Friday, July 31, 2009

MY SISTER'S KEEPER

Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Jason Patrick, Sofia Vassilieva, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack


Cinema 7, SM Megamall




Although I never read Jodi Picoult's novel, I've heard rave reviews about it. At first I thought the film would focus on the legal battle about medical emancipation. I'm glad it didn't. Instead, this film was a family drama filled with warmth, compassion and utterly heart wrecking moments. I cried several times during the film. I thought I was going to drown in my tears. Hehe.

I like the fact that the main characters narrate their innermost thoughts during certain parts of the film. It is much more expressive. The cast all played their roles with gusto. I never thought much of Cameron Diaz before but here she essayed the stoic mother role, poignantly. It was heart breaking during the highly emotional hospital scene where she finally breaks down in the arms of her dying daughter. It was her way of coming to terms with her daughter's desire to stop fighting her illness and simply let go. Abigail Breslin as Anna, the daughter genetically conceived to help her older sister never fails to amaze me with her acting talent. For someone so young, I wonder where she draws her strength in portraying such anguished characters. Sofia Vassilieva as Kate was such a beautiful character inside and out. Despite her sickly demeanor, whenever she smiled she simply lit up the hospital room and the movie itself. She had a radiant spirit and a beautiful soul. I simply fell in love with her portrayal of Kate.

The film was interspersed with a few flashback scenes of happier times. The plot was coherent and well played out. Although sometimes the sappy mushy music tend to over dramatize the situations. I read that the scriptwriters changed the ending for the movie. If you ask me, I figure the film's ending is much more realistic. The movie addresses the issues of life (a child conceived for medical purposes) and death in a light and sensitive manner without bordering too much on the legal implications of medical emancipation. But nonetheless it is a feel good family movie just remember to load up on tissue paper and hankies to wipe those tears away!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

3rd International Silent Film Festival



The festival that brings together Philippine music with classic international silent films is back!

Set aside all your Thursday nights from July 30 to August 27.

This year’s festival features films from France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain, to be scored live by the likes of Corporate Lo-fi, Nyko Maca + Playground, Caliph8, Kalayo and Johnny Alegre Affinity.

The festival opens on July 30 with a screening of the Japanese 1931 film “Jirokichi the Rat (Oatsurae Jirokichi Koshi)”.

Director Daisuke Ito adapted the story from a novel by Furukawa Eiji. It is based on the life of Nezumi Kozo (The Rat), a notorious burglar active during the early 1800's who won great fame for his daring adventures stealing from the homes of wealthy people late at night.

On August 6, catch the 1921 ultra-rare film “The Mechanical Man (L’uomo meccanico)”.

The film is directed by André Deed, a protégé of Georges Melies. In it, a city is gripped in terror as a colossal robot runs rampant in an unstoppable crime spree. The police are powerless in the face of the frightening carnage and destruction, but the remotely controlled menace may soon meet its match - a second mechanical man is sent to confront it in a horrific showdown at the local opera house. The film will be accompanied by the music of Caliph8, who will be joined by Kalila Aguilos, Malek Lopez, Pasta Groove and Tad Ermitaño in a special aural and visual collaboration.

The 1929/30 German film “People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag)”, directed by Robert Siodmak, will be screened on August 13.

With unpretentious humor, this astonishing first film by artists who were soon to become Berlin exiles deals with how the working class spends its precious leisure time. Berlin is as empty as a ghost town, everyone flees to the countryside, and the train stations are packed. Erwin, a taxi driver, meets up with a young traveling salesman and his female companions, who are on their way to a nearby lake for a day of swimming, snoozing, and flirting, leaving the cabbie’s wife to sleep away her Sunday. The film is the early collaboration of five young Berlin-based filmmakers - Robert and Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Edgar G Ulmer, Eugen Schuefftan and Fred Zinneman - who would all go on to great international success. Providing the live score will be Nyko Maca + Playground.

The 1930 Florián Rey drama “The Cursed Village/La aldea maldita” will be accompanied by the music of Johnny Alegre AFFINITY on August 20.

The film presents a story about poverty, honor and forgiveness in a small Castilian village, during a time when women had no rights at all to live their own life without the protection of men. Juan Castilla is imprisoned after quarrelling with a local political tyrant and usurer, leaving behind his wife Acacia, their child, and the boy’s blind grandfather, Martin. The neighbor Magdalena convinces Acacia to leave the impoverished town that seems to have a curse on it. Three years later, Juan finds his wife working in a pub, and obliges her to return home and serve the family until the death of Martin.

The last screening will be on August 27. The 1913 French classic “Fantomas: Under the Shadow of the Guillotine (Fantomas: A l’ombre de la guillotine”, directed by Louis Feuillade.

The film presents to us the character of Fantomas through a series of dramatic episodes: the robbery of the Royal palace Hotel, the successive transformations of Fantomas, and the substitution of the actor Valgrand. The masked hero is presented as a cruel being. We discover the mistress, Lady Beltham, accomplice and victim of Fantomas, then the obsessive inspector Juve introduced as her best enemy. Providing the music will be Corporate Lo-fi.

All the above screenings are at 8 pm at Cinema 1of Shang Cineplex, Shangri-la Plaza. Tickets are P75.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

GONE BABY GONE

Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan, John Ashton


"Everyone wants the truth ... until they find it"


Star Movies





This movie adaptation of Dennis Lahane's novel was the directorial debut of actor Ben Affleck. It dealt with pretty heavy subject matters like child abduction, pedophilia and the proliferation of drugs set in one of Boston's toughest neighborhoods.

Affleck directs his brother Casey Affleck in a significant role as Patrick Kenzie, a private detective hired by the relatives of a missing child. Along with his partner/girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan) they find themselves embroiled in a murky web filled with shady characters as well as corrupt law enforcers out to protect themselves at all cost.

The film much like the investigation progresses at a good pace. It starts with a frantic frenzy as we are introduced to the numerous characters and the circumstances of the abduction. Then it slows down a bit as several futile side plots are zeroed into the storyline. Thankfully, it picks up towards end when revelations are unveiled. It ends though on a pivotal turning point of moral dilemma proportions.

Casey Affleck who I'd dare say is a much better actor than Ben carries the entire film on his bony shoulders. His subdued style of acting worked wonders and he essayed his role with flying colors. He is ably supported by a neat ensemble cast of good actors like Amy Ryan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman and Amy Madigan.

Clint Eastwood previously tackled another Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River with a good cast, solid plot and it received good reviews. Although Ben Affleck is certainly no Eastwood (as an actor and director), he did considerably well in his directorial debut. In fact, I was pretty impressed that he was able to present a good film adaptation of a complex story. He must stick to directing from now on. Let Casey (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Ocean's 11, 12 and 13) reap in the acting awards! Heh.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

PUBLIC ENEMIES

Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, David Wenham, James Russo,Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, Stephen Dorff


"America's most wanted"


Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex



Chicago in the early 1930s was hit with a series of crime waves. Bank robberies, gangsters, illegal gambling made the headlines in the newspapers. It was also the period when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the staunch leadership of J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Cudrup) was being tested for its mettle.

Taking center stage in this Michael Mann film are the enigmatic bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his nemesis, FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Yet it merely presented a short episode in the lives of its main characters. It basically lacked an in depth characterization about their true personalities. Perhaps they could have mentioned what drove Dillinger to commit bank robberies or how Purvis's relentless pursuit affected his family. But I guess that would take 2 separate full length autobiographical movies in some sort of semi-documentary format to further explore their psyches.

Nevertheless, the roles were well portrayed by Depp and Bale. Depp fashionably dressed for the part in his long black coat and fedora hat was brilliant to watch. He portrayed Dillinger a hardened bank robber in a sympathetic light. A gangster prone to extreme violence yet he also reveals a soft side when it comes to romance. As well as telling people at the banks he robbed that he only took the bank's money and not the people's loose change. Or something to that effect. The newspapers back then tend to glorify criminals and society developed a strange celebrity fascination towards them. I guess some sense of escape during the harsh Depression times.

Bale as Agent Melvin Purvis was a character driven with reckless imprudence. A dedicated law enforcer who would stop at nothing to capture his prey. Yet at the same time he was incorruptible and strictly adhered to the rules of the agency he willingly served.

It was difficult to focus on some scenes (it made me dizzy) as Mann used a hand held digital technique. Extreme close up shots to wide angle views of the Chicago landscape contributed to the realistic cinematography. Lavish set designs and authentic wardrobe did transport you back to the Depression era of the early 1930s. The film also had its vast array of well executed action scenes. There were intricate car chases, loads of gunfights and bloody encounters in true grand Hollywood production style. But it is well balanced with some romantic sequences between Dillinger and his lady love Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) so it isn't just merely a bang bang bang film.

Overall the film despite lacking some profound character analysis was coherent and well paced with a good ensemble cast. It exuded an old Hollywood vibe reminiscent of those old Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart movies. For me, it was worth watching if only to see Johnny Depp weave his artistic skill into yet another meaty role as John Dillinger.

Friday, July 17, 2009

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter


"Dark secrets revealed"


Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex


It is strange that the movies I've watched lately don't truly fit in the realm of my favorite movie genre. But my sister who was visiting for a brief period specifically had one request - I accompany her to see magic unfold on screen. So it was night filled with spells, potions and sorcery galore as we watched the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise. Of course, admittedly I haven't read any of J.K Rowlings books but surprisingly though I have watched all of the movie adaptations, purely to be entertained.

Main draw for me is Alan Rickman. I've been a long time fan of this talented British actor whose portrayal of Professor Snape is brilliant in every sense of the word. Professor Snape is a man of few words yet he eloquently delivers his lines with steely flair and aplomb. Perfectly combined with a somber wardrobe that lacks any fashion sense, his icy gaze can melt a lesser mortal. It was interesting for me to note that the Half Blood Prince in the title refers to him. A little bit trivia my sister whispered to me since I am totally clueless about the background of the numerous characters that keep popping in and out in Hogwarts.

The set designs depicting Hogwarts are all very grand and majestic in scale. Computer generated imagery at its best. My favorite part are the Quidditch game sequences. A very engrossing game that is well executed on the screen.

The good ensemble of renowned British actors like Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter still ably support the 3 main characters. Harry, Hermione and Ron have literally grown up right in front of our eyes. Their acting skills thankfully have also grown and they seem more relaxed in their performances. I've observed that Hermione is no longer the precociously irritating kid she was in the past movies/books. Kudos to Emma Watson for a subtle yet more mature performance.

Although the plot for the film had a dark theme with tragic consequences, it was the romantic angles which registered the most impact for me. It was realistic to watch the 3 main characters behaving as normal teenagers with puberty angst to the core.

OVerall the film had a good mix of action, cutesy romantic sequences and the ever present dark and somber yet quite intriguing storyline.

It is always exciting to watch a Harry Potter film for its masterful presentation of a matured sorcery tale. For a few hours, you can get lost in a world of sublime fantasy and wizardry. Time well spent, if you ask me!

Monday, July 13, 2009

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN

Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro


"Revenge is coming"


Cinema 11, SM Megamall



Sci-fi themed movies are not my cup of tea. So I didn't watch the first installment of this very noisy film. So those Decepticons, Autobots and all those other machines transforming themselves into ermm talking robots all seemed the same to me. My sister was kind enough to explain whether the machines were Decepticons or Autobots yet I wasn't particularly invested in the film. So much so that despite the high level of deafening audio decibel with all those metals clashing against each other, I fell asleep during certain parts of the film. Heh. I was probably tired after all that shopping and it didn't help that it was the last full show.

But I was able to more or less decipher the fact that the Decepticons were out for a showdown with the Autobots after their side was defeated in the battle to take over Earth in the previous film. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) who just started college once again finds himself right smack in the center of the main battle. He is still ably supported by his gorgeous girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) who can still look attractive under extremely stressful situations. Not fair!

Well despite my non interest in the machines battle for supremacy, there were simply too many of them for me to absorb. I'd have to say the computer effects were top notch. Big production sets and wide angled shots of beautiful scenery was the norm. The dialogue had its share of funny lines courtesy of John Turturro, a talented actor. The plot had a good blend of loud action sequences, a tinge of romance and very well choreographed battle scenes (even though most of them were computer generated) in panoramic settings. I also like how they presented the history of the machines from eons of years ago till modern times. The narration about their origin sort of made sense for the sake of the movie. Although it is really a preposterous idea for reality's sake. Thankfully it is just a movie!

So yes, I did enjoy this film purely for its entertainment value in true Hollywood blockbuster style.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

UNTRACEABLE

Diane Lane, Colin Hanks, Billy Burke, Owen Reilly


"A cyber killer has finally found the perfect accomplice: You."


Star Movies



This thriller about a FBI agent (Diane Lane) in the cyber crime division who has to track down a serial killer (Joseph Cross) who posts his gruesome crimes on the Internet was scary. Well scary enough for me who isn't a big fan of horror flicks. But this isn't a horror film per se, more like a slow paced yet intriguing thriller that keeps you on the edge of your sofa.

Although a bit predictable in the who gets killed next department, the film nevertheless featured some of the most graphically revolting torture scenes I've seen in the movies. The main premise behind the criminally insane mind of the killer is revenge. Yet the fact that he actually sets up a web cam for the whole wide world to be a witness to his evil mind is quite disturbing. The scenes were well presented and well executed (pun intended). It was for me, the main highlights of the otherwise predictable film. Yes I might have a sadistic tendency lurking in my psyche. His acts of violence is seemingly untraceable (thus the title!) even with the most current technology in place. A preposterous idea if you ask me but well that is how the film kept its audience glued till the end.

Diane Lane as always delivers a good performance. While Colin Hanks (yes Tom Hanks' son) despite a brief role made a significant impact in the thriller. Most of the cinematography was bleak and somber as befitting those cops and killers themed movies.

Although it pales in comparison with other serial killer films, it is still a good enough movie with an intriguing plot to keep one entertained for a few hours.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eiga Sai 2009
Japanese Contemporary Film Festival

In celebration of Philippines–Japan Friendship Month, The Japan Foundation, Manila, in cooperation with the Embassy of Japan, the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, and the UP Film Institute proudly presents a Japanese Contemporary Film Festival, titled “Eigasai ‘09” (literally means ‘film festival’ in Japanese).

An invitational screening of Always – Sunset on Third Street (Always San-chome no yuhi, 2005) by director Yamazaki Takashi will be held on July 2, 2009 (Thursday) at 7:00 p.m. at the Shangri-La Plaza Cinema 3, Edsa, Mandaluyong City.

This year’s offering brings together 7 contemporary films and 1 anime film in 35mm format.

Other films to be featured are Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no issho, 2006) directed by Nakashima Tetsuya, Kamome Diner (Kamome shokudo, 2006) directed by Ogigami Naoko, Memories of Tomorrow (Ashita no kioku, 2006) directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, The Milkwoman (Itsuka dokusho suru hi, 2005) directed by Ogata Akira, Turn Over - An Angel Is Coming on a Bicycle (Futari biyori, 2004) directed by Nomura Keiichi, Tony Takitani (Toni Takitani, 2004) directed by Ichikawa Jun, and the sole anime film Mind Game (Mind Game, 2004) directed by Masaaki Yuasa.

Screening venues are at the Shangri-La Plaza Cinema 3 from July 2 to 12.

All films will be shown with English subtitles.

Admission is free.

Click here for the screening schedules.
 

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