Thursday, April 29, 2010

COP OUT

Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Pollak,
Sean William Scott, Adam Brody


"Rock out with your Glock out"



This comedy banks entirely on the premise of Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) a NYPD cop trying to find a memorabilia collector/gangster who by accident got hold of his (the cop's) vintage baseball card. A card worth thousands of dollars, an amount big enough for him to pay for his daughter's wedding. His sidekick well his partner Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) is dragged along for the ride.

So while it is mostly a comedy, I figure it can also qualify as buddy cop film with a few action scenes thrown in for good measure. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan work well together. Willis representing the 'serious' side of law enforcement while Morgan is the goofy comic sidekick cop. Although during certain scenes, I found Tracy Morgan to be extremely annoying.

They both do their best to salvage the poorly written plot line where even the villains are not as threatening as they are portrayed to be. The rest of the cast is composed of Sean William Scott (he was irritating but hilarious at the same time), Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody who despite short roles provide good supporting parts to the 2 main leads.

There are a few laughter inducing scenes, certain action sequences but mostly it runs on a trite premise. Therefore it is the type of film you either catch on cable TV or rent from your local video store if it is the last film left on the rack and you desperately wanted to watch something, anything to keep you entertained for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

DATE NIGHT

Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco
Taraji P. Henson, Common, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta


"One Ordinary Couple.
One Little White Lie."


Cinema 8, Robinsons Galleria



A simple date night turns into a case of mistaken identity for Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) Foster. Soon the rest of their night out on the town turns into a thrilling yet dangerous adventure.

This entertaining family oriented film succeeds largely due to the brilliant comedic timing of its lead stars. The Tina Fey and Steve Carell tandem work well together as a couple whose marriage is mired in a boring existence. Their weekly date night is a good idea as it adds some much needed spice. They also enjoy some time off from the rudimentary tasks of parenthood. I am amazed though at how they were able to nicely adapt to a night filled with car chases, relentless pursuit from the 'bad' guys and strange encounters with shady characters. But the normal people suddenly out of their comfort zones, forced into exceptional situations and their reaction to these scenarios premise is what draws the most laughs.

The film is also sustained by a good supporting cast composed of reliable actors like Ray Liotta, William Fitchner, Taraji P. Henson and a shirtless Mark Wahlberg! Heh. Even though they played somewhat caricature versions of their characters. It was still fun to watch.

So even though the plot is filled with loopholes and is a bit too convoluted to be believable, the film was an amusing entertainment piece. It can qualify as a good date movie!

Monday, April 26, 2010

THE BACK UP PLAN

Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin


"Fall in Love. Get Married. Have a Baby.
Not necessarily in that order!"


Cinema 6, SM Megamall



The back up plan of Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is to get inseminated so she can have a baby. But lo and behold on the same day that she got the procedure done, she meets a really nice guy with a lot of potential. Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) is an entrepreneur who manufactures organic cheese. He is also quite romantic. The rest of the film deals with Zoe's pregnancy as her romance with Stan blossoms. Will he stick around once he finds out she is pregnant? Or will he freak out and run for the nearest exit?

There were some scenes which made me laugh. Although they were not necessarily hilarious. I guess it's just me because I find anything to do with pregnancy, funny. Heh! I do like the chemistry between the main characters. They looked good together. I believe that Jennifer's sparkling personality contributed much to the feel good factor. Boy, can she make pregnancy look glamorous! Never mind that she belches every other minute, that's natural. But to carry twins to full term and still wear high heels seemed a bit far fetched. But since she is JLo with the refreshing persona she can get away with it.

I also figure it is only in the movies that you can find such a great guy. A nurturing self made person with some flaws but overall he was such an endearing character to watch. Alex O'Loughlin did fairly well in his first romantic lead role.

Since this is a romantic comedy naturally the plot plays out with much predictability and concludes with the customary happy ending. But I enjoyed it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

THE INFORMANT!

Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Melanie Lynskey, Joel McHale


"Based on a tattle-tale."



Steven Soderbergh directs this comedy about a whistle blower out to expose anomalies in the corporate world. Based on true events in the early 1970s, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is a biochemist/vice president at ADM, an agri-business firm. He weaves out a fascinating tale of price fixing & kickbacks happening at the company to the FBI.

So the FBI try to gather enough evidence by turning Marc into an informant. This was back in the day when cellphones and computers were non existent so the agents had to rely on bugging devices and wiretapping their informant. But can the FBI truly trust him? Are his accounts/tapes true or based on false pretenses? Has Marc really told the whole truth or did embellish it with his fertile imagination? Watch the film to find out! :D

The beauty of this satire which I'd say could have been written and directed by the Coen brothers (but they didn't) is in the funny dialogue. Most the film is guided by the voice over narration of Marc. Matt Damon as a buffoon out to trick everyone in his path delivers the sharp witted dialogue in the most exquisite manner. His modulation and accent are pitch perfect. Even the trivia parts he narrates are hilarious but witty. For instance this statement really made me LOL (laugh out loud)

"When polar bears hunt, they crouch down by a hole in the ice and wait for a seal to pop up. They keep one paw over their nose so that they blend in, because they've got those black noses. They'd blend in perfectly if not for the nose. So the question is, how do they know their noses are black? From looking at other polar bears? Do they see their reflections in the water and think, "I'd be invisible if not for that." That seems like a lot of thinking for a bear."


The plot is interesting at first. But then as several information are fed to the FBI as well as the viewing public, the storyline borders on the murky side. The film strains to keep the audience interested in the countless and sometimes confusing tale which Mark Whitacre spews out with ease. Nevertheless the brilliant acting from Matt Damon with its funny dialogue saves the film from total confusing destruction!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PRECIOUS:
BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE

Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton,
Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz


"Life is Hard. Life is Short. Life is Painful.
Life is Rich. Life is ... Precious"



Clareece 'Precious' Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) has a tough life. She is obese, illiterate and at only 16 years of age she is pregnant with her second child. The sad part is her own father raped her and sired both her children. She lives in Harlem with Mary (Mo'Nique) her abusive mother who incessantly insults her daughter. Precious is invited to enroll in an alternative school. At the school, she connects with her classmates and through a caring teacher Miss Rains, she hopes that her life can head in a new direction.

This film was difficult to watch. There are scenes where Mary maligns her daughter verbally. Never uttering any word of encouragement or support, she is quite harsh and cruel. But Precious is special. She absorbs all the verbal abuse yet she never admits defeat. Her indomitable spirit shines through as she is prone to daydreaming as a means to escape from her miserable life.

Gibourey Sidibe is so natural as Precious. Her smile is infectious. Her portrayal of Precious is sympathetic. While Mo'nique was quite effective as well. It must have been tough for a stand up comedienne to essay such a mean character but she did it with conviction. The supporting cast which includes Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Paula Patton all performed their roles brilliantly.

So although the film has a depressing tone. There is an underlying sense of triumph for the lead character. Her dreams of raising her children in a right environment is very inspiring. My only issue with the film are the escapism scenes where Precious acts our her dreams, visually. They were intrusive and didn't vibe well with the serious nature of the film. Otherwise, this is definitely a film worth seeing!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

EVERYBODY'S FINE

Robert de Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell


"Frank wanted the holidays to be picture perfect.
What he got was family."


Cinema 4, Glorietta 4



A deeply poignant movie about Frank (Robert de Niro) a retired widower who decides to pay surprise visits to his 4 grown children. The reason is that all of them unexpectedly canceled on a planned family reunion. His trip which is against his doctor's orders takes him to New York, Denver, Chicago and Las Vegas.

As a father who still sees his kids as children and guided by the notion that they are all happy, he is the one surprised when things aren't exactly as rosy as he imagined them to be. It is a pretty sad movie yet at the same time an uplifting eye-opener. Both for the father and his adult children as secrets are revealed and there are several self discovery moments. For me though, the defining moment came at the end of the film where a simple painting conveyed a gamut of emotions.

Robert de Niro as Frank is highly convincing as the lonesome father who simply wanted to be updated about the lives of his children. A role now vacant since his wife died 8 months ago. At first I was appalled at the behavior of his kids who made it seem like he was intruding on their lives by showing up uninvited. Then eventually you realize they all had valid reasons to react that way.

The supporting cast were portrayed by good actors (Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale) and they significantly made the movie an emotionally dramatic tearjerker. So get your hankies ready. This film made me want to call my parents. And I surely did. That is after I dried my tears!

Friday, April 16, 2010

AN EDUCATION

Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper,
Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Rosamund Pike




An honest coming of age picture that shows us the true value of a good education. It is set in the early 1960s in a London suburb called Twickenham. 16 year old Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) lives with her parents whose main concern is for Jenny to be accepted into Oxford.

Jenny is pretty smart. She is a conscientious student with good grades. Yet at the same time, she is perky and frivolous. She likes to pepper her conversation with French phrases, dreams of living in Paris to escape her boring life in dreary U.K.
But her life changes after she meets David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a man over twice her age. He exposes her to cultural activities like concerts and art shows. Something she truly enjoys yet avoids just to cater to her parents wishes. As she gets romantically involved with David and his fascinating lifestyle, Jenny has to decide whether it is better to abandon her plans of higher eduction at Oxford. That is until a conflict pops up and Jenny has to face the consequences of her decision.

Since it is set in an era where women don't have many options even if she acquires higher knowledge, it was interesting for me to note the reaction of Jenny's parents as she mulls about her plans. They kept pushing her to excel so she would be accepted to Oxford then suddenly they change their minds when a potential husband material shows up in the form of the charming David.

Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. Her acting style is refreshing. Her portrayal of Jenny was appropriate. She had enough facial expressions to convey different emotions but she was also able to restrain herself from overtly hysterical reactions.
The rest of the cast are portrayed by known character actors (Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson) who all contribute to the essence of the film.

A simple yet significant movie about the choices we make in life and the appropriate consequences of our decisions!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SHUTTER ISLAND

Leonardo di Caprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams,
Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Ted Levine


"Someone is Missing."


Cinema 4, SM Megamall



From Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese and based on the best-selling thriller by Dennis Lehane, comes "Shutter Island,". A suspenseful thriller that unfolds entirely on an island off Boston that houses Ashecliffe hospital, a facility for the criminally insane.

It is set in 1954 as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo di Caprio) comes to the island to investigate the disappearance of a prisoner/patient. But things are not as easy as black and white on this mysterious island. The inmates/patients are strictly controlled by a team of doctors who aren't totally forthcoming about what really goes on in the island.

The film is actually very well done. Some loud and creepy music highlighted the dramatic parts of the story. It boosts of great acting from its entire cast which include Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Mark Ruffalo among others. Naturally, you have Leo di Caprio as Teddy Daniels in the lead role. His portrayal of a complex and conflicted character is very believable. I like how he has matured from playing romantic leads to essaying highly flawed personas.

Just as the main theme of this haunting mystery is a psychological report on the minds of really dangerous patients, the film is a complex jigsaw puzzle piece that will linger on long after you have left the cinema. A highly analytical mind comes in handy as towards the ending there is a surprising twist that might throw you off balance. So be warned.

I figure the main premise of the film rests on this statement uttered by Teddy Daniels towards the ending:
"Which would be worse - to live as a monster or to die as a good man?"

Suffice to say, I'm not one who likes to include spoilers in my reviews so I suggest you watch this intriguing film, twice. Yes two times. First to simply grasp the tale then return another day with a deeper comprehension of the events to search for clues to the mystery that unfolded on Shutter Island. Believe me, it's worth it!

Monday, April 12, 2010

CLASH OF THE TITANS

Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes,
Gemma Arterton, Jason Flemyng, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos


"Between gods and men, the clash begins!"


Cinema 10, SM Megamall



I read that this remake pales in comparison to the original "Clash of the Titans" which was released in 1981. But since I never saw Harry Hamlin play Perseus, I cannot really make a valid comparison. Besides I hate it when critics and non critics alike compare a remake to its original. Of course, the original will always be better in scope and merit.

So I watched Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod, son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) as he encountered giant scorpions and strange looking creatures during his long journey. A trek that will lead him to Io (Gemma Arterton), Pegasus and Medusa and eventually face his ultimate foe, the hideous and menacing Kraken. Apparently men have forsaken their Gods so Hades (Ralph Fiennes) rage is released upon them. And it all falls on poor Perseus, a reluctant 'hero' to save the city of Argos and mankind.

This fantasy film simply thrives on computer generated special effects, authentic costume design, well choreographed action sequences and large scale shots of brilliant cinematography. Acting wise you have good actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes playing grander than life characters that could use more in depth development. Sam Worthington as Perseus looks pretty much dazed and rigid (much like his role in "Avatar") throughout the entire film. I understand he meant to convey some sort of reluctance on the demigod to show his true potential but I feel that he should have put more effort in his leading role. In fact, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (the antagonist "Le Chiffre" in the James Bond flick "Casino Royale") as Draco stole the thunder from Perseus. Sigh.

Overall, I wasn't really disappointed with the film as I pretty much had low expectations from this good vs evil blockbuster. Pretty much the same reaction I had from watching "Troy". Heh! Though, the thrill of seeing Pegasus (the winged horse) and Medusa with the snakes on her head was enough to keep me entertained for 106 minutes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

THE INTERNATIONAL

Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen


"They control your money. They control your government.
They control your life. And everybody pays."


HBO



In this espionage thriller, the two main characters are Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). They are investigating BCCI which is one of the most powerful banks. It is involved in illegal activities like money laundering, arms trading and the destabilization of governments.

The pursuit of their campaign takes them to exotic locations like Berlin, Milan, New York and Istanbul. They also encounter various "shady" characters like a weapons manufacturer, a consultant for the bank and the head of the bank. Violence and murder also mar their desperate chase to stop the bank from financing terrorism, war and the instability of poor nations.

This slick and suspenseful spy thriller had a rather implausible plot and thrives on the conspiracy theory genre. There are a bit too many characters to muddle the already murky plot. After a while you give up trying to figure out who works for whom. The cast headed by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts try their best to essay out this complicated story with their subtle acting. There were a few scenes where the dialogue was in a foreign language but they didn't provide English subtitles. Strange!

But I'd say ... the gorgeous locations more than make up for the flaws of the film. There is even a spectacular scene of shooting mayhem at the Guggenheim Museum. That scene alone makes this film worth enduring.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

OLD DOGS

John Travolta, Robin Williams, Seth Green,
Kelly Preston, Rita Wilson, Lori Loughlin


"Sit. Stay. Play Dad."




This film is the story of Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams). They are best friends and have been business partners for over thirty years. They manage a PR firm that is on the verge of cutting a business deal with a Japanese company. But a major crisis/conflict rears its ugly head.

Vicki (Kelly Preston) a woman Dan married on an impluse nine years ago then divorced the next day tells him he's the father of her twins! Dan is therefore forced under stressful circumstances to take care of the 7 years old kids for 14 days while Vicki takes care of some minor infraction with the law. The rest of the film shows how Dan with Charlie's help tries to connect with his kids. While at the same time, he should come up with a presentation to impress their Japanese clients.

Although the premise is hardly original as it reminds me of "Father's Day", a movie which also starred Robin Williams in a similar role, this family oriented film was amusing. Not amusing in big laughs kind of way but amusing in the sense that it was averagely good. It was fun to watch the great rapport between Travolta and Williams. Their comedic timing was spot on. Cameo roles from other comedians like Bernie Mac, Seth Green, Matt Dillon added to some chuckles.

A wholesome, funny film with a predictable plot but the cast did good, as expected!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

EVAN ALMIGHTY

Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Morgan Freeman,
John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins


"A Comedy of Biblical Proportions".




This film was supposed to be the sequel to the 2003 Jim Carrey flick "Bruce Almighty" but at the last minute he backed out of the project. So they chose to focus on Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) instead. He was the weatherman/anchor at the same TV station where Bruce worked. Here he is a newly elected Congressman who is eager to change the world.

But the premise that catapulted the original film to blockbuster status is still the same. God is back and he has instructed Evan to build an ark to protect people from a great flood. For the rest of the film, his family and friends doubt and ridicule poor Evan who cannot escape from this gargantuan task ordered by no less than God himself!

So although it is touted as a comedy, there are a few laughs. Most of them courtesy of Steve Carell, an 'intelligent' comedian who I believe is a more convincing actor than the corny mostly slapstick ridden Jim Carrey. There are special effects in the form of the different pairs of animals that show up at Evan's front porch, backyard and seem to follow him everywhere he goes.

But the whole ark building process isn't simply about a flood, it also expounds on the.protect.the.environment message right to the halls of Congress. The very place where most laws are supposedly enacted for the common good yet certain scrupulous lawmakers bend the law(s) in their favor.

A few laughs with a steady cast makes for an alright film with an environmental theme and a feel good ending. It was pleasant enough to keep me entertained on an Easter Sunday!
 

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