Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SHERLOCK HOLMES

Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams


"Nothing escapes him"


Lido Cineplex, Shaw Center
Singapore



If he were alive today I wonder how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the fictional detective character would have reacted to this film adaptation, which got the Guy Ritchie treatment. Ritchie's directorial style pretty much unfolds like a smorgasbord of violence coupled with witty dialogue, close up angles and slow motion sequences served with rapid action filled suspense.

Me? I liked the movie. Robert Downey, Jr did an excellent job in portraying the detective with all his eccentricities shining to the fore. He also had good rapport with Jude Law who played a much younger Watson. They complemented each other both in the movie as contrasting partners in crime sleuthing and as actors fielding their talents on each other. It was a good combination to watch. On the other hand, I couldn't care less for Rachel McAdams's character nor Rachel McAdams herself. She seems out of place in her role. She is more suited for romantic chick flicks. But I figure she will play a bigger role in the sequel since her character is the link to the famous Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. That is if there is indeed a sequel and if she takes up the role again.

Anyways, authentic set design provided a realistic view of that era which history books have documented as a rather bleak period filled with grime and crime festering in the bowels of London. The soundtrack was good enough, a tad loud for some scenes but it added to the dramatic effect of the film.

Overall, I was pretty psyched about watching this film primarily due to Robert Downey, Jr. I am really glad he has cleaned up his act and back to performing good roles again. I hope it continues and I am certainly looking forward to the sequel. There is still alot of avenues to explore vis a vis his quite interesting and intriguing personality. And yes I am referring to both Robert Downey, Jr and Sherlock Holmes. We cannot separate them from each other now. He was born to play the part!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PRIDE AND GLORY

Edward Norton, Jon Voight, Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich


"The last thing you want to uncover ... is the truth."



A multi-generation family of cops, rampant corruption in the police department, cops turning against fellow cops, drugs, violence and a plethora of curse words are really common in most action movies about what else but cops?

But the main draw for me to pick this film was the notable cast. You have Norton, Farrell, Voight, Emmerich all cast in prominent roles as the cops in the Tierney family. They all work together to give this predictable action suspense some much needed bite. I did notice though that women were relegated to minor supporting ones as the wives of cops without much character development to their personalities. But it is an action packed movie after all so I guess that's 'normal'.

Plot wise, after you figure out who the villains are, which cops are corrupt, how the family intends to survive this internal crisis and watch the dead bodies pile up in the dangerous streets of New York, you end up pretty immune and realize that is exactly what you wanted in the first place. Being under alot of stress lately, I didn't want to think too much about the plot. So I just sat there and surprisingly didn't fall asleep watching it even at such a late hour. Just being awed by the good acting prowess of Norton and Farrell giving their all in their roles, kept me awake.

The ending is as expected predictable with justice, personal redemption being reined in to give the characters some degree of salvation. But the cycle of violence continues to turn like a wheel, it is New York City, after all. Yet at least for the Tierney family there is a much delayed closure to their internal struggle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ADORATION

Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman, Arsinee Khanjian, Rachel Blanchard



This latest offering from Canadian director, Atom Egoyan is a thought provoking suspense/drama about a myriad of subjects. It deals mostly with interracial relationships, terrorism, a clash of faith, bigotry and a secretive web of lies amidst a complex and intricate tale.

A simple project of translation for his French class turns into a complicated weave of lies as Simon (Devon Bostick) deceits his fellow students into believing that the couple in the article were his parents. Sabine (Arsinee Khanjian), his French/drama teacher even encourages Simon to continue the deceit as she had ulterior motives in her plan. Through the powerful reach of the Internet, the story goes viral and turns into a cause celebre. Clearly indicating that anything projected through the Web can be manipulated, twisted and things can turn ugly if not properly monitored.

Although the film unfolds through a series of flashbacks, narratives of truths and make believe scenarios, its cast remain focus in their roles. Mostly unknown actors except for Scott Speedman (Felicity) the acting is quite convincing and you are simply drawn and totally invested in the characters' flight.

The complex plot moves at a slow and very steady pace but you find yourself totally transfixed till the very end. It is a fascinating story which keeps your mind active as you feel like asking questions out loud at the screen. Yet as snippets of the truth are revealed, the hidden meaning behind the symbolism of certain objects suddenly becomes a lot clearer. Towards the end, there is a sense of liberation for the audience as well as for the main protagonist, Simon.

I've read about Atom Egoyan's penchant for integrating ethnic cultural inheritance in his body of work. But this is the first film by the Canadian director of Armenian descent that I've seen so I cannot really make a valid comparison. But I'm very interested in movies which explore cultural ethnicity, beliefs and faith so I enjoyed "Adoration", a lot!

Friday, December 4, 2009

AMELIA

Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston


"Defying the impossible. Living the dream."


Cinema 5, SM Megamall




The main problem with biopics is that 2 hours is not enough to correctly capture the major (and minor) details of a person's life. Usually the life story is crammed into snippets and vignettes about what the scriptwriter deems is important enough to deserve a scene or two to be presented to a keen audience.

Amelia Earhart lived a full life. A rather brief life yet she accomplished so much and pioneered in an industry that was dominated by rich men. She was neither wealthy nor a man for that matter yet she was ambitious and never let any hurdles stand in her soaring career as a woman pilot. She was blessed to have the loving support of her husband, publisher George Putnam, a man who not only believed in her ability but moved heaven and earth to get her the much needed funds to fuel her lofty ambitions.

Hilary Swank as the indomitable Amelia Earhart was charming to say the least. She has always been a good actress and essays all her roles with ease. I don't think it is her fault if some of the dialogue sounded quite lame especially when Amelia and George exchanged lovey dovey sweet nothings. Richard Gere was in his elements as George Putnam, the publishing magnate who was her personal cheering squad, her financial adviser, her partner and simply her everything. I just found the pairing a bit odd (although he was indeed 10 years older than Amelia) but the chemistry was palpable so I guess it works.

The film itself seemed like a smorgasbord of the many achievements in Earhart's amazing career presented through a myriad of on and off flashbacks, voice narration and stunning cinematography. The plot moved at a steady sometimes slow pace as it attempted to present her many crowning glories.

The exciting part comes towards the few remaining minutes of the film when Amelia embarks on her final and rather mysterious journey to circumnavigate the world. Everybody knows how that flight ended in tragedy yet it was interesting to watch what exactly went wrong during that fateful flight. I wish they concentrated more on her last epic flight yet as nobody knows what really happened during that flight, I guess they couldn't elaborate much on that scene. So her 'disappearance' will forever be part of an aviation myth. Sadly and unfortunately so!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TAKEN

Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen


"They took his daughter. He'll take their lives."



When you hear the word "taken" you assume it refers to an alien abduction. But this film isn't about UFOs although an abduction does occur.

Kim (Maggie Grace from "Lost"), a 17 year old girl and her companion travel to Paris for the first leg of the world tour of the group U2. Once there, they are kidnapped by an Albanian syndicate who deals in the flesh trade. Well they picked the wrong girl since her father would stop at nothing just to retrieve his daughter from the bad guys. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is an overprotective (with good reason) father who used to work for the government (I assume the CIA) so he truly knows all the perils lurking in this world.

A thin Liam Neeson looking a big haggard proved himself a worthy action star. His stunts were amazing. His ability to defend himself was skillful. The fast paced car chases were quite credible too. A man driven by his love for his daughter, he was truly relentless in his pursuit. Good acting!

This film is full of thrilling action sequences. As well as some violent scenes which I believe were necessary to depict an authentic picture of the bleak criminal world. It is set in gorgeous Paris yet it clearly exposes the dark side of the city of lights. A murky world of criminal elements, innocent minors trapped in the lucrative flesh trade, colluding policemen and the high rollers who wheel and deal in high class prostitution.

I admit the plot is a bit far fetched. Even though Bryan has all his connections/contacts at his disposal, it is highly improbable (in the real world) for him to have found his daughter just in time to save her from misery. Anyway, the suspense and thrill more than made up for this slight oversight.

So from the film, I was able to gather that one needs to be always alert and vigilant especially when traveling abroad. Plus if you do find yourself in deep trouble while overseas, you'd wish that Liam Neeson (with all his espionage skills) would be the one who will come barging down just to save you from a hellish existence! Hehe
 

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