Friday, November 30, 2012

2nd MOVIEMOV: ITALIAN CINEMA NOW



The International Italian Film Festival starts its run from December 4 - 9, 2012 at the Greenbelt 3 Cinemas in Makati City.

It will feature contemporary and award winning Italian films. As well as a retrospective of films by famous Italian director Sergio Leone, the master of "Spaghetti Westerns".  All of them will be screened with English subtitles.

It will also pay tribute to critically acclaimed Filipino films by award winning directors like Brillante Mendoza.  It will provide roundtable discussions among Italian and Filipino filmmakers to have an international exchange of ideas and concepts in film making. 

It opens on the evening of December 4, 2012 with the red carpet gala event and the parade of Italian and Filipino film stars, cocktails will be served.

Entrance is free.

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

CINEMANILA 2012



CineManila first started in 1999 and was established to honor the legacy of Director Lino Brocka. This year will be its 14th edition and will run from Dec. 5 to 11, 2012 at Market! Market! in Bonifacio Global City.

Not only does it feature an array of international films, it also highlights the brilliant talents from the Southeast Asian region. CineManila has also championed the spirit of independent film making and has given tributes to master filmmakers and their groundbreaking films.

The central features of the festival are Philippine Cinema and Southeast Asian Cinema, or SEA Cinema. The direction and framework of the festival have provided the focus for its programs to provide to the world a window on Philippine cinema in particular and Southeast Asian cinema in general.

So you get a good mixture of independent movies made by local directors, the best from the Southeast Asian Cinema as well as international films from countries like Lebanon, Iraq among others.

For full details, visit the official website at www.cinemanila.org.ph.


Friday, November 23, 2012

MARGARET


Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno,
Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon,
Matthew Broderick, Jeannie Berlin




Set in New York City, this turbulent and provocative drama is about the loss of innocence. It is beautifully drawn out by an excellent performance by Anna Paquin. She plays Lisa Cohen, a 17 year old student who believes she caused the bus accident in which a woman was killed. Tormented by her guilt, she sets into motion her plan to correct her misdeed. 

In the process, she alienates her family, her friends and her life. Growing up in a post 9/11 society, her idealism seems to be constantly thwarted by circumstances beyond her manipulative control.

Mostly dialogue driven with many intensely dramatic moments all unfolding at the same time, "Margaret" was a bit disturbing to watch.  Running at almost 3 hours, most of the scenes are filled with antagonistic tension.  Yet at the same time, Director Kenneth Lonergan wanted to spare the audience from witnessing too much drama, by ever so often switching to scenes of slow motion scenery and music filled background images.

By the way, no character in this film is named Margaret. The title refers to a character in a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem "Spring and Fall: to a young child".  A poem read during one of the classes attended by Lisa.   But it does somehow parallel Lisa's chaotic life.

Lisa is a multi dimensional character, the daughter of divorced parents, she has an affluent lifestyle in upstate Manhattan.  Her mother, Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) a Broadway actress who recently starts dating a Colombian software developer (Jean Reno) mostly laments about the strained relationship with her impertinent daughter.   Her father lives in the West Coast and they have significant phone conversations which deal with fleeting matters.  Lisa is highly opinionated and very self absorbed and her somewhat racist views often leads to heated arguments with her classmates.  

The plot is quite complex - you have the ups and downs of the police investigation, the legal battle with the bus company, Lisa's complicated personal, family and school life.  It also too many characters all jostling for adequate screen time. But they are portrayed by a good ensemble cast composed of talented actors like Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick and Mark Ruffalo.

The main draw is Anna Paquin.  She is able to reel us into Lisa Cohen's life by creating a profoundly unsympathetic and quite frankly a very detestable character who is mysteriously, provocatively compelling to watch.

Friday, November 16, 2012

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

Keira Knightley, Steve Carell

"Nice Knowing You"

Cinema 5, Trinoma Mall




So while people were scrambling over themselves to watch the most anticipated movie for this year, I ran the opposite direction. I wanted to be as far away as possible from luminous vampires and menacing werewolves.  Ergo, I found myself tuning in to the unusual love story that develops between Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in a movie with a bizarre title called "Seeking  a Friend for the End of the World".

Strangely enough, this movie with a doomsday theme was poignantly absorbing albeit in a quirky sort of way.   Banking on a premise that the end of the world is due in 3 weeks time once an asteroid named "Matilda" will hit earth, the film sets into motion the story of Dodge (Steve Carell) and his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). 

An insurance sales man whose wife leaves him amidst the impending disaster, his final mission is to seek out an ex girlfriend whom he describes as the love of his life.   His young(er) neighbor Penny comes along for the road trip as she intends to flight to England to be reunited with her family.  The road trip turns into a journey where the two former strangers get to know each other and discover what truly matters as they spend their last days on earth, together. 

There are no scenes of panic nor any military operation to stop the asteroid from hitting our planet like the movie "Armaggedon". Instead we are hit with short clips of people partying, rioting and turning into doomsday preppers who stock up on weapons and potato chips.

The several side plots doesn't deviate from the main gist which is the special bond and friendship that develops between Dodge and Penny.  Much of the credit goes to the brilliantly soulful performances of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.  Their odd couple pairing succeeds because after all opposites do attract.

Sullen, downtrodden Dodge is a lonely figure who doesn't want to be alone while perky Penny goes through life wearing Converse shoes and listening to old vinyl records with a come what may attitude.   Penny and Dodge are both given their own proper back stories and dilemmas that feel fully developed by the time the two characters interact.

Both endearing, charming characters who makes us the audience believe that life can't be that bad (even though it is about to end in a fiery explosion) if you were to spend it with someone you just met a few weeks ago yet now know you inside out.

A right mix of drama and comedy with an awesome soundtrack of songs from PM Dawn, The Hollies, The Walker Brothers - "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is certainly worth every cent!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SKYFALL

Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, 
Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, 
Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw

Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex


 

The James Bond franchise turned 50, this year.  I'm 44 years old so yes I grew up watching most of the films featuring this slick British agent provocateur who fought against outlandish villains, bedded beautiful women, likes his martini 'shaken not stirred' - all done under Her Majesty's secret service. 

Growing up, I always associated James Bond movies with fancy gadgets, exotic locales, Bond girls, the familiar James Bond theme music (which is now currently playing in my mind!).

It also came with amazing soundtrack composed of songs made famous by artists like Matt Monro ("From Russia with Love"), Shirley Bassey ("Diamonds are Forever"), Sheena Easton ("For Your Eyes Only") and Duran Duran ("A View to a Kill") to name a few.

So there is no way I would have missed  Daniel Craig as 007 in the 23rd offering of the longest running film franchise of all time.  It has to be said that I absolutely adore Daniel Craig in all of his films so seeing him as James Bond is quite an intensely thrilling experience!

In the first few minutes of "Skyfall", Bond is in hot pursuit of an operative who might have the list of all the secret agents of MI6 scattered all over the world in vital covert operations.  Fighting on top of a moving train, he is shot and presumed dead.  Then cue in the title soundtrack sang by Adele accompanied by dazzling graphics and you know you are in for a treat.

Director Sam Mendes then takes Bond to Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau as well as London with the able guidance of M (Judi Dench) who is shown in an entirely different light. She came across as more maternal than the usual no holds barred, no nonsense tough as nails head of MI6.

Bond is given only the bare essentials instead of the fancy gadgets.  He is provided a finger print enabled gun and a 'radio' tracking device which was developed by the new Quartermaster or simply known as Agent Q (Ben Whishaw) who quips "what did you expect, an exploding pen?" when 007 was skeptical.

It is 2012 so the villains are now known as "the Shadows". Not menacing despotic terrorists who wants world domination.  These villains operate using the latest technology to their full advantage to wreak havoc.  Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva was brilliant, as always. I believe he was a bit too over the top but still quite effective.  Although, his whole I was betrayed by my employers so I would throw a tantrum and bring down the entire agency premise was a tad flimsy, if you ask me.    

Yet it is during the pursuit where most of the beautiful cinematography comes into place. The gripping chase on the rooftops of Istanbul, Turkey. The well choreographed fight scenes shot in silhouette, the London scenes of the new HQ of Mi6 and the final 'battle' scenes in breathtaking yet bleak Scotland.   Several wide angle night shots with only the lights from the skyscrapers of Shanghai and the scenes in Macau - were all well conceptualized and projected very well on the screen.

But beyond the exotic locales, the acerbic and witty dialogue, the action filled sequences and the villains lies the true heart of the film - James Bond himself.  Daniel Craig settles in quite nicely in his 3rd offering as 007.  We are shown a less detached James who is more in tune with himself and also he comes to terms with his past.  For once, he isn't just a spy killing machine but more humane, less stoic.  Quite vulnerable as he is mostly hit with indecision.  Yet at the same time he is angrier thus exhibiting a raw hunger coupled with enough chutzpah to skillfully perform his duties.  

Lastly in an interview Daniel Craig was asked:
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about how this has personal stakes for Bond.  What does that require from you in your performance that maybe makes it more personal than the previous things we’ve seen?

Craig: I don’t think personally, it’s about the character and how he lives the experience.  Again, just harkening back to the script, through a lot of hard work I think we’ve kind of got together a script that has a really strong bed rock of a story and something for all the characters—of which there are a lot in this movie—to sort of experience.  There are very personal stories in it and hopefully the audience will get affected by them and moved by them.  It’s just a good acting job to do.

He was right. I was truly affected by the personal stories and declare that "Skyfall" is one of the best James Bond movies I've seen.   Excellent acting job, indeed!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

FRIENDS WITH KIDS

Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph
Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd,
Megan Fox, Edward Burns


"Family doesn't always go according to Plan"




This film is written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, the partner of Jon Hamm from "Mad Men". The couple have never married and don't have kids but have a healthy relationship that has been going on for 15 years. The idea for the film came about when the couple observed their friends changed once they started having children. 

Westfeldt then presents us 3 couples (who all happen to be friends) to showcase her point.  We meet newlyweds Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) who can't get enough of each other.   Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd) announce they are expecting their first child.  The 3rd pair Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are best friends who are still single.

The story transitions to 4 years later where everything has changed.  Leslie and Alex are always bickering as they deal with two kids they can barely handle.  Missy and a heavy-drinking Ben who is always in a bad mood try to cope with a newborn while constantly bickering with each other.  Seeing what parenthood has done to the relationship of their closest friends, Jason and Jennifer decide to have a baby together but with a twist.  They plan to be single parents and share the responsibility 50/50. 

Their plan bears fruit and soon enough they are equally raising a little boy they name Joe. Things go well until they find themselves in relationships with other people who don't necessarily agree with their little arrangement.

"Friends with Kids" seemed like several episodes of the sitcoms "Friends" and "Parenthood" were molded into a full length movie which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this case.  The dialogue was quite frank and honest but so hilarious. The storyline dealt with valid and very adult issues which crop up during marriage in general as well as the different ways of parenting.  

The ensemble cast composed of mostly veteran comic actors were excellent.  A sort of "Bridesmaids" reunion with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm in significant roles. I absolutely love Edward Burns (in any film) even though he had a very brief yet vital role.  But surely the true star of the show is Jennifer Westfeldt herself.   Her nuanced portrayal of Julie was vibrant, funny and very endearing.

"Friends with Kids" is an unconventional story about friendships, relationships and parenthood. It had all the elements of a successful romantic comedy even unfortunately the very predictable yet happy ending.
 

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