Saturday, August 31, 2013


Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams,
Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried,
Topher Grace, Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes

"It's never too late to start acting like a Family"

Long divorced couple Don (Robert de Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) must pretend to still be married for Alejandro (Ben Barnes), their adopted son's wedding. His biological mother is quite conservative and traditional and he never told her about his parents' divorce.   

His lawyer sister Lyla (Katherine Heigl) is going through a rough patch in her own marriage while his younger brother, Jared (Topher Grace) the doctor is well let's say saving himself for marriage. Soon enough, confusion surfaces as it is the case when people act under false pretenses. 

After I watched a film about a 5 year engagement, I thought it would be fun to see a movie about a wedding. I chose this one for its stellar cast but ultimately felt a bit disappointed it did not live up to expectations. I can't really fault the cast as they did a good job as usual when it comes to the acting part. 

So naturally the blame shifts to the storyline. Although it had the potential to be a funny romantic comedy about family bonding moments during a wedding, it wasn't developed enough to create a significant impact. Alright given that it is a light fare movie, it still lacked something to give it a nice boost.

It is safe to say that the cast of veteran actors composed of Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Robert de Niro would be the main attraction.  Because even though the title suggests a wedding, the focus wasn't on the couple who will be united in holy matrimony but more on the shenanigans of the older members of the entourage.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Emily Blunt, Jason Seiel
Chris Pratt, Alison Brie

"A comedy about the journey between popping
the question and tying the knot"


This romantic comedy begs the question: "how soon after an engagement should a couple tie the know?" 

For Violet (Emily Blunt) and Tom (Jason Segel) it took them 5 long years (as the title obviously suggests) before they took the much awaited plunge.  The film presents all the reasons (valid and irrational) and the travails behind the delay. We know that Violet wanted her career to flourish before she became a wife and an eventual mother. We know that Tom is willing and lovingly sacrifices his own career as a chef to support his fiancee's decision. Everything is well discussed between the couple. They are truly supportive of each other's needs. There were situations in which I agreed it was a good idea to wait.  While on the other hand, I believe they should have gotten married within 6 months or at the most a year. 

I make it sound like it is a heavy handed dramatic film which takes itself quite seriously but it was quite the opposite. It is conceived by the same producers of "Bridesmaids" and "Knocked Up" so it had some really hilarious moments delivered with some raunchy dialogue but it wasn't offensive at all. 

Editing seems to be the 'only' flaw of the film as it took 124 minutes to wrap up.  By the one hour and 30 minutes mark, they still weren't 'married'!  I came this close to switching off the TV but I persevered mainly because I had grown quite fond of Violet and Tom as a couple.  Their chemistry was palpable. They were truly meant for each other even though they let their varying issues cloud their judgments.  Their decisions were always mired with problems which in my book weren't really problems, per se.

Editing issues aside, the film was a genuinely sweet and charming tale. It was funny and entertaining with endearing main characters portrayed with ease by Emily Blunt (one of my fave actresses) and Jason Segel. 

My final train of thought is this dialogue:  (Great advice, imho!)
Mother: What are you doing?
Look, we are not 100 % right for each other. So there is nothing to be said.
Mother: Well I got news for you, moron,
Your father and I, we are not even 90% right for each other.
Not even 60%, okay? But he is the love of my life.
And right now the love of your life is going to fly away.  And I bet somewhere in the back of your mind, you are thinking that she will always be there if you want to try again. But you know what? She won't because she is the goddamned best!  And some lucky guy is going to make it work with her, no matter what!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Patrick Bruel, Alice Taglioni

Occasionally, I watch French movies. Mainly for me not to forget the language I grew up speaking. Yet that was over 30 years ago so my facility at speaking (worst of all writing it) is quite rusty.  Naturally I rely on subtitles to get me through because there is a huge difference in conversational French and the French they use as dialogue in films. I was able to confirm this from my American friend who not only lived in Paris but knows the art of cinema quite well.  

Most of the time, I prefer light fare comedy types of French movies. Not only is the dialogue easier for me to grasp (without looking at the English subtitles) but they tend to present things as they are.  By that, I mean the boy doesn't necessarily get the girl by the end of the film.  Conflicts and complications abound.  Although surely there are some French films where lead actor does end up with cutesy lead actress with the added *kilig* factor thrown in for good measure.

Alice (Alice Taglioni) is a Parisian pharmacist who is an avid fan of Woody Allen and his films.  She even talks to his giant poster in her room about anything and nothing in particular.  The strange thing is *he* does reply to her musings and he speaks to her in English.  Not only does she dispense medicines to her regular customers, she also hands them dvds of Woody Allen films to "heal" their malaise.  

Just as Alice finds Pierre, the man of her dreams, he falls in love with her much stylish sister Helene. Soon enough, they get married and Alice is back to 'zero'.  Her parents though worry about her ending up alone in life so they are always on the look out for eligible guys to date Alice.  But it is only when Alice meets Victor (Patrick Bruel) when things perk up a bit.  Victor is the security expert who installs security devices in establishments.  He is her complete opposite as he hasn't seen any of Woody Allen movies.

"Paris-Manhattan" is a French film with the right amount of romance and bits of comedy. The story line is a bit too simple and predictable even though the characters experience their arc in terms of changing for the better. It's a light and engaging fare with its own charm which mostly comes from the good chemistry between Alice and Victor.    Just what I needed on a rainy Tuesday evening. 

Friday, August 23, 2013


Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey,
Zac Efron, Macy Gray, John Cusack

As if the devastation from the most recent storm wasn't bleak enough, I picked a really lurid tale to entertain myself.  But it was a random pick from my folder of films to watch so be it.   Set in the summer of 1969 in the really warm state of Florida,  the story about a murder investigation is peppered with despicable characters. Based on a 1995 novel by American author Pete Dexter, it is directed by Lee Daniels ("Precious") whose most recent film "The Butler" is currently receiving rave reviews by critics. 

"The Paperboy" is composed of renowned actors cast in roles, way beneath their normal glamorous standards.  I was surprised that Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Zac Efron were willing to play characters who didn't have any redeeming qualities.  Most of the time they looked dirty and scruffy from sweating too much, behaved really badly and were for want of a better word disgusting personas.  

The setting itself was bleak with several scenes in a filthy swamp in Southern Florida, complete with thick mud and dead alligators hanging from tree trunks.  It gave me the creeps to say the least.  I felt like taking a shower to cleanse myself from the filth seeping from the environment as well as from the characters themselves.

The plot itself is scattered with story lines and side plots all muddled together in a murky mess. It dealt with mature subjects like racism, murder, sex and violence in the era of the Civil Rights Movement.  The flowery dialogue delivered in the Southern accent used the dreaded N word quite abundantly.  

In the beginning, it showed some promise as the story is told through a narrative and a flashback to events which were quite vital to the story. Then towards the middle part, things got really messy with some explicitly graphic scenes which I thought were too raunchy but were included to stir up some controversy.  The last minutes wrapped up quickly but weren't really conclusive. 

Overall, I'd say there is nothing compelling in this film. In fact, it was trashy and sometimes quite sickening and revolting to watch.  The only plus factor would be the solid performance of the cast who deserve some credit for portraying such ill fated characters.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


After the terrible days of being inundated by the storm and monsoon rains, it's time we get back to normal and take our minds away from the devastation.  

From August 23 to 25, 2013, Shang Cineplex once again hosts a variety of movies for the 7th International Silent Film Festival.  Sometimes silence can be quite fulfilling after such a chaotic week. Yet even though the films are without any audio, these movies are accompanied with live music performed by top bands. 

Best of all, entrance is free on a first come, first served basis.

Tickets will be distributed 30 minutes prior to the screening.

For more details, check out this article as well as the Official Facebook page of the festival.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Allen,  
Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill,
Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig

Another Woody Allen film that takes us beyond his beloved New York, this time in vibrant Rome, Italy.  His previous European set series of movies took us to London ("Match Point"), then Madrid ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") and Paris ("Midnight in Paris").

As usual a smorgasbord of actors and actresses are cast to portray various characters which come alive through the fertile imagination of Allen who wrote, produced and directed the movie. Italian actors (Ornella Muti, Roberto Benigni) as well as young and old(er) Hollywood stars are part of the ensemble. Their roles include an American architect on a nostalgic trip to relive his past, a young Italian couple on their honeymoon and a married couple in town to meet the family of their daughter's Italian fiance.

I usually identify which role (either male or female) would best epitomize the characteristics of Woody Allen.  S/he is usually the angst ridden neurotic who tends to talk in a rapid manner, analyzing every single anxiety. It's usually accompanied with jerky hand gestures when s/he wants to emphasize a point.

Here, it was played by Jesse Eisenberg as Jack, the American architecture student in Rome who gets infatuated with Monica (Ellen Page), a friend of his girlfriend.  In some ways, I'd say that Monica was the female version of Woody Allen in her role as the annoyingly flaky yet somewhat  smart struggling actress who visits Rome after a messy break up.

It is always fascinating to see Rome as the setting for any movie and it puts me in a nostalgic mood.  Yet I'd have to say that among the Woody Allen movies set in Europe, this film was his weakest so far. 

Even though he paid homage to the Fellini era of Italian films and also to the Italian type of gag comedies, some of the stories lacked a certain cohesiveness that would nicely tie up all the loose ends.  Each of the 4 independent stories in the film could merit a full length movie on its own.  And there lies the main flaw of "To Rome with Love" as I got the impression that each plot could have benefited with the infusion of more depth and dimension.

Despite my disappointment, I remain a loyal Woody Allen fan and would still watch his films. More so if they are set in such cultured locales.  I end by quoting the words of one of my fave Beatles song.
"There are places I remember all my life.
Though some have changed. 
Some forever, not for better.
Some have gone, and some remain.  
All these places have their moments.
In my life, I loved them all."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Rashida Jones, Adam Samberg
Elijah Woods, Emma Roberts

"For anyone who has to break up
with their best friend"

Star Movies

It's good we have 2 TVs in this household so I could watch this romcom while the hubby was glued to the FIBA ASIA game between Qatar and RP.  By the way, we won so everyone was happy.

Now back to Celeste & Jesse.  At first glance, you'd think they were a happily married couple as they have so much chemistry and their friendship is quite solid. Then you realize they are actually separated and in the process of finalizing their divorce.

Celeste (Rashida Jones) is the owner of a media consulting firm while Jesse (Adam Samberg) well I couldn't really tell his occupation. I figure he was 'in between jobs' which is a nice way of saying he is unemployed. They were best friends then married for 6 years but have grown apart so she opts out of the marriage.

Miscommunication seems to be the key ingredient missing from their relationship even though they are the best of friends.  They are also on different pages vis a vis their careers as well as what they want in life.  

They soon start seeing other people and that's when the irony starts.  As soon as Jesse is faced with a very 'adult' situation, he quickly changes and exhibits a level of maturity that Celeste didn't know was possible.  Whereas Celeste's dating life seems quite trivial as she meets guys way beyond her 'league', so to speak.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is not really a romantic comedy as there is nothing romantic about a separation.  But there is no loud bickering and all the messy legalities involved in ending a marriage, either.  Both Celeste and Jesse have endearing qualities on their own as well as an (un)couple but they are also flawed in many ways.  

The film is easy to absorb even though the main story is about a break-up.  Rashida Jones and Adam Samberg are the main draws of an otherwise predictable story line.  I like how their characters evolved as they faced different situations.  And despite the "forever" tag in the title, some relationships unfortunately don't last that long even though there is no harm in hoping it would. 

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