Sunday, January 31, 2010

EAGLE EYE

Shia LeBoeuf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton,
Michael Chiklis, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Mackie


"If you want to live you will obey"


HBO


D.J Caruso (Disturbia) directs Shia LeBeouf again in this suspenseful thriller. Here he is Jerry Shaw, a copy associate (he works at a copying center) who together with single mother Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) are thrown together by a mysterious phone call from a woman they have never met. She instructs them to follow all her orders or else their families will be in danger. She can trace their every move by using the technology of everyday life such as cellular phones, CCTVs, traffic lights, signboards to control and guide them in their dangerous mission.

Hot on their trail are FBI agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) and Air Force officer Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) who will stop at nothing to discover the truth behind the sudden criminal tendencies of Jerry and Rachel. The scary truth involves a top secret super computer called A.R.I.A (aka as Eagle Eye) who has been programmed to gather intelligence from all over the world. A tool which the Department of Defense uses to protect its citizens from acts of terrorism!

The film is filled with action packed scenes of car chases and things being blown up. It is fast paced and quite loud. As well as some getting to know each other scenes between the two main leads to create a romantic angle. The supporting cast is quite strong with Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson and Michael Chiklis (as the Secretary of Defense) playing vital roles.

Overall, it showcases the disturbing reality of how technology which was developed to make life easier can be easily manipulated to turn our lives into a hellish nightmare. All I can say is there is nothing more fierce and fearsome than a woman scorned!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer,
Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Andrew Garfield


Cinema 5, SM North Edsa




I went out of my comfort zone and delved into a fantasy themed film (not my fave genre) simply because I wanted to see Heath Ledger, again. Sadly, Heath Ledger died while "Imaginarium" was still being filmed. It took three good actors to replace him: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. They all contributed their talent fees to a foundation which will benefit Matilda, Heath's daughter with Michelle Williams. Now you would think that having four actors play the same role would be confusing but in this case it actually made sense — the character’s appearance depends on the person who’s looking at him. His appearance only changed whenever he entered the "Imaginarium".

It is a mirror on the outside but once you enter its realm, you are transported into a surreal, fantasy land where your imagination takes over. You can either choose between vibrant joy or bleak darkness. It is the main 'event' of the traveling show of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) who made a deal with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) to stay immortal. In exchange, Mr. Nick will collect the soul of Valentina, (Lily Cole) the showman's daughter when she reaches 16 years old.

Although it was his last film, Heath Ledger didn't stand out as much as his Joker character in "The Dark Knight". Yet as expected, he totally immersed himself into his role. His character played a pivotal part in piecing the jigsaw puzzles together to better grasp the story. He was in almost 80% of the film so the fact that he didn't live to finish the movie is hardly noticed. Although I have to say he does appear a bit gaunt and haggard, physically.

Terry Gilliam's film takes us on a journey of vibrant and colorful set designs, amazing computer generated graphics set in modern times intertwined with a magical yet believable plot. It is further sustained by a talented pool of great actors who performed their roles, brilliantly. It expounds on the subject of making the right (or wrong) choices in life as well as living with the consequences of that decision. In addition, it also shows that having a creative and healthy imagination could certainly help us face the many challenges we encounter in life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

LAKEVIEW TERRACE

Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington


"What could be safer than living next to a cop?"


HBO



Well to answer the question above, you won't feel safe at all if your neighbor is Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), a LAPD police officer with racial issues. The setting is in California, a married couple, Lisa (Kerry Washington) and Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) move into a supposedly peaceful suburban community called Lakeview Terrace. Once they are nicely settled in, cop Turner reveals his true colors. He is uncomfortable with their interracial relationship and proceeds to make their lives miserable. He hounds them with all kinds of disturbances. But the couple feel powerless as he represents law enforcement and more often than not he gets away with his ugly behavior.

This film unfolds amidst the backdrop of the California forest fires. A tension filled story about "good neighborliness" in a small community. It is a bit predictable but you keep watching till the end just to see if and how the couple face up to their irritating neighbor.

Samuel L. Jackson is in his elements as the relentless racist cop dealing with personal demons. You can't really say for sure if he was bad and evil from the get go or if his personal tragedy turned him into a guy dealing with a lot of resentment and bitterness. Patrick Wilson (in his usual rigid acting style) and Kerry Washington have good chemistry as the harassed couple. You feel a certain degree of sympathy for their plight. They have their plate full with simmering marital issues to handle so they really don't need an unpleasant neighbor to mess up their lives.

Overall, a good solid plot about suburban life with believable characters who are just trying to live in peace. What more can we really ask for?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 SPRING FILM FESTIVAL



The Spring Film Festival showcases four contemporary Chinese-language films that have English subtitles. It will be held on February 3-9, 2010 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City. Tickets are available at P100.

1. In Love We Trust (115 mins)

Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai. Meizhu and Xiaolu were once happily married and a lovely daughter, Hehe, is born to them. After their divorce, both remarry, but when Hehe contracts leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant from a sibling, they face the dilemma of their lives. Their loyalty, relationships, love and commitment are all put to the test.

2. Cape No. 7 (133 mins)

Directed by Wei Te-Sheng. Aga, a frustrated-rock-star-turned-substitute-postman, tries to form a band for a concert organized by the Japanese talent agent, Tomoko. They soon find themselves linked to an earlier time, when a Japanese schoolteacher fell in love with a Taiwanese girl he had to leave behind. This romantic comedy-musical, the all-time movie blockbuster of Taiwan, is a fresh approach to Taiwan’s history as a Japanese colony.

3. The World (105 mins)

Directed by Jia Zhangke. "The World" refers to a theme park that invites visitors to see the world without leaving Beijing. With its replicas of world icons such as the Eiffel Tower and the leaning tower of Pisa, the park and its shows are a glittering attraction, but behind it are lonely workers struggling to communicate and find love. The story follows the pretty dancer Tao and the security guard Taisheng in a film that tries to reflect on the fate of individuals in the face of globalization.

4. Seventeen Years (85mins)

Directed by Zhang Yuan. In her teenage years, Tao Lan accidentally kills her stepsister and is convicted of murder. After seventeen years, she is granted a new year's furlough, but her parents do not fetch her from prison. Tao Lan befriends a prison guard who helps her mount a reunion with her family, but after the tragedy and the heartache, is a reunion possible?

Screening schedule:

February 3, 2010 (Wednesday)
In Love We Trust 11:35am-1:30pm
Cape No. 7 2:00-4:15
The World 4:45-6:30
Seventeen Years 8:00-9:25 (invitational screening)

February 4, 2010 (Thursday)
Seventeen Years 2:00-3:25
The World 3:55-5:40
Cape No. 7 6:10-8:25
In Love We Trust 8:55-10:50

February 5, 2010 (Friday)
The World 2:00-3:45
In Love We Trust 4:15-6:10
Cape No. 7 6:40-8:55
Seventeen Years 9:25-10:50

February 6, 2010 (Saturday)
Seventeen Years 2:00-3:25
The World 3:55-5:40
In Love We Trust 6:10-8:05
Cape No. 7 8:35-10:50

February 7, 2010 (Sunday)
Seventeen Years 2:00-3:25
Cape No. 7 3:55-6:10
The World 6:40-8:25
In Love We Trust 8:55-10:50

February 8, 2010 (Monday)
The World 2:00-3:45
Seventeen Years 4:15-5:40
In Love We Trust 6:10-8:05
Cape No. 7 8:35-10:50

February 9, 2010 (Tuesday)
Cape No. 7 2:00-4:15
In Love We Trust 4:45-6:40
Seventeen Years 7:10-8:35
The World 9:05-10:50

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CHE: PART TWO

Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Joaquim de Almeida, Lou Diamond Phillips, Franka Potente, Rodrigo Santoro, Carlos Bardem



The second installment of Che begins in 1967 after he quits from his posts in the Cuban government and disappears from sight. The film opens with a black and white footage of Castro reading a letter from his trusted ally, Che Guevara. In the letter, he basically tells the public that he is quite fond of Cuba and its people yet he feels he is needed somewhere else. Basically it was his revolutionary streak that led him to spread his brand of armed struggle in nations (Congo, Venezuela) that he felt were 'captured' by imperialism.

The film unfolds in Bolivia, a US backed democratic nation ruled by the military. Che heavily disguised manages to enter legally in La Paz, the capital. He then sets camp deep in the jungle. Partially funded by Cuba and along with other Cuban volunteers, he starts recruiting disillusioned Bolivians to form a guerrilla army. Planted in a harsher terrain with a mixture of revolutionaries form different countries, Ramon (Che changed his name to keep a low profile) encounters a lot of hurdles in his struggle. Until finally, the Bolivian military with help from the CIA and the US government catch up with the small group (after he split the bigger group into three) and captures Che, alive. Consequently he is shot and the film ends with his body (being flown under a helicopter) being airlifted to the capital, La Paz.

The second part was difficult to watch as you view the utterly grim sense of hopelessness of the entire guerrilla movement. Basically a lost cause that faced many hurdles. Among them Che's deteriorating health (he had severe asthma attacks), lack of funds and supplies, the rough environment and massive indifference from the Bolivians, themselves. They didn't necessarily agree with his idealistic vision and were also very wary about a foreigner leading the guerrilla movement. I think that Che himself didn't expect it to fail. He was relentless and never lost his focus. Even though towards the end, he admitted he committed some mistakes in implementing his plan. But purposely driven by his extreme hatred for the US imperialistic rule, he stuck to his guns (pun intended) and paid dearly with his life.

Again Benicio Del Toro gets all the credit as he portrays the maturing revolutionary icon with aplomb. It seems Del Toro never deviated from his realistic characterization. Several times I felt like the actor himself was having an asthmatic attacks. Physically and phonetically, Del Toro was indeed every iota of Che Guevara. Kudos!

There is no need to watch Part One first before you view the second installment. It isn't a sequel as it borders on an entirely different storyline. It focused more on guerrilla warfare as Che had to make several decisions which would affect the outcome of the movement. It also displayed a chronological time frame of the days before his capture and execution. It was still filmed in Spanish with English subtitles and peppered with a cast of multitudes. The movie was well edited despite being 135 minutes long.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

CHE: PART ONE

Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro, Demian Bichir


The world has glorified Che Guevara as an icon of revolution through the years. But it is important to know what he truly represented and to understand the why, where, when and how his struggle against US imperialism (in Latin America and beyond) began. This biopic directed by Steven Soderbergh aims to explore and expose the man behind the armed revolution. It was divided into two full length movies, each lasting more than 2 hours.

Part one documents his early years as a Argentinian doctor who was 'recruited' by Castro and he joins him in his fight against the US backed Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. The film unfolds through various sequences which tend to skip back and forth in a non linear manner. Mainly Che is interviewed by a US reporter while he is on a visit to make a fiery speech at the United Nations. It is also interspersed with scenes to his first encounter with Castro as well as the 'jungle' shots of the armed struggle with other freedom fighters in the woods of Cuba. It is filmed in monochrome as well as technicolor and most of the dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles.

The solid plot is a raw detailed account of those days when we see Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) as a man filled with a genuine passion to help the Cubans overthrow a dictator who has a controlling grip on the populace. While deep inside, Che aims to get rid of the imperialistic rule of the US over Latin America. He is portrayed as a powerful commandant of his troops yet at the same time he prefers recruiting men who already know how to read and write. If not, he assigns someone to teach the illiterates even when they are living under harsh conditions in the unforgiving jungle. Many recruits are drawn to the struggle as his reputation grows among the underground movement. He is revered and feared at the same time. His moral character makes him of one of Fidel Castro's most trusted allies even though he is clearly conceived as an outsider being an Argentine.

The multiple cast consists of a mix of Latin actors with the Puerto Rico born Benicio Del Toro in the main role. His performance as the passionate revolutionary is quite intense yet subtle at the same time. He doesn't overact nor raise his voice yet registers powerfully on screen. Even as the clean cut Che starts to appear gruff from months in the forested area of Cuba, Del Toro doesn't lose focus. In fact, it is the bearded Che which draws tremendous appeal and suddenly you lose sight of Del Toro the actor and see him as Che Guevara. Del Toro was able to provide more valuable insights about the Argentine doctor not only as a freedom fighter but as a person with idealistic views. But very little information is provided about his family life as most of part one unfolds in the thickly forested environment.

An intelligently made biopic of an iconic figure whose story can draw parallels with other celebrated public personalities in history. Yet behind the cause celebre lurks the ugly truth behind his lofty ambitions so we must not be merely swayed by the media hype. I suggest and recommend you watch this film to better understand the man whose bearded face in t-shirts has generated brisk business for merchants, worldwide.

HDTV

The latest craze nowadays is HDTV or High Definition Television sets. Yes they are quite pricey yet I believe that they are a worthy investment in terms of better TV quality and duration. Plus they make a great centerpiece in any home theater system.

Once you do decide to invest in one, it is important to set it up correctly. Naturally, you will have to follow strictly the instructions in the manual, which comes with your brand new HDTV. We all have our own quirks when it comes to reading instructional manuals. Most often than not, they tend to be quite a tedious process. But have no fear because you can always turn to the Internet for guidance. It is teeming with various articles to aid you accordingly without going insane.

Sometimes they even explain it way better than your too technically worded manual. "Hooking Up Your HDTV" is an article, which guides you in better understanding your HDTV. It simplifies the whole process by telling you about the different jacks that comes with your HDTV. I found the article on a free web directory. It contains several articles and tutorials on a wide range of topics. For instance, I found their Advice for the Wise Home Owner article in the legal and finance section quite informative!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

AVATAR

Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver,
Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez


Lido Cineplex, Shaw Tower
Singapore




OK so when "Avatar" opened in all the cinemas here in Manila, I wasn't particularly keen on watching it. I was busy preparing for our vacation and sci-fi themed movies don't interest me. Fast forward to the second day of 2010, it was our last day in Singapore and my sister who's into this genre of movies insisted we (together with mom) watch it. So fine, let's go!

162 minutes later I was awed by the CG images which James Cameron fully utilized to his advantage in narrating a love story that blossoms between a human being in avatar form and a Na'vi in Pandora, an idyllic universe that is threatened by corporate greed.

It is an amazing treat to experience such a kaleidoscope of bright, colorful imagery peppered with interesting characters like avatars, indigenous beings called Na'vi, strange animal forms and of course human beings. The main plot delves on the protection of the environment, the invasion of a foreign land, the massive destruction of a human race and the bullying tactics of a superpower to impose its will on a peace loving society. A community whose habitat just happens to contain a precious material, a rock that costs millions of dollars but it can help save planet Earth from its energy crisis.

While the whole film lasts almost 3 hours, you hardly notice it since there is always something going on in the movie. Whether it is the developing love story, the action filled sequences of the 'battle', the multi-dimensional characters, the fascinating Pandora - everything is a visual feast albeit computer generated but still it was quite stunning! The myriad of hues especially generated through the use of modern technology itself is a sight to behold.

James Cameron surely waited for the appropriate time to bring his huge project to the big screen. I'd say the wait is worth every single cent. Both for him as a director with a wild imagination and for the audience who won't regret viewing his masterpiece.
 

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