Monday, October 26, 2009

JULIE AND JULIA

Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina


"Passion. Ambition. Butter.
Do you have what it takes?"


Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex



The numerous reviews on this film came with a specific warning - watch it on a full stomach. Well, I just had lunch and the 'free' ticket (the Citibank reel promo) came with a meal coupon which entitled me to free popcorn and soft drinks so my stomach was indeed full. But the recipes shown in the film had so much butter, eggs and unhealthy ingredients - it made me lose my appetite. Heh!

Nonetheless, I applaud the film for showcasing the lives of two extraordinary women and the men who supported them through thick and thin. Julia Child was a pioneer in the food industry. She met a lot of hurdles and obstacles since back then it was a field dominated by men. Yet she persevered at it and through the unwavering support of her diplomat husband Paul, she became a connoisseur in the culinary world. Meryl Streep was excellent as Julia Child. Her cheery disposition, her accent even her appearance was totally credible. I especially like how the film portrayed Paul and Julia's relationship. I admire them for having such a healthy and solid marriage despite being childless. Being a former diplobrat, I could easily relate to Paul's (Stanley Tucci) apprehensions at being relocated to another posting in his career. It can really be quite stressful when you keep changing residences every few years.

Julie Powell's task to cook Julia Child's 500+ recipes from her groundbreaking cook book in a year's time while documenting the whole process in her blog was ambitiously daunting! But she succeeded and got a book (published) and a movie out of her project. I figure Amy Adams was rather subdued in her portrayal of the blogger because if you read her interesting blog, she does come across as being quite feisty especially in her 'flowery' language. Yet again as in the case of Julia, Julie had the loving support of her kind husband Eric who pushed her to continue her project whenever she felt like giving up.

The film was fun to watch as it juxtaposed the stories of both women alternately. They showed scenes from different locations (Paris and New York) and different time frames but the editing was quite good. An interesting scene is where they showed both Julia and Julia in different time zones. Julia was whisking away manually while Julie was using a blender. Then you see Julia using a manual typewriter to record her recipes (with carbon paper to boot!) while Julie was blogging her entry on her computer keyboard.

The movie had a good cast and a plot filled with humor, drama and romance. Plus it was a visual feast of gastronomic delights so you won't be disappointed ... maybe just get hungry!

Monday, October 19, 2009

MY LIFE IN RUINS

Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexi Georgoulis

"Falling in love ... in all the wrong places"


Cinema 4, Greenbelt 3



A much slimmer Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fame is back with another amusing romantic comedy. The film is set in enchanting and beguiling Greece so the cinematography unfolds like a travelogue for Greece's tourism bureau.

Yet at the same time, it's an unflattering expose on Greek culture. It presents both the beauty as well as the 'flaws' of Greece and its citizens through a light narrative and funny sequences so it doesn't have an insulting tone.

A good supporting ensemble cast portray the stereotypes of the numerous tourists who visit the Greek isles, every year. Georgia (Nia Vardalos) is a tour guide so she gets to mingle with different nationalities of various personalities. So much so that she can already predict those tourists' habits and eccentricities based solely on their nationality. Special mention goes to the intriguing American tourist played with aplomb by the always reliable Richard Dreyfuss. His poignant character added some heart and soul to the movie. Otherwise the film would have turned into a parody of the ubiquitous tourists who visit Greece. Those who care more about shopping for souvenirs instead of listening to Georgia's spiel about the historical sights.

The characterization of the different types of tourists was an interesting highlight of "My Life in Ruins". In my many travels, I've certainly come across some let's say 'strange' characters/tourists whose questionable behaviors can ruin one's perfect holiday. Especially if you join a package group tour where you are herded from one tourist site to another like sheep. I could tell a few stories or two but that merits an entirely new blog entry.

Of course, a romantic comedy needs to have a love story angle so predictably Georgia (Nia Vardalos) finds inspiration from the last person she expected to hook up with. Frankly, I couldn't sense any sparkling chemistry between Poupi (Alexi Georgoulis) and Georgia (Nia Vardalos) no matter how hard I tried to focus on their budding relationship. I was probably put off by the rather rigid acting style of the brooding Greek actor.

Nevertheless, the movie was a delight to watch and it made me want to return to Greece once again to explore its vast historical sights and experience the fascinating Greek culture with gusto!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

8th Italian Film Festival



The Italian Embassy and the Philippine Italian Association presents the 8th Italian Film Festival at the Shangri-la Mall Cineplex from October 14 to 21, 2009.

Opening night (October 14) is by invitation only.

October 15 onwards free admission on a first-come, first served basis.

Venue: Cinema 3, Shang Cineplex, Shangri-la Mall.


OCTOBER 15 (THURSDAY)
2:00 pm Basta un niente (1:25)
4:30 pm Gas (1:40)
7:00 pm I vicere’ (2:00)
9:30 pm Provincia meccanica (1:47)


OCTOBER 16 (FRIDAY)
2:00 pm La febbre (1:48)
4:30 pm Mater natura (1:33)
7:00 pm L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1:40)
9:30 pm Il Maestro degli errori (1:45)


OCTOBER 17 (SATURDAY)
2:00 pm Uno su due (1:40)
4:30 pm Ma che ci faccio qui (1:32)
7:00 pm La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar (1:32)
9:30 pm Gas (1:40)


OCTOBER 18 (SUNDAY)
2:00 pm Caravaggio (2:10)
4:30 pm La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar (1:32)
7:00 pm Mater natura (1:33)
9:30 pm La destinazione (2:04)


OCTOBER 19 (MONDAY)
2:00 pm Il Maestro degli errori (1:45)
4:30 pm La febbre (1:48)
7:00 pm Uno su due (1:40)
9:30 pm Ma che ci faccio qui (1:32)


OCTOBER 20 (TUESDAY)
2:00 pm Provincia meccanica (1:47)
4:30 pm L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1:40)
7:00 pm Caravaggio (2:10)
9:30 pm Basta un niente (1:25)


OCTOBER 21 (WEDNESDAY)
2:00 pm La destinazione (2:04)
4:30 pm La febbre (1:48)
7:00 pm Ma che ci faccio qui (1:32)
9:30 pm I vicere’ (2:00)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

DIETA MEDITERRANEA
(MEDITERRANEAN DIET)

Pelicula: 8th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




A wacky romantic comedy about Sofia, a chef. She has a really interesting life due to the presence of two men - Toni and Frank. Sofia is married to Toni. While Frank is her lover. They have what the French call a menage a trois or a threesome.

The film was presented by a somewhat funny narration that tells Sofia's tale from the time she was born to her rise in the culinary world. So true enough, there were a lot of scenes set in all sorts of kitchens and restaurants to highlight the cooking part. Yet don't expect this film to feed your gastronomical appetites or make you hungry in any way.

It focused more on the very unique relationship of the 3 main characters. So expect sequences of gratuitous nudity to help the audience better understand Sofia's strange yet fond attachment to two men, equally. But they are well edited and not vulgar in any way.

Mostly though it is a funny and provocative film that is entertaining and amusing while it lasts. Just don't take it too seriously.

Friday, October 9, 2009

LA BUENA NUEVA
(THE GOOD NEWS)

Pelicula: 8th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




It is 1936 and Father Miguel has been newly assigned to the town of Navarre. A working class village in the north of Spain with Socialist leaning tendencies. Based on a true story, we witness as the town becomes a battleground between the Falangists (right wing supporters of the dictator Franco), the Carlists (supporters of the monarchy in exile) and the Socialists (Communists).

In the midst of the raging revolt, Father Miguel is exorcising his own demons as he questions the Catholic Church's support for the dictatorship. A support which the Vatican equates to a Holy Crusade against 'evil'. Father Miguel desperately tries to stick to the teachings of the Church by protecting his parishioners in a timeless, passionate appeal against injustice. His only refuge in this lonely battle is his close friendship with a young school teacher whose husband (a Socialist doctor) was killed by the Fascists.

A powerful history based film that doesn't exploit nor condone the Revolt of 1936 which led to 3 years of civil war in Spain. It presents how a small town changes from a peaceful community to a place marred by executions and mistrust among its population as it veers towards a right wing stance. However, it does put the Catholic Church in a bad light as it openly ignored the atrocities (the persecution of Communists) committed supposedly on behalf of the Gospel during this volatile period in Spain's colorful history.

A story that deals with love, war and religion as seen through the eyes of a young man of deep faith and deeper moral convictions. It deserves to be told!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

LA BUENA VIDA
(THE GOOD LIFE)

Pelicula: 8th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




Set in Santiago, Chile this film which was inspired by real events narrates the story of 4 people from different walks in life. Although it is titled "The Good Life" , the characters aren't exactly having it good in any sense.

You have Edmundo, a hairdresser with financial problems. Teresa is a social worker/therapist that advocates safe sex among prostitutes yet learns her own 15 year old daughter is pregnant. Mario a talented musician (he plays the clarinet) who having failed to make it to the Philharmonic Orchestra joins the army band instead. And lastly Patricia, a sickly prostitute struggling to feed her baby. All of them don't know each other. Yet they are bonded by a common thread - the failure to achieve their dreams due to the pitfalls of life.

The film is presented in bleak shades, no glossing over to sugarcoat harsh reality. It tends to have a depressing tone as scenes after scenes we are subjected to the hardships of the characters. Yet interestingly enough, you can't get enough of the misery. It helps that all the characters are well developed and the acting from the talented ensemble cast is convincingly realistic.

Plus you get a glimpse of Santiago, Chile. It is a good opportunity to observe the lifestyles of people half way across the globe and reassure yourself that no matter where we call home, we all share and experience similar trials (whether financial, emotional, psychological and/or moral) day in and day out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

UNA PALABRA TUYA
(ONE WORD FROM YOU)

Pelicula: 8th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




A film that highlights the bond of friendship between two blue collar workers. It provides a good perspective into the nuances of life. Rosario and Milagros were high school classmates who meet again and end up working as street sweepers in the city of Madrid. They have different personalities yet somehow their volatile friendship strives amidst numerous trials which beset their humble existence.

Rosario is the more sensible and independent minded one. She is always guarding her feelings against possible disappointments while Milagros is more of a risk taker with a carefree attitude. Although I do sense a certain mental imbalance to Milagros free spirit vibe.

The film excels in presenting well developed characters and we can't help but be invested in their compelling lives. A plausible storyline devoid of exaggerated melodrama, the plot is interspersed with flashbacks that are non intrusive yet vital in better understanding the intriguing personalities of its characters. It vividly focuses on two contrasting personas who dream of a better future yet don't know how to attain their desire.

"Una Palabra Tuya" is an ironic and poignant tragicomedy that explores delusion, extreme loneliness, fear and a starkly harsh reality that invades the lives of these ordinary women who start to believe that perhaps they don't deserve to be happy.

Yet amazingly the film does end on a happier stance. A move towards a redeemed life with an uncertain future yet still tinged with so much hope. What more can we really expect from life?

Monday, October 5, 2009

53 DIAS DE INVIERNO
(53 WINTER DAYS)

Pelicula: 8th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




An abandoned dog triggers the plot of this social awareness tale which delves into the lives of 3 individuals. One cold winter night, 3 complete strangers waiting in a bus stop witness a dog being left behind by its 'owner' who drives off in his car.

Mila is a middle aged teacher recovering from a traumatic experience. It is her first day back at school after a year sabbatical. An unassuming yet attractive woman with a kind heart, she tries to find the strength and courage to forget the disturbing incident. An attack by a student which has scarred her for life.

Valeria is a young musician (cellist) who is having an affair with the instructor/conductor of the quartet. A guy old enough to be her father. Her volatile relationship is heightened as her own mother has lost her joie de vivre after Valeria's father leaves her for a much younger woman.

Celso is a security guard at a department store in a big mall who finds out his wife is pregnant with twins. Hardly able to make ends meet with his meager salary, he resorts to drastic measures which consequently turns his life up side down.

The film alternates between presenting the lives of the 3 strangers without overlapping each other. Each day is introduced on the screen as Monday, Tuesday until Sunday. But I'm not really sure they all amounted to 53 days. I assume it does. I was more concerned with the abrupt editing as some scenes just ended inconclusively. Suddenly the scene says February mid way during the film and resumes with Monday, Tuesday etc yet again.

Despite its simplistic approach, the film had a rather powerful effect. It touched on the subjects of loneliness, sadness, fear, courage and desperation - sometimes all rolled into one in just one scene. At the core of these human interest stories is how different people cope with the obstacles and struggles one faces in life.

Filmed entirely in Spanish with English subtitles, this poignant movie doesn't aim to judge its characters for their course of action but rather makes one wonder what would we do if we found ourselves in their situations? A question that begs to be answered without prejudice nor pride hampering our decisions because after all when it comes to real life, the adage "one size fits all" doesn't apply.
 

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