Sunday, March 27, 2011

CERTIFIED COPY

Juliette Binoche, William Shimell



British author James Miller (William Shimell) is in Tuscany to promote his latest book. He accepts an offer from French gallery owner Elle (Juliette Binoche) to be his guide for the afternoon. They drive to nearby villages, discussing art, honesty and relationships.

During the course of their journey, the 2 main characters start to assume another identity. An old woman at a tavern that serves them beverages thought they were a married couple. Soon enough, they pretend that they are indeed married and completely dissect the anatomy of their failing 'marriage'.

The rather unique innovation of this peculiar film, however, is that the more we watch, the less sure we are about the relationship we're watching. Are these people two strangers discovering fascinating clashes and affinities, or have they known each other for years? Are they, in fact, husband and wife? But Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami never completely spells things out, assuming audiences can think for themselves and appreciate all the film's subtleties and intonations.

"Certified Copy" is also a kind of middle-aged answer to the "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" movies, with two attractive people walking around a beautiful European location, in this case Tuscany, talking nonstop and getting to know each other. And just like the above mentioned Linklater movies, you can all chalk it down to simply two people having a conversation.

One of them just happens to be the refreshing Juliette Binoche who can make the everything seem quite ethereal. Every nuanced emotions is clearly expressed on her luminous face. The fact that she speaks French, English and Italian quite fluently and eloquently in this intriguing film proves how talented she is. Aside from the lovely scenery, she is a good reason to endure this film which I reckon won't really appeal to moviegoers who don't like 'talkative' characters.

If you see "Certified Copy," I bet you'll come up with questions of your own. And as long as you're not expecting to get any answers, you'll be rewarded with a uniquely provocative film.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CITY ISLAND

Andy Garcia, Julianna Marguiles, Emily Mortimer
Steven Strait, Ezra Miller, Alan Arkin


"Truth is stranger than family"



Meet the Rizzos. Vince (Andy Garcia) is a corrections officer aka prison guard who dreams of being an actor. Joyce (Julianna Marguiles) is his nagging wife who thinks Vince is having an affair. Vivian (Dominick Garcia Lorido), their teenage daughter lost her college scholarship and now works as a pole dancer. While Vince, Jr (Ezra Miller) has a fetish for morbidly obese women.

This dysfunctional family live in City Island, a fishing community in the Bronx area of New York. An obscure enclave that retains a New England quaintness to it. So serene you hardly believe that is located in the Bronx of all places!

An abundance of secrets which they all keep from each other reign supreme in this emotionally engaging family drama. As the secrets start to cleverly unravel, the film takes on a complicated twist that just churns out quite funny moments.

The ensemble cast are energetic and funny in their well developed roles. The tempo is upbeat and the dialogue is sparkling. Underneath the intentionally convoluted plot, this is a pretty simple comedy that is thoroughly enjoyable. It does have an often ridiculous yet superb script. The quaint setting provides a good backdrop to this delightfully funny film.

Highly recommended!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

UNSTOPPABLE

Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson


"1 million tons of steel. 100,000 people at risk.
100 minutes to impact."



This suspenseful drama is based on true events. A runaway train carrying inflammable substance is hurling towards a string of Pennsylvania towns. It threatens to derail as it reaches a dangerous curve. The authorities have tried every attempt possible to stop the train but their efforts are not successful. Until Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) a veteran train engineer and his rookie conductor Wil Colson (Chris Pine) decide to pursue the train and stop it from behind.

As the chase intensifies, the two guys start to bond. The younger Colson confides about his marital problems while Barnes, a widower talks about his daughters. Two perfect strangers who just happen to work together soon find themselves the center of attention as local news networks broadcast their heroic efforts, live.

Since the remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123" (which also starred Denzel Washington), director Tony Scott must have developed a passion for trains and he knows how to maximize every aspect of shooting them. The runaway train is the film's ominous main character and Scott's direction has the utmost impact with large scale cinematography from all angles. The bright, bold color palette, and the thin layer of grain that Scott decided to go with, no doubt to give it a gritty feel. Plus an over the top soundtrack to heighten the dramatic effects.

Chris Pine and Denzel Washington work well together. But surely you can always rely on the forceful yet steady performance of Denzel Washington as a reluctant hero to save the day, any time any where danger lurks.

An entertaining popcorn film that delivers all the right punches sans any distracting side plots. It is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seats.

Monday, March 14, 2011

L'ARNACOEUR
(HEARTBREAKER)

Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier
Francois Damiens, Andrew Lincoln


"He's broken every heart except his own ... until now"




This French romantic comedy set in exotic locales (Morocco, Monte Carlo) started off on a good note then slowly self destructs. An unusual plot with eccentric characters, it thrives on false pretenses and cheesy romantic moments.

Alex Lippi (Romain Duris) is a professional 'heartbreaker'. He is in the business of breaking up relationships. He has only 2 main rules: he doesn't bed the women and he only breaks up unhappy relationships. This whole enterprise triumphs with the joint effort of his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrier) and her husband Marc (Francois Damiens) who take care of all the logistics involved in making sure Alex is successful. He achieves this by using his irresistible charms to make the female half of a couple realize that her beloved is not the one for her.

In his next job, he is given only 10 days to prevent the imminent wedding of a wealthy wine connoisseur Juliette Van Der Becq (Vanessa Paradis) to English philanthropist Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln). Although they are head over heels in love with each other, her father a tycoon thinks otherwise and therefore hires Alex to intervene.

The plot then weaves into a complex and profoundly stupid slapstick subplots with a slew of British and American pop culture adding to the foolishness. Its repeated allusions to the British group Wham! and the Patrick Swayze movie "Dirty Dancing" were so corny. A banal romantic farce set to an awfully saccharine soundtrack, it's quite predictable.

Amazingly, Romain Duris is a big star in France even though his looks are quite average even bordering on the ugly. :D While Vanessa Paradis is more popularly known as a singer/model and the life partner of Johnny Depp, so her acting skills leave much to be desired.

The saving grace would be the alluring locales and the fashionable wardrobe of the characters. I think only the French can come up with such an absurd story and disguise it as a romantic comedy. Yet Hollywood seems to be interested in such shallow entertainment and a remake is in the works. Gosh! Let's just hope the American version will be much better.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

GENOVA

Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis
Willa Holland, Perla Haney-Jardine


Star Movies




Michael Winterbottom the director of "A Mighty Heart" aka the Daniel Pearl story regales us once again with a haunting tale set in Italy. Joe (Colin Firth) a professor and his two daughters move to Genoa after a car accident which claimed his wife's life. He believes the change in location will help them cope with their grief. Barbara (Catherine Keener) a friend and co-faculty member now based in Genoa help the family adjust to their new surroundings by finding them an apartment and touring them around the historical city. Ten year old Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) and 16 year old Kelly (Willa Holland) adapt fairly well or do they?.

Little Mary who is still quite traumatized begins to see the apparition of her dead mother. While Kelly spends most of her time with her friends at the beach and at parties. She tends to neglect her sisterly duties. Joe, on the other hand simply strides along and he seems oblivious or probably in denial over the disturbing behavior of his children.

I was shocked with Joe's parenting style. He seemed really indifferent and didn't react more as his younger daughter was slowly losing her senses. And his older daughter was turning into a rebellious teenager. But perhaps, he himself was pretty despondent and he didn't know how to deal with his numbing loss. Heck even his friend Barbara noticed how he didn't do more to reach out to his kids.

The narrow alleys, beautiful churches and cavernous mountains of this Italian city provide an excellent backdrop to the subtle unfolding of the low key dramatic moments. The pacing of the plot is pretty slow as summer is in full bloom with the heat blistering away, the characters seem pretty languid and carefree. I believe that convincing acting from the entire cast and the gorgeous cinematography saves this film from complete doom.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LEAP YEAR

Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott


"Anna planned to propose to her boyfriend on February 29th.
This is not her boyfriend."


HBO



Much to her chagrin, Anna (Amy Adams) doesn't get a much expected marriage proposal from Jeremy (Adam Scott) on the eve of his trip to Ireland to attend a medical conference. She is encouraged to follow an Irish tradition that unfolds on February 29. On that date, a woman can propose to her boyfriend known as the leap year proposals. She packs her bags and heads to Ireland to achieve her plan.

Unfortunately, bad weather intervenes and she is forced to land in Wales and must find a way to make it to Dublin. Stuck in a bleak Scottish town, she hires an inn owner, Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her to the Irish capital. The movie focuses on their journey which is fraught with numerous obstacles.

Amy Adams is a delight to watch as she is determined to make it to Dublin. Her encounters with unfriendly locals, missed trains and the Irish countryside doesn't deter her plan. She had a convincing rapport with Matthew Goode but half of the time I admit I couldn't understand his accent. I did admire the setting which consisted of ruins of castles and vast mountains surrounded by the ocean. Never mind that it was morosely bleak due to the incessant rains.

The story itself has been done many times in other films like "French Kiss" so the ending was predictable. But I was too sick to watch anything else on the telly. I'm just surprised I didn't doze off while viewing it.

"May you never steal, lie, or cheat, but if you must steal, then steal away my sorrows, and if you must lie, lie with me all the nights of my life, and if you must cheat, then please cheat death because I couldn't live a day without you."

The above lovely yet somehow cheesy quote was (for me) the best part of the film. But strangely enough it wasn't uttered by any of the main characters.

Friday, March 4, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terence Stamp


"Your fate has been adjusted"


Cinema 6, SM Megamall



This sci-fi romance is the directorial debut of George Nolfi. A screenwriter of such films as "Ocean's 12" and "The Bourne Ultimatum", he adapted this film from a short story by Philip K. Dick entitled "The Adjustment Team". Nolfi deviated from the original story by casting Matt Damon as a politician instead of an insurance salesman.

The film starts with David Norris (Matt Damon) as a young politician running to represent New York in Congress. Nolfi conveys all this in a brisk opening montage that enlists the services of Jon Stewart and various pundits to lend credence with the feel of a real campaign trail. David's first attempt is not successful but it leads him to a brief, but life-altering encounter with a mysterious stranger named Elise (Emily Blunt) in the men's room just before he delivers his concession speech.

Yet unfortunately David's fate doesn't include the presence of Elise in his life. A plan has been pre-designed for David's destiny and it is strictly being enforced by fedora wearing men in suits carrying some interactive notebook. These group of men who can weave through the streets of New York by entering different doors try everything with their strange powers to manipulate David's life. They must make sure that David gets to fulfill his chosen role.

Nothing much is revealed about these people. Or why and how they go about their procedure. One of them just says "we are the people who make sure things go according to plan." Who is directing these plans are likewise not divulged. They could be angels or members of the CIA but they are the godlike manipulators who dictate the way of the world.

Be that as may, we must also take into consideration the fact that at the core of this film is a budding romance between David and Elise. I know it is a bit difficult to ignore these men with hats. But somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind I simply chose to focus on the romantic aspect instead of the existential sci-fi elements present in the film. David and Elise look good together, they bring out the best in each other so you can't help but root for them to find each other again and stay together never mind that fate seems to think otherwise.

Matt Damon has always had solid performances in most of his films. While Emily has blossomed and come into her own persona. A long way from her short secretary role in "The Devil wears Prada". They work well together, their rapport is palpable. They are joined by good actors in supporting roles like Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp. Their portrayal of the members of the bureau were authentic even though you can't really figure out who they are or what they stand for.

The Adjustment Bureau was an odd, fascinating story which I thoroughly enjoyed. I could identify with the way the romance unfolded. It was unique in that it completely strips the film of its sci-fi trappings by making it into a love story, and a rather moving one at that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

THE MESSENGER

Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Samantha Morton


HBO




The US Army's Casualty Notification Service is in charge of informing the next of kin that their relatives have died while serving her/his country in Iraq. The bearer of this extremely sad news has strict instructions on how to deliver this unfortunate information as well as how to handle the grieving relatives.

In this poignant film, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) a seasoned 'messenger'. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) a young soldier who was wounded in Iraq and sent home has now been assigned to this Service. Sort of an apprentice to Capt. Stone, Will soon finds out first hand about profound grief and anguish as expressed by the relatives who are told the bad news. After informing Olivia (Samantha Morton) of her husband's death, Will finds himself attracted to her. And as Olivia, Will and Tony pick their way through the delicate situation, all three are forced to deal with emotions they had become used to hiding.

Woody Harrelson who was nominated for this role delivers a subtle yet very effective performance. His characterization of Capt. Stone is a mixed ball of emotions. Stoic as he bears the news yet he also has quite a temper. A recovering alcoholic, it was probably his coping mechanism to escape from the stress of delivering bad news.

But kudos must also be given to Ben Foster. This young actor who I first saw in the TV series "Six Feet Under" has always been impressive in most of his subsequent roles. Here, you must not be deceived by his boyish looks as Staff Sgt. Will has been through a very harsh tour of duty in Iraq. He is scarred and his spirit is broken as most of the young soldiers who experience battle in conflicted areas are wont to be.

The film is a moving and human reflection on the costs of war, and a deeply respectful look at the work done by the armed forces, both overseas and at home. It isn't a political film nor is it necessarily an anti-war film. It's just about the legacy left behind, for those that fight it, and those who patiently wait for their return. Unfortunately, loss is inevitable in both cases.
 

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