Tuesday, June 28, 2011

EIGA SAI 2011
13TH JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL



The Eiga Sai opens on July 1 (Friday) at the Shang Cineplex Cinema 2, Shangri-La Plaza with an invitation only event featuring the film "Departures". It won the Academy Award for the best foreign language film in 2009.

The other films in this year's roster are The Summit: Chronicle of Stones; The Chef of South Polar; One Million Yen Girl; Your Friend; Yunagi City, Sakura Country; Summer Days with Coo; Climber's High; Feel the Wind; and Villon's Wife.

All films will be shown with English subtitles.

Admission is free.

Screening venues are at the Shang Cineplex Cinema 4 from July 1 to 10, 2011.

For detailed screening schedules, film synopsis and schedule, please check the the Japan Foundation, Manila website.

Monday, June 27, 2011

DirecTV

Everyone knows one of my favorite hobbies is to watch movies. Lately, I've noticed that I tend to choose which films to see at the movie theaters. For one, I don't have much time and secondly ticket prices don't come cheap.

Thankfully, technology has come a long way and there are constantly new and innovative concepts developed and in the developing stage to make life so much easier.

For instance, DirecTV provides the perfect entertainment without even stepping out of your home. DirecTV launched its premium video on demand service called Home Premiere. It allows subscribers of the satellite-television provider to rent movies only 60 days after they are shown at the movie theaters, for a minimal amount of $30 per film. After paying the $30 fee to DirecTV, customers will have 48 hours to view a Home Premiere film as many times as they like. Each title will be available via Home Premiere for two weeks.

You need to subscribe to DirecTV to avail of this premium service. Check out their comprehensive website for more details of the different packages available.

No need to go to the cinemas, DirecTV brings the entertainment right to your comfort zone. Popcorn and sodas are not included in the package.

Friday, June 24, 2011

MORNING GLORY

Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford
Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson


"Breakfast TV just got interesting




I was half asleep when I decided to watch this film. I also kept dozing on and off. Not that you would miss anything since it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the storyline.

Becky (Rachel McAdams) is a TV executive producer hired to revive "Daybreak" a morning show that is at the bottom of the rankings as far as morning shows goes. She practically begs the network owner Jerry (Jeff Goldblum) for the job! She knows in her heart that she could bring fresh new ideas to the fledgling show. He accepts and gives her a time frame to boost the ratings.

She encounters insurmountable challenges vis a vis the hosts (Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford) of the show, her ideas are met with much resistance yet the workaholic that she is ... she is relentless and gives it her all. Is it enough or if she battling a lost cause?

I'd say that as much as the morning show needed to be infused with bright new ideas, the same can be said for this movie. The tried and tested method of introducing a love interest in the persona of Patrick Wilson for Becky to have some semblance of a romance doesn't help matters.

The premise to show everything that ensues behind the scenes of a morning show was promising. Yet they kept trying to turn it into a sitcom but the laughs came in trickles and seemed out of line. They also decided to draw in big names like Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford to add some weight to the film yet all it achieved was a wasted effort for the two stars who were relegated to roles without any substance. Quite unfortunate!

The only redeeming value is the good performance by Rachel McAdams who was in every single scene. She had a tendency to over act and over react in some situations. I had heart palpitations just watching her deal with all the stress as the hapless TV producer with a gargantuan task to accomplish in such a short time but overall she pulled it off brilliantly.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

UN POISON VIOLENT
(LOVE LIKE POISON)

16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex



The themes of Catholic guilt and budding sexuality are explored in this coming of age film set in a middle class French town. 15 year old Anna is home for her summer break from her Catholic boarding school. As she prepares for her confirmation rite, she also takes care of her ailing grandfather. Her father has left her devout mother for another woman. Overwhelmed with grief and self pity, the mother seeks consolation in the arms of the local priest. Anna meanwhile develops a special friendship with her neighbor Pierre.

There is generally good rapport between the cast especially the bonding moments between Anna and her grandfather, Jean. Clara Augarde as Anna blooms in all her naive innocence while veteran French comedian Michel Galabru gives a wonderful performance by bringing an affecting poignancy to a man who has lived life to the fullest but now faces his mortality. I also recognize the singer Lio who portrays Anna's mother. I remember her from my distant childhood days when we were living in Belgium as a singer with a soft melodic voice with her standard bangs framing her face. And now she is portraying mother roles, whoa I feel ancient!

There is a definite realistic tone to the film as it traces Anna's conflicted journey, brilliantly. A young girl on the throes of adulthood, coming to terms with her blossoming sexuality plus having to deal with a family crisis that threatens to destroy her firmly rooted faith. The music track, including religious hymns and American songs (like a choral version of Radiohead's "Creep") nicely anchors the film's mood of melancholy and rapture.

The French title refers to a Serge Gainsbourg song that likens love to a poisonous drug. A song sung in his usual drunken stupor with cigarette fumes billowing fashion. Although the song isn't played during the film, I figure it is appropriate for the theme of the movie.

Although this film may not resonate well with non believers of the Catholic faith, it nevertheless will find its true calling with anyone who has had to deal with dilemma and massive guilt trips.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LA TETE DE MAMAN
(IN MOM'S HEAD)

16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex




This coming of age tale focuses on Lulu, a 15 year old girl who has a quest. She is deeply intrigued by her mother Juliette's lack of joie de vivre. You see the thing is there are frequently certain moments when Juliette reverts to a dream like state and gets lost in her own world with a sad expression on her face. She has also hardly smiled ever since Lulu was born.

Give a young lady something to yearn for and be sure she would be quite enterprising. Lulu finds old photos and a home made video tape of her mother in her younger years seemingly quite vibrant and head over heels in love with a man named Jacques.

But Jacques is not Lulu's father! He was an old flame who made Juliette quite a happy go lucky, free spirited young lady beaming with contentment while on the throes of adulthood. Ergo, Lulu needs to find him so that her mother can smile again.

This light comedy/drama is filled with modern day scenes set in a small French town. It is also mixed with surreal moments like actress Jane Birkin appearing as herself and giving guidance and sound advice to Lulu. It is also peppered with happy and morose songs by the British born French actress who is quite a celeb in her own right even though her raspy voice is more like a whisper that you can barely make out what she is singing about.

Technically, the film certainly has a light and breezy tone with flashbacks and 'fantasy' scenes all lopped up together. But beneath this fancy free light comedy, a poignant love story emerges. A daughter's love for her beloved albeit bizarre mother as well as the rekindling of a lost love that brings about much of the awww moments in the film.

It is pretty much a pleasant little film with nary any thought provoking intrigue to muddle one's mind.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

THE HANGOVER PART 2

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti


"Bangkok has them now"


Cinema 3, Shang Cineplex




It was time to take a short break from the disturbing and sombre tones of the French movies and just sit back, relax to some inane comedy. "The Hangover part 2" was a good way to indulge my frame of mind.

2 years later, the 'wolf-pack' are back. Same scenario - someone is getting married, this time it is Stu (Ed Helms), the dentist. Same plot - they totally forget what happened 'one night in Bangkok' and wake up with a massive hangover to discover someone from their entourage has gone missing!

The same cast who get into all sorts of troubling situations with a shaved head, permanent facial tattoo, a mischievous monkey and severed finger before they find their missing friend. The same brand of humor that is both raunchy and hilariously funny, at the same time.

It is essentially and basically the same as the original except for the location. This time it is set in exotic and humid Bangkok with its sleazy streets and red light district gaining prominence or notoriety, it is up to you to decide. Not really surprising if you are familiar with the bustling capital of Thailand.

Despite its predictable ending (especially the pictures during the end credits scene), you still enjoy the ride along with the wolf pack. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt in this case as "The Hangover" sequel still delivers its mindless brand of entertainment with a big punch!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

LE DERNIER DES FOUS
(THE LAST OF THE CRAZY ONES)

16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex




This story unfolds through the eyes of a 10 year old boy named Martin. The locale is on a farm in the French countryside where life is pretty tranquil in a rustic way. The silent surroundings is in stark contrast to the crystal clear family crisis brewing in the household.

The farm is on the brink of bankruptcy. Martin's grandmother is desperately trying to sell it off to a rich neighbor. Jean, Martin's father is pretty much useless. Martin's mother Nadege is prone to bouts of insanity. His brother Didier is a frustrated poet and in 'the closet'. It is summer time and poor Martin has to find some means to amuse himself despite the strange stirrings of his immediate family.

The film is devoid of any music and moves at a slow pace. Its plot has this creepy foreboding sense that something shocking will happen to each if not all of the characters. So towards the end when tragedy does strike you are immune to the terrible blow. Perhaps it's because you simply lost interest somewhere in the course of the film or the sheer anticipation for that definitive moment simply makes you numb from the disturbing truth.

The doe-eyed lad with a single facial expression throughout who plays Martin carries much of the film and is quietly up to the task. As you watch the film, you keep thinking that such a negative environment is certainly not a healthy way to bring up a child. We are wary that underneath that passive surface a storm is slowly brewing and as it gains strength, the eventual devastation will be very catastrophic.

Despite its narrative simplicity, slow pace and somewhat surreal characters, "Le Dernier des Fous" succeeds in being a thought-provoking and highly disturbing piece of family drama.

Monday, June 13, 2011

L'AUTRE
(THE OTHER)

16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex




Anne-Marie (Dominique Blanc), a 47 year old social worker decides to end her relationship with a much younger man named Alex. It seems that Alex wants to settle down while Anne Marie is not the marrying kind. Their break-up is amicable and they continue to see each other, socially. Yet when Alex informs Anne-Marie that he is now dating someone new, she flows into a jealous rage and begins to act strangely with paranoia and insecurities taking over her excruciatingly lonesome existence.

The only interesting scenario in this murky characterization of a woman slowly losing her mind is that we, the audience are not given any glimpse of the other woman. In fact, I could go as far to suggest that maybe she is just the figment of Anne Marie's fertile yet seemingly demented imagination.

Alex doesn't openly talk about his new relationship. He merely shares vague facts about his new girlfriend. With these bits of information, Anne-Marie goes into a frenzy and puts on her stalker hat. She does Internet searches, leaves obscene phone messages yet remains only a virtual stalker. There were several instances during the film when you'd ponder whether Anne Marie would actually be able to physically assault her 'rival' if given the chance or if her threats were some harmless form of amusement for her to fill the void in her life.

The strength of the film hinges on the powerful acting talent of veteran French actress Dominique Blanc. Her portrayal of Anne Marie as a jealous woman was absolutely spot on. Her steely gaze and calm demeanor belies her utter fragility as a very vulnerable person. As we witness the folly of the central character, we cannot really be quite sure if she is slowly going insane based on the idea of 'another' woman or if we are dealing with a flawed persona from the get go.

Befitting the somber tone of the story, most of the scenes are set in a bleak, rather soul less Parisian suburb. We also see shots of Anne Marie commuting to and from work as well as the mall where they usually rendezvous. The surroundings are cold but beautiful as they are captured in rich dark shots.

Honestly, it is a rather disturbing film to watch. You try to sympathize with her yet at the same time you know that she truly brought it upon herself. This was evidenced by her narrative during the last minutes of the film. Questions do abound as to the veracity of her nuances but such are the norm in most Europeans films ... so be it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush
Ian McShane, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey


Cinema 11, SM Megamall




There is nothing strange in this fourth franchise of a hugely successful movie based on a theme park ride. You still have the familiar and now endearing iconic characters like Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and first mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) although this time they are directed by Rob Marshall, a guy more known for directing musicals like "Chicago" and "Nine". Thankfully no one (well except one mermaid) burst into a song and dance number.

We are introduced to a more eclectic mix of new characters who individually and collectively contribute with much flair and flavor to this romp of a seafaring adventure. You have the feisty Angelica played by the alluring Penelope Cruz whose mere presence on screen can cause quite a ripple! You cannot really truly decipher if Angelica is a friend or foe to Jack Sparrow. Is she telling the truth about her lineage or is she merely using Jack Sparrow to get the Fountain of Youth? The intrigue factor further enhanced her character.

Blackbeard is personified by the reliable Ian McShane who cleverly and articulately deliver his lines with much fluency. He added many complex layers to the dimensions of the pirate, Blackbeard. He is unabashedly evil, devilishly clever, has a complicated relationship with Angelica, has zombies among the officers on his ship, and uses magic to manipulate his ship's sails and nautical ropes. Strangely enough for me he didn't come across as too much of villain! I attest this mainly to the way that Ian McShane portrayed him.

So although this installment is laden with loud dramatic music to enhance the numerous action sequences like battling with swords fight scenes, I realized it didn't cause much ripples in the visual graphics/special effects department. The previous Pirates of the Caribbean films had memorable special effects like graphically enhanced skeletons walking on the sea bed or a giant octopus like creature devouring an entire ship, to mention a few.

The only digitally generated scene that stands out in this movie is the one where the mermaids viciously attack their 'bait'. This brings me to another observation that the mermaids got a pretty bad rap in this film. They are portrayed as vicious and menacing sea creatures that are quite deceiving in nature. They certainly were very creepy and not at all as I expected them to be!

I found the plot and the story flow (the search for the fountain of youth) much more coherent in this installment. It wasn't saddled with too many muddled side plots peppered by a myriad of insanely colorful characters whose names you couldn't pronounce let alone understand their gibberish accents.

The religious undertones (the clergyman and the Spaniards) though didn't sit quite well with me. The scene with the Spaniards marching in to destroy the Fountain of Youth was too preachy for my taste. It just didn't seem to vibe with the playful, thrilling adventurism nature of the entire franchise.

The open ended final scene did imply that a 5th sequel is imminent. I'm just not quite sure how long and how far they can stretch the (mis)adventures of Jack Sparrow without him losing his playful swagger and wacky yet witty charms.

But one thing is sure, Johnny Depp has found the fountain of Youth and I'm pretty convinced he can play this endearing pirate with much aplomb even when he is in his 80s. Heh!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

16th FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

The full schedule of the 2011 French Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex, Cinema 4.

JUNE 8 (Opening Night)
8:00 p.m. - Le Marquis

JUNE 9
1:30 p.m. - Mademoiselle
4:00 p.m. - Les enfants de Timpelbach
6:30 p.m. - La Cérémonie
9:00 p.m. - Un Poison Violent

JUNE 10
1:30 p.m. - Elle s’appelle Sabine
4:00 p.m. - Joueuse
6:30 p.m. - 7 ans
9:00 p.m. - Sans toit ni Loi

JUNE 11
1:30 p.m. - Adèle Blanc Sec
4:00 p.m. - L’Autre
6:30 p.m. - Les enfants de Timpelbach
9:00 p.m. - Le Marquis

JUNE 12
1:30 p.m. - Pisay
4:00 p.m. - Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
6:30 p.m. - Basal Banar
9:00 p.m. - Boxing in the Philippine Islands

JUNE 13
1:30 p.m. - L’Autre
4:00 p.m. - Un Poison Violent
6:30 p.m. - 7 ans
9:00 p.m. - Sans toit ni Loi

JUNE 14
1:30 p.m. - Le dernier des fous
4:00 p.m. - Arthur et la Vengeance de Maltazard
6:30 p.m. - Mademoiselle
9:00 p.m. - L’Autre

JUNE 15
1:30 p.m. - La Cérémonie
4:00 p.m. - A nos amours
6:30 p.m. - Dans les cordes
9:00 p.m. - Dans les cordes

JUNE 16
1:30 p.m. - Le dernier des fous
4:00 p.m. - La Tête de Maman
6:30 p.m. - Joueuse
9:00 p.m. - Le Marquis

JUNE 17
1:30 p.m. - Elle s’appelle Sabine
4:00 p.m. - Adèle Blanc Sec
6:30 p.m. - Le dernier des fous
9:00 p.m. - 7 ans

JUNE 18
1:30 p.m. - Arthur et la Vengeance de Maltazard
4:00 p.m. - Mademoiselle
6:30 p.m. - Sans toit ni Loi
9:00 p.m. - Un Poison Violent

JUNE 19
1:30 p.m. - A nos amours
4:00 p.m. - La Tête de Maman
6:30 p.m. - Dans les cordes
9:00 p.m. - Tree of Life

Admissions are free on a first come, first served basis. Tickets are issued one hour before screening. Schedules are subject to change without prior notice.
 

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