chase for clues all around Rome which is now a massive crime scene!

So I was indeed looking forward to the film adaptation which is brought to you by the same team which thrilled us with "The Da Vinci Code", Ron Howard and Tom Hanks. Suffice to say, I found myself also liking this film way better than the previous offering.

For one, it took liberties in veering away from some aspects of the novel without compromising on the main story. It was still fast paced, suspenseful and full of intrigue.

Secondly, the slick cinematography was spot on. From wide shot angles of the Vatican, the narrow streets of Rome to the picturesque tourist attractions like the majestic fountains and the obelisks, everything was authentically captured visually. A feast of cutting edge technology and digital imagery spliced with real gorgeous locales. I was especially impressed with the way they portrayed the Archives department of the Vatican. Great scenes with very artistic and descriptive images of a place I believe very few have actually set foot in.

Thirdly, the cast were all in sync. From the main characters of Langdon (Tom Hanks), Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) and the Camerlengo to the supporting roles, they were all convincing. Tom Hanks is in his best element as the symbologist Langdon. And dare I say his hairdo has also improved in a nice aesthetic manner. Ewan McGregor was subtly subdued. I did expect a more 'hysterical' (for lack of a better word) performance from him as the Camerlengo. If you read the book, you might grasp what I'm talking about. You also have steady performances from Stellan Skarsgard and veteran actor Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Fourth, the various side plots did complement the main story line. The international feel of the book was well presented in the film. Some characters speaking in different languages with English subtitles, of course. I wish though that they allotted more imagery on the 4 Cardinals in "captivity". The gripping torture scenes in the novel were very descriptive and highly symbolic. They were the best parts in the book, for me. That might be my sadistic side talking but I guess it was too graphic to be shown on screen. There were also some really incredulous scenes which looked good on paper (in the novel) but they were totally off key and too grandiose on screen. But overall the story line was coherent and solid with a good musical score added on for some exciting dramatic effect.

Lastly, there has been a lot of controversy over the main subject matter of the book and now the film. I watched it with my husband who has not read the novel. He has always had a philosophical view about life and everything else in general so give or take a few valid observations he made about the 'flaws' of the film, he did enjoy it nonetheless. The fact remains that despite the many critiques of how Catholicism and in particular the Holy Church is portrayed, my belief and my faith as a Roman Catholic remains intact. It won't take a film nor a novel to convince me, otherwise.

On that note, I do recommend the film. See it for what it is - pure entertainment! Nothing more and nothing less!

Friday, May 8, 2009

AUSTRALIA

Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown, David Gulpilil,
Jack Thompson, David Wenham, Brandon Walters



I love Hugh Jackman. But apparently not enough to watch his antics in Wolverine. Heh. Well I'm not into superheroes or mutants or whatever Wolverine is, period.

So I settled for "Australia". An epic masterpiece from the ultimate Australian director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet). And I wasn't disappointed one single bit.

The cinematography was fantastic. The wide angle shots of gorgeous Aussie landscape was breathtaking. The film was peppered with aerial shots of the barren land gleaming with a wide array of colors. There were also vibrant scenes of the city of Darwin in the early 1940s. The war scenes were also very devastatingly authentic.

The characters wore the appropriate wardrobe depicting that era. From the elegant clothes of Nicole Kidman to the rugged dressing style of Hugh Jackman, everything was well portrayed.

The mostly Australian cast all projected well on screen. Kudos goes to the young boy who portrays the half cast aborigine, Nullah. He seemed very professional for his first acting job. His expressive facial features, his perfect diction (very evident as his voice narrates the story) and his natural acting skills all contributed to making Nullah such a sympathetic and endearing character.

Of course the very attractive Nicole Kidman with her porcelain skin, her pouty lips and her really thin waistline was a joy to watch. Even though there are times when her character came out as a caricature of the typical snobbish English aristocrat. But she redeems herself towards the end with really heavy dramatic sequences.

Hugh Jackman well he was perfect in his role as the Drover. He is tall, dashingly handsome and very eloquent whether dressed to the nines or in rugged attire. He reminds me of the consummate Hollywood actor of the golden era. The likes of Cary Grant and Rock Hudson. So you can't blame me if I was swooning over him like some giggling high school girl. Although it was a bit strange that we never find out his real name!

The plot was quite long. Playing at 2 hours and 45 minutes, of course there would be some scenes which should have been edited. But it had all the right ingredients to make it an epic. You have an enduring love story with enough conflicts to cause a war. Heavy drama tinged with tragedy. Some historical angles about the Australian government's treatment of the aborigines as well as the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese during World World 2. Simply amazing cinematography. Plus the ingenious part of paying tribute to one of the most recognized songs in cinema history "Somewhere over the Rainbow" from the classic movie "Wizard of Oz". The song with its various versions carried the perfect tune for the entire film.

I conclude by saying that even though the film did come across as a fancy romp through the Australian outback for Lady Sara Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and the Drover (Hugh Jackman) or one very long glossy ad campaign for the Land Down Under, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hugh Jackman totally rocks!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blockbuster


BLOCKBUSTER offers new releases and classic DVD’s online and in-store 7 days a week. It doesn't charge for Blu-ray Discs.

With the Blockbuster Total Access plans, you can return DVDs by mail or exchange them in-store for free movie exchanges.

Don't worry if you don't have a Blockbuster store in your area. They offer a mail-only service!

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Monday, May 4, 2009

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger



Well the title basically reveals most of the plot but if you expect this film to be about a fun wedding, you might get disappointed. No wait! The wedding itself was loads of fun in an ethnic way with an Indian theme (even though neither of them were from the Subcontinent) with enchanting music to regale the multicultural guests. The wedding entourage were dressed in traditional Indian garb like the sari (for the bride and bridesmaid) and the kurta for the groom.

It was the presence of the bride's sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) who sort of 'ruined' the wedding. Kym is a recovering addict who leaves rehab for the weekend of her sister Rachel's wedding. And as recovering addicts in family gathering situations go, she is being the typical headache to deal with. A conflicted person laden with self pity, lack of attention syndrome and grasping with her personal demons to boot.

The film has a lot of depth and soul with the poignant bonding sessions of the two sisters. It is an interesting case study too of two individuals who despite their glaring personality differences are related to each other. The wedding preparations scenes were comfy to watch. A personal tragedy though kept rearing its ugly head. The heavy drama enveloping the family was a bit too dramatic (for lack of a better word) for my taste. There were also some really long scenes which dragged on endlessly which should have been edited out for fluidity sake.

The ensemble cast exuded a subdued vibe even though there were a number of dramatic scenes to rile up their personalities. The presence of Debra Winger as the estranged mother of the bride was a nice surprise. She still registers well on screen and it was good to see her act again albeit now in those aloof motherly roles.
Kudos goes to Anne Hathaway for her realistic portrayal of Kym, a 'lost' soul. It was refreshing to watch her in a solid and mature role. A far cry from her sweet girl next door, fairy tale types. And I guess it is about time she developed into a serious actress.

There is nothing like a wedding to bring out the best and the worst in people, sometimes. A happy yet also very emotional moment to cherish the good times as well as try to exorcise the bad memories from life as one embarks on a new journey on the path of commitment, responsibility and marital bliss. This film was realistic enough to showcase valid nuances of people's imperfections.
 

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