Thursday, March 29, 2012

THE IDES OF MARCH

George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti
Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright


"Ambition seduces. Power corrupts."




This political thriller stars George Clooney as Governor Mike Morris, a Democrat presidential hopeful. Most of the suspense unfolds during the Ohio presidential primary. His team is headed by his campaign manager, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his spokesman, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), an idealist who is dragged into the dirty game of politics but his loyalty to the charismatic Governor Morris prevails at all cost.

As the writer and director, Clooney decided to present a simpler story about a man's character and the way he changes throughout the course of a single primary campaign.
The film is a comprehensive character study of Stephen Myers portrayed by the effectively talented Ryan Gosling. His Stephen is experienced enough at his age to presume that he knows better and young enough to still display the critical amount of conviction which gets the ball rolling.

It is fascinating to see the different sides to the Stephen character. He slowly becomes everything he loathed in politics and in a politician. Morris, his idol, full of values and ideologies that Steve believed in, betrayed them. His respect for Morris has gone. Towards the end, Myers learns to manipulate these flaws for the advancement of his career as well as boost the winning factor capacity of his candidate.

The storytelling is precise, the cinematography slick, the cast is highly credible. Even though there are a few glaring pitfalls in the side plots, the film still pulls the punches. Its criticism of the inner trappings of politics is apt yet it also provides the audience the opportunity to form their own conclusions from the ambiguous ending.

Monday, March 26, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley
Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci


"May the odds be ever in your favor"


Cinema 10, SM Megamall




Books that cater to the young adults market make millions for their authors. As if they aren't wealthy enough, these books are then adapted for the big screen. So everyone profits. The authors, the movie production companies, the cinema theaters, the concessionaire stalls at the movie houses.

First you had the Harry Potter series, followed by the Twilight franchise. Now comes "The Hunger Games", the first in the trilogy penned by Suzanne Collins. Admittedly, I never read a single book of any of these authors. I am too old to be swooned by a fictional world of blossoming young romance where wizardry, vampires and werewolves reign supreme.

Curious creature that I am, I wanted to see if all this fuss about Hunger Games was worth it. I reckon it was really worth every centavo, I was blown away by its visceral tale of the haves versus the have-nots set in a futuristic society. The film pans into District 12 of Panem. A bleak coal mining village where our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her little sister and her mother.

Every year a boy and a girl ages 12 to 18 are chosen from each Panem district to compete in some survivalist battle known as the Hunger Games. Katniss, a feisty, tough and resourceful hunter who can ably provide for her family, volunteers when her young sister Primrose was chosen as a tribute to represent District 12.

The game has 24 competitors who kill each other until only one emerges as the victor. It is televised to all the districts like a reality show where rules can be easily manipulated through a computerized command center. Days before the actual games, the competitors go through rigorous training. They are interviewed by an over the top talk show host named Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and have to 'beg' for sponsors. It's all a grand showbiz style production number with reality show overtones to the max.

The film takes on a thrilling suspenseful tone once the tributes are transported to the outdoor arena where, with wits and weapons, they battle each other and assorted perils generated by the organizers, who dole out death via computer touch screen. Much of Katniss's competitors are killed in a rapidly cut massacre filmed at such a frantic, blurry pace. Then it settles down a bit as one focuses entirely on watching if Katniss would survive the vicious attacks.

The thing that appealed the most to me was the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Her flawless beauty is like a magnet, it draws you in. There was something luminous, slightly otherworldly about her. Her gravity and her steady gaze make her a fine heroine. Her love for her family was the fuel that triggered her desire to not only survive but to ultimately win the Hunger Games.

The film ran for 142 long minutes. Certain scenes were shot at full speed with shaky camera angles which were too jarring and quite blurry, you could hardly make out what was unfolding on screen. It was combined with a crisp, vivid cinematography of colorful costumes/wardrobe worn by the people living in the Capitol area. There were also impressive computer generated shots of the dystopian society. The ensemble cast (Woody Harrelson was excellent!) gave credible performances. Their characterization of those strange somewhat absurd personas were spot on.

Unlike my aversion to the Harry Potter and Twilight series, I'm hooked to this franchise. I'm looking forward to the next adventures of Katniss Everdeen. But no, I'm still not going to read the books, I'll just wait for the movies.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

LIMITLESS

Bradley Cooper, Robert de Niro, Abbie Cornish


"What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?"


Star Movies



Finally, I was able to see this film in its entirety on Star Movies. When it was shown in the cinemas, I had second thoughts about spending so much on a movie ticket. Sci-fi thriller isn't a genre, I appreciate. But. 2 words. Bradley Cooper. Enough said.

"Limitless" focuses on Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) a writer who is taking forever to finish his novel. His girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) is walking out on him, he looks awful, physically and mentally. In short, his life is one big mess. Until, he runs into the brother of an ex girlfriend who tells him about this experimental pill called NZT. A powerful drug that can tap your mind into its full potential.

With NZT in his system, Eddie is on a roll. He completes his book instantly, he can read and absorb data within seconds, he can speak foreign languages, he can manipulate the stock market for his investments. His life changes completely for the better. Or so it seems. But soon enough as with most 'scams' that are too good to be true, the pill turns into one huge liability instead of an asset.

Despite some good camera angles with blurry montage scenes, the film is quite limited in scope. It is a standard rise and fall tale, the extended version for it seemed like it would never finish and then concludes with a vaguely intriguing ending. So was it a cautionary tale about drug addiction? Or a story on how greed and power can corrupt one's soul? Either way, the your choices are quite limited, despite what the title suggests.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

BEAUTIFUL LIES

Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila


"Sometimes a little white lie can change everything"



A French romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou (Amelie) as Emilie, a perky somewhat eccentric beauty salon owner. Shy, sensitive Jean (Sami Bouajila) works as a handyman at the beauty salon and he is also madly and secretly smitten with his 'boss' Emilie. Jean decides to eloquently declare his feelings in an anonymous letter.

Oblivious to the fact that her mysterious admirer is Jean, Emilie retypes the letter and sends it anonymously to her mother, Maddy (Nathalie Baye), hoping to cheer her up. Maddy has been depressed, unable to accept that her husband, who left four years ago, isn’t coming back.

Then a whole gamut of bizarre and awkward situations of a mistaken romance rolls on by for an hour and 40 minutes. Even though the script had some snappy, funny little one-liners (in French, mind you!), certain parts could have done with some editing to make the story more coherent so the viewers' short attention span could stay focus and not be distracted with overlapping side plots.

It is only the superb performances of the cast (Tautou, Baye, and Bouajila) that redeems this rom-com. They are a great ensemble, who expertly play on the frustrated and strained relationships between their characters through some convincing onscreen chemistry.

The ever refreshing Audrey Tautou particularly stands out as Emilie by delivering a performance that is believable and endearing. And you know you are getting old when an actress from your youth like the elegant Nathalie Baye now portray mother with grown up children roles. But she still shines and gives a convincing portrayal of a woman in denial that needs quite a boost to her crushed self esteem.

A pretty average rom-com with the standard, predictable happy ending filmed entirely in French with English subtitles. Recommended for die hard Amelie, oops aka Audrey Tautou fans!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rio

Shooting on exotic locales is a big factor for action oriented movies or any genre of movies for that matter. It has a significant impact on the storyline, the actions of the cast and the cinematography. It also contributes in promoting the scenic as well as not too scenic spots of a country. It is a big marketing boost to the tourism industry not to mention the economy of any nation that is chosen as a location for an international film.

Several blockbusters have chosen Brazil as their locales. Some films are actually set in this exotic country. While other film production companies choose this Latin American nation for its vast resources (big population, rich natural resources, cheap labor fees). Months before any actual shooting can take place, they must scout for suitable location sights. Naturally, they need to hire a brazil travel agent to book their airfares and accommodations. They can stay for several days or several months depending on their budget, the accessibility and mobility of the crew as they scour the potential sights.

No wonder the budget for an average action film has soared into the millions even billions. Shooting in attractive locales doesn't come cheap. But their valuable contribution to any nation's economy is truly priceless!

Friday, March 2, 2012

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock
Max Von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman


Cinema 6, SM Megamall


"This is not a story about September 11th.
It's about every day after."



  • These are my random thoughts on this Stephen Daldry film in bullet form.

  • This is the movie adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's book. The same author of "Everything is Illuminated" which was also made into a movie and it was directed by Liev Schrieber.

  • I never read both books but I do love their film versions. A tinge of quirky element contributed to me liking them. Plus the self discovery process the main characters go throughout the entire movie.

  • But although "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" dealt with the events of September 11 in the year 2001, it focuses on exploring loss through the eyes of its protagonist. A young boy named Oskar whose father was in one of the twin towers.

  • Foer completely takes away the political and historical aspects of the bombings. There are no politics to speak of in the film.

  • Oskar is a hyper active, eccentric boy with a disorder but his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) raised him up by filling his mind with a heightened sense of adventure. He would also encourage his son to shine and be independent minded.

  • After 9/11, Oskar discovers an envelope inside a vase which was part of his father's belongings. It contains a key with merely the word "Black" written on the small envelope.

  • Convinced that the key would hold his father's final message for him, Oskar devices a very elaborate plan to trace down every person with the surname "Black" in New York.

  • He wants to find out the object which could be opened by this mysterious key.

  • As he goes off on his adventure and knocked on the doors of completely perfect strangers, I wondered how safe it was for him to do so.

  • Meshed within the 'adventure' is a complementary side plot which involve an old man (who doesn't speak) staying at his grandmother's apartment. He is simply known as "The Renter". Towards the end, we do find out his true identity.

  • There were also some very disturbing references to the 9/11 incident. Haunting scenes of people falling from the burning buildings. Images of missing people. As well as traumatic (last) phone calls recordings left on answering machines. It gave me chills.

  • The story moves back and forth with very well edited scenes set in current times to flashbacks that show how Thomas was as a father.

  • There are also fast paced snippets of jarring facts often recited by Oskar in his hyper, agitated state. Same technique used in the "Amelie" movie, they were often funny and other times quite informative and very integral of the character of Oskar.

  • After all the frantic pursuit, the real owner of the key is revealed and it was quite anti-climatic but by then I was just in complete awe how Oskar was able to devise such a project that I didn't really mind being disappointed.

  • The project did make Oskar and his mother much closer and they were able to draw strength from each other during their grieving period.

  • Oskar, his family and the people he meets during his search have all suffered loss and have all reacted to it differently. The loss suffered during the World Trade Center bombings become merely one constellation amongst a galaxy of loss.

  • Foer weaves an extremely complex plot that winds - via direct narrative, letters, pictures, flashbacks and even numbers - among all the dimensions of human loss to find answers. The answers will probably be different for different people, but that's what connects them together.

  • Much as "Hugo" was about finding a missing link, with "a key" being the common factor in both films, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was intense but also a delightful movie to absorb.
 

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