Monday, January 31, 2011

17th SAG Awards



The Screen Actors Guild annually honors outstanding film and TV performances.

Here is the full list of winners:
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
"The King's Speech"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes, "Temple Grandin"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Al Pacino, "You Don't Know Jack"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Modern Family

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White, "Hot in Cleveland"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
"Boardwalk Empire"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"

Screen Actors Guild Awards 47th Annual Life Achievement Award
Ernest Borgnine

Saturday, January 29, 2011

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson


"Nic and Jules had the perfect family,
until they met the man who made it all possible"




The kids in this case would be Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the two teenage children of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a married lesbian couple. They are curious to know the identity of their common biological father, the sperm donor.

After they secretly (they kept it from their moms) find out who he is, they seek him out. Their father is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a successful entrepreneur who owns a restaurant that serves organic food.

Soon enough, the kids can no longer keep their secret so Paul is introduced to the family. This creates strain as they each form their respective opinions on Paul's 'role' in their cozy little family.

But it seems, it's the adults who are having problems with Paul's presence. Nic is a control freak and the more domineering partner in the marriage. While Jules is more laid back and has easily settled into domesticity but yearns to kick-start her career as a landscape designer.

The kids are both level-headed, respectful and pretty normal in spite and despite their unusual upbringing and as the title suggests well the kids are just fine.

This alternative film brings forth a refreshing perspective on a growing part of society - the same sex marriage. Regardless, it is clear that Nic and Jules are dedicated to each other, and devoted to their children. They struggle to overcome the obstacles and rough patches that tend to plague every marriage.

All the characters are realistically flawed, some more than others. Yet they are quite endearing to watch. The story flows with an easy consistency. And give or take a few glaring plot holes, it settles into a groove with a very satisfying ending.

The cast do justice to their roles quite effectively. Ruffalo does a good job because his charms belie the many flaws of this unique character. Bening is convincing, though her character feels like a stereotype. Moore brings just enough exasperation to her character to suggest a frustration that has been nurtured over the years. I like to add that I was surprised that Annette Bening was nominated for her role as Nic. I don't mean to diminish her talent but I got the impression that Julianne Moore's performance was way better.

So while there are funny moments which made me laugh out loud, this film is clearly a dramatic family oriented story. Just bear in mind, they are an unconventional yet quite the modern family of our times.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RABBIT HOLE

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest
Sandra Oh, Miles Teller


"Love will get you through"



This film is adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire. It features a married couple who are dealing with a shocking, sudden loss. Just 8 months ago, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart)lost their 4 year old son in a tragic accident.

Now as they try to glue back their shattered lives, they are caught in a murky maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and rage that is trapping their existence. We are shown the different coping mechanisms that Becca and Howie adapt either individually or as a couple to deal with their pain.

The film is an understated, neatly written drama that is deeply moving in its slow exploration of human behavior. It is also a very realistic portrayal of an ordinary couple who are dealing with an anguished grief that no one can even imagine to begin to understand, let alone experience and endure.

It is no wonder that Nicole Kidman is once again nominated for best actress. Luminous as ever, devoid of any make up and not resorting to hysterics, she manifests her grief, brilliantly. Her characterization of a stoic Becca was a subtle yet powerful performance. Aaron Ackhart, as expected was solid and steady in his role.

I like how the film ends with a question mark. When Becca asked Howie "And then what?" His answer signified there is some hope yet at the same time the question is not really answered. The vagueness though clearly told us the audience that Becca and Howie will eventually be alright, no matter how long it takes as long as they faced the future, together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I AM LOVE

Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti,
Alba Rohrwacher, Edoardo Gabbriellini




Tilda Swinton stars as Emma Recchi, a Russian who has married into a wealthy Milanese family. As the wife of an industrialist, her existence is pretty mundane. Mostly she is an effective hostess for the family's parties and social gatherings. Her three grown children have busy lives of their own. Emma's life is turned upside down as she wakes from a slumber like existence upon meeting Antonio. A close friend of her son with whom she embarks on a passionate affair.

Amid all the luxuries on display in this Italian film (the grand mansion, the paintings, as well as gloved servants) nothing holds your gaze as forcefully as Tilda Swinton's alabaster face. Swinton dominates the movie. Speaking in an elegantly Russian-inflected Italian, she fits the role of the matriarch quite well. When the first shock waves of change hit her, she absorbs them internally. She is still able to maintain her composure even though clearly she has been awakened. Towards the end of this soaring melodrama, which closes with a funeral, Emma's face will have crumpled into a ruin. But it will also be fully alive, having been granted freedom from the rigid trappings of a cloistered life.

The camera work blends together serene shots of the family gatherings along with vast footage of scenery. Scenes of snow filled Milan or a lush meadow filled with insects tend to invade your senses. Dialogue is mostly in Italian with a sputtering of English and Russian thrown in. The film also has an operatic musical score that cleverly bursts through certain scenes. It certainly added to the melodramatic tone of the film.

Yet in the last 20 minutes of the film, when the shocking climax arrives it is devoid of any sound. I had to reach for the remote control because I thought I had muted the sound. When the picture ends in full-blown, melodramatic tragedy, we realize everything that had come before was a pleasant tease of a crescendo, leading up to an almighty finale.

I have to admit this movie won't appeal to every taste. But it is a sensational piece to look at, powerfully acted, and delivers quite an emotional kick.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

KNIGHT AND DAY

Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano




June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is going home to attend her sister's wedding. At the airport she literally bumps into a man whose life is more exciting and a lot more dangerous than your average guy. Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) turns out to be a secret agent who is being pursued both by the good (the FBI) and the bad guys. So poor June finds herself tangled in a web of deceit, betrayal and everything else that will surely ruin her ahem dull existence.

This second pairing of Cruise and Diaz (the first was in "Vanilla Sky") is action packed and fast paced. It has car chases. The characters perform dangerous stunts. Exotic locales like Spain, Jamaica and Austria provide the scenic background. You have some funny banter between the mismatched characters. And there is surely some chemistry between Cruise and Diaz. Well if you can get over the fact that Cameron Diaz is always screaming and flailing her arms in her attempt to play a damsel in distress. I found that quite irritating.

For some reason, I've always found Cameron Diaz's 'brand' of acting mediocre as she seems to strive on portraying characters who aren't too bright and dare I say quite dumb. But I like to add that I was impressed by her 'wit' when I saw her being interviewed by Oprah. She does have a good head on her shoulders in real life so I figure she should count for something. Too bad, she likes to portray "silly" characters. Heh!

So "Knight and Day" had its moments (great locations, well choreographed action sequences) as well as its flaws (unbelievable plot) but it was fairly entertaining while it lasted.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

5th Chinese Spring Film Festival



Now on its fifth year, the Ateneo de Manila University Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies and Confucius Institute once again stages the Spring Film Festival of Chinese films. The Chinese Spring Film Festival features riveting and critically-acclaimed productions from January 27 to February 1 at the Shang’s Premiere Theatre.

The Spring Film Festival is organized every year to promote Chinese language and culture in mainstream Philippine society, particularly among young Filipinos so they can become bridges between China and the Philippines. This year's festival features a mix of mega epic, award winners and great entertaining movies.

For more information, please call Ateneo Leong Center at (632) 426-6001 local 5208, 5209, 5280. For tickets, please call Shang Cineplex at (632) 633-2227.


Schedule:

Mulan
January 27 - 7:00pm
January 28 - 4:10pm
January 30 - 9:00pm
January 31 - 6:50pm
February 1 - 9:00pm

Forever Enthralled
January 27 - 2:00pm
January 28 - 8:30pm
January 29 - 6:10pm
January 30 - 4:00pm
January 31 - 2:00pm
February 1 - 4:10pm

Grand River
January 27 - 4:50pm
January 28 - 2:00pm
January 29 - 4:00pm
January 30 - 6:50pm
January 31 - 9:10pm
February 1 - 2:00pm

Queen of Cooking
January 27 - 9:20pm
January 28 - 6:30pm
January 29 - 2:00pm
January 30 - 2:00pm
January 31 - 4:50pm
February 1 - 7:00pm

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cecil B. DeMille Awardee

Here's Robert de Niro accepting the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at the recently concluded Golden Globes. Matt Damon introduced him by showing a short montage of De Niro's greatest films. Who knew he had a funny bone in him? I found his speech hilarious!


Monday, January 17, 2011

THE GOLDEN GLOBES 2011

The Golden Globes Awards were handed out in a show hosted by funny man Ricky Gervais. His off hand jokes at the expense of the hapless celebrities were sometimes offensive, other times funny. Overall, it is one big party where TV stars and film actors get to mingle with each other. Acceptance speeches of various lengths were uttered. Fashion also took center stage. But mostly it is a great way to honor the best performances for the past year in the movie and TV world.


Here are the winners:
Best Motion Picture - Drama
The Social Network

Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Natalie Portman - Black Swan

Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Colin Firth - The King's Speech

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
The Kids are All Right

Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Annette Bening - The Kids are All Right

Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Paul Giamatti - Barney's Version

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale - The Fighter

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 3

Best Foreign Language Film
In a Better World

Best Director - Motion Picture
David Fincher - The Social Network

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
The Social Network

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
The Social Network

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
"You have seen the Last of Me" - Burlesque

Best TV series - Drama
Broadwalk Empire

Best Actress TV series - Drama
Katey Sagal - Sons of Anarchy

Best Actor TV series - Drama
Steve Buscemi - Broadwalk Empire

Best TV series - Comedy or Musical
Glee

Best Actress TV series - Comedy or Musical
Laura Linney - The Big C

Best Actor TV series - Comedy or Musical
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory

Best Miniseries or Picture made for TV
Carlos

Best Actress in a Miniseries or Picture made for TV
Claire Danes - Temple Grandin

Best Actor in a Miniseries or Picture made for TV
Al Pacino - You don't know Jack

Best Supporting Actress in TV series or Miniseries
Jane Lynch - Glee

Best Supporting Actor in TV series or Miniseries
Chris Colfer - Glee

Sunday, January 16, 2011

THE TOURIST

Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell


"The perfect trip. The perfect trap."


Cinema 5, Trinoma




The film opens with a surveillance team trailing the alluring Elise Ward (Angelina Jolie) in hopes of finding Alexander Pierce. The elusive 'thief' is being pursued for stealing millions of money from a ruthless gangster named Reginald Shaw. Along comes Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) an ordinary American tourist sitting in a train on his way to Venice. He crosses path with Elise who "tags" hims as Alexander Pierce. The hapless tourist soon finds himself being caught in vicarious situations which certainly ruin his Italian vacation. Or does it?

As we are brought along this journey, we try desperately not to be distracted by Angelina Jolie's beauty nor Johnny Depp's innocent like charming ways. Nor do we get enthralled by the sheer magnificence of the location. Instead, we attempt to get lured into the story line.

But slowly we realize the plot is pretty implausible and it doesn't offer any major crisis to ruffle the main characters. Well, nothing they can't truly handle given that they seem to be doing quite fine, together. Only then do we allow ourselves to soak in and bask in the splendid cinematography and the hypnotic pull of the two lead stars.

Depp and Jolie are a terrific screen pair, given plenty of opportunities to show their acting chops in this double twisting story. Undercover or under stress, Jolie is never under dressed, floating in gorgeous gowns from Paris to Venice. While Depp is simply magnetic in his part as the innocent bystander caught in a little game of hide and seek.

This film is certainly quite a far cry from German director Donnersmarck's Best Foreign Language Oscar winning "The Lives of Others". A film I caught at the Cine Europa Film Festival in 2007. It was an intriguing tale of espionage where the East German Secret Police were taping its citizens.

"The Tourist" is an enjoyable escapist fare. It is light and witty with a few twists thrown in and naturally has some nice happy ending. Very Hollywood!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

THE GHOST WRITER

Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall


"Read between the lies"




A ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is hired to finish the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister named Adam Lang. Interesting enough, the real name of the ghostwriter is never revealed throughout the film, he is simply addressed without being called by any name.

"The Ghost" is an immediate replacement for a former aide of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) who mysteriously committed suicide. Before his sudden demise, the aide was able to finish an initial draft of the autobiography. The Ghost who was never written a political bio in his career is at first hesitant and a bit apprehensive about the task. Rightfully so since he is now firmly stuck in the public scandal that is plaguing Mr Lang. The former Prime Minister is accused of abetting the kidnapping and torture of some terrorists.

Amidst these thrilling premise, the film takes off on a suspenseful tone. This well crafted film is mostly set on an isolated beach side mansion under heavy security measures. Everything is carefully scrutinized, even the manuscript of the memoirs is kept under a locked box. There are specific instructions on the handling of the draft.

The fascinating characters who populate the movie are authentically portrayed. From the ghostwriter, the embattled former Prime Minister, his somewhat bitter wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) to his faithful assistant Amanda (Kim Cattrall). They are all played by credible actors who gave each character much depth. Special kudos goes to Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang, her stellar performance of a multidimensional character was quite memorable.

Roman Polanski's latest film is nicely constructed to hold an audience to the very end. From its bleak beginnings which forebodes of numerous intrigues to its haunting and inevitable conclusion - I truly felt that the 'infamous' director was in total control of this very good project. It is just a shameful pity that he isn't in top control of his personal life. Heh!

Monday, January 10, 2011

SHANGHAI

John Cusack, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Chow Yun Fat,
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, David Morse


"In a world filled with secrets, solving a mystery can be murder."


Star Movies




This ambitiously cast film was mesmerizing because it was able to recreate the feel of the city of Shanghai in the 1940s. It had all the key ingredients of a film noir reminiscent of past classics from Bogart and Bacall. There were voice over narration, an intriguing plot, authentic costume design of classic cuts and tailor made suits, the clever use of flashbacks (in sepia and black and white tones) and vivid cinematography.

The story revolves around Paul Soames (John Cusack), a naval intelligence officer (aka a spy) under the disguise of a journalist who investigates the murder of his colleague/friend Conner. Conner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was able to unmask the eerie plan of the Japanese empire in China. In his quest to find out the truth about the murder, Soames meets some interesting characters who may or may not be involved in the sinister crime. You have Anna Tan-Ling (Gong Li) who is the mysterious wife of the local gang lord Anthony Tan-Ling (Chow Yun Fat). The Triad boss has political and mafia connections with Capt. Tanaka (Ken Watanabe), the head of Japanese intelligence in Shanghai.

The multinational cast totally contributed in ensuring this grandiose production was a success. John Cusack as the protagonist exuded a Bogart vibe with his subtle and calm performance. The attractive Gong Li, as the femme fatale was sultry and mysterious. Chow Yun-Fat's portrayal of the mob boss was charming in a secretive sort of way. And of course, my favorite Asian actor Ken Watanabe as Capt. Tanaka was eerie and sinister yet quite eloquent and elegant as well. They were also finely supported by talented actors such as David Morse, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Franka Potente in brief yet significant roles.

Overall, "Shanghai" was engaging in its presentation of a complex storyline of espionage, political intrigue with some tinge of romance. It was also straightforward and easily understandable due to the talented ensemble cast.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

WHITEOUT

Kate Beckinsale, Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht,
Columbus Short, Alex O'Loughlin


"See your last breath"


HBO




In this icy thriller drama, Kate Beckinsale is a U.S. marshal racing to solve a series of murders in Antarctica before research facilities are locked down for six months due to the fierce polar winter. The crimes have something to do with a downed Soviet cargo plane which crashed in 1957 and is now buried under the massive ice slopes.

Whiteout's opening scene where a plane plummets towards its doom on crusted ice shelves might deceive you into thinking that you are in for a whodunit suspenseful thriller. So you will only get disappointed if that is what you expect.

Then it flashes forward to current times, where U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) has taken the worst assignment possible to banish memories of a bust gone bad in Miami. A dead body is discovered by Stetko and she suddenly has to solve the murder (which has links to the earlier plane crash) before they should leave in order to escape from the harsh 6 months when the sun decides not to show up and bitter winds and snowstorms blast you beyond freezing point.

The movie seems to strive on bad dialogue, the presentation of a myriad of characters (who could all be the suspects) and staging action sequences during blinding blizzards. This makes it doubly hard since you can hardly recognize the characters since they are all covered up in thick hooded parkas.

As a U.S Marshall, Beckinsale doesn't seem particularly tough, authoritative or knowledgeable. She also has a pathetically blank slate throughout the film. Maybe the extreme cold weather affected her acting skills. Equally, the supporting cast led by Tom Skerritt could only do so much to give some warmth to a film that is as barren as its setting. Then Whiteout's hack-and-slash sensibility just turns it into a CSI: Antarctica Edition with the anticlimactic ending thrown in just for the heck of finally finishing the film.

I'd say it is just another 96 minutes to waste on a Saturday evening parked in front of the telly!
 

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