Sunday, October 26, 2014

CHEF (2014)

Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo
Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt

"Starting from Scratch
Never Tasted So Good"


After all the heavy dramatic films, I wanted to amuse myself with some light fare. "Chef" fit perfectly as it didn't require much deciphering. The plot was simple yet entertaining, the cast was good and it centered around food - so it was just what I wanted.

Albeit all the cooking and the delicious food made me hungry I'm glad it also filled my mind - with a steady plot line which was realistically authentic. A feel good movie just like a comfort food which eases both our stomachs and our general attitude towards life.

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) an accomplished chef loses his job after a restaurant critic lambasted his food. His career in ruins, he decides to  venture out on his own. He retrofits a van and turns it into a traveling food truck that offers good, tasty food on the go. With the help of a good friend and his young son, Carl's food truck business is a huge success.

We should all emulate Carl's never say die attitude and never give up. We should never lose hope despite facing many obstacles and upheavals along the journey. That if we set out minds and our hearts into pursuing our goals and our passion, we have no way to go but up. That trials and failures are just as much part of the journey and they tend to push us forward, making us stronger and more determined to achieve victory and success.

Wow did I just get all of those life lessons from "Chef"? Probably the light hearted mood made me more philosophical about life?  I don't know but it seems that way!

Friday, October 24, 2014

THE JUDGE

Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall,
Vincent D'Onofrio, Vera Farmiga,
Billy Bob Thornton

"Defend Your Honor"


Brash city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is in a court room defending his client when he receives a call informing him about the demise of his mother. He returns to his hometown for the funeral and tries to reconnect with his brothers as well as with his father, a respected judge (Robert Duvall) with whom he has a strained relationship. 

While Hank's in town, the judge is accused of a crime (hit and run incident) so he reluctantly acts as his father's lawyer. As he discovers the truth about the complex case, father and son as expected constantly clash yet Hank struggles to remain focus on proving his father's innocence despite overwhelming evidence which point to the contrary.

Part courtroom drama, but mostly a family reconciliation drama, "The Judge" is a powerful portrayal of a highly poignant father and son relationship. Both of them trying to come to terms in finding a common ground with their principles, their pride and their profession.

Even though it sometimes feel like an episode of L.A. Law (yes, I know that was a long time ago!) or any TV show which features lawyers for that matter, the averagely predictable plot is buoyed by the top notch performances of Downey and Duvall. Their scenes together are the main draws of the film. The supporting cast are also good and their characters are well developed and multi-dimensional.

I'd like to add that I am glad to see Robert Downey, Jr in a meaty role that doesn't require him to don a superhero outfit. He has always been a good character actor even though he did dabble briefly in comedy and the rom-com genre, I prefer him in dramatic roles. He was perfectly suited for the cocky and abrasive Hank Palmer. I hope he is given the chance to show off more of his 'dramatic' side instead of just being stereotyped as a superhero figure - which can get old, really fast!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

GONE GIRL

Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike,
Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry,
Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens

"You don't know what 
you've got , 'til it's ..."


I was a bit ambivalent about this much hyped movie. Although I did not read the book by Gillian Flynn, I knew enough about the story line and it didn't strike me as being interesting. Another factor which added to my insouciance is Ben Affleck starring in the lead role. I've seen my share of his films and I've come to the conclusion that he is better suited behind the camera as a director than as the lead actor upon whose broad shoulders an entire movie would evolve around or dissolve for that matter.

In "Gone Girl", Affleck portrays what seemingly looks like an ordinary guy whose wife goes missing on the day of their 5th anniversary. Soon enough, it seems he isn't as ordinary as originally stated, Nick Dunne has secrets. I know from watching crime shows on TV that the first suspect in the disappearance of any spouse is their significant other.  True enough, the detectives zoom in on Nick Dunne as clues are unraveled and suspicions are confirmed.

The suspense factor in this cleverly directed film by David Fincher is palpable. He reveals just enough clues to the audience for them to be quite suspicious about Nick Dunne. Yet at the same time, he doesn't really outright make Nick Dunne guilty of a crime which gets murkier as the film progresses. We also learn that their marriage which looks good on paper wasn't as 'perfect' as expected. I guess no marriage is indeed perfect but the movie does project that married couples tend to showcase a different 'public' image than what really happens within the privacy of their marital union.

Of course, it would help if I had read the novel and would know in advance of the twist. This is where I believe the film lost its focus. The part where we find out what really happened to "Amazing Amy" (Rosamund Pike) and how she orchestrated the whole 'disappearance' was for me revealed way too soon. Never mind that the film runs at over 2 hours, the twist could have been handled better than it was presented in the film.

I maintain that the film is well directed and had enough suspense that one would expect from a thriller. The investigation was interspersed with a realistic angle of how quickly it turned into a 'reality show' and a media circus. Daily updates as well as the invasion of the 'suspect's' privacy were spot on. It makes you aware that behind all the incessant footage on the couples lives as shown on talk shows, there are real people who are going through enough turmoil and upheaval that the constant barrage of the TV crews on their front lawns would certainly not help them find any peace of mind.

"Gone Girl" is a dark and complex story with deeply unsettling and flawed characters. The type of story that does take a lot of mental prowess to wrap your head around because it is essentially quite creepy and disturbingly twisted. So you've been duly warned!

Friday, October 17, 2014

CANIBAL
(CANNIBAL)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


I had my reservations about watching this film because I was under the impression it would show some really gory scenes. But it was not to be. Well I hope, I don't sound disappointed because I am glad with the way the film handled the cannibalism aspect.

Carlos is a prestigious tailor in a small town in Granada. But his well dressed and quiet demeanor exterior hides a chilling secret. He feeds on human flesh. But as I mentioned above, the film avoids gore but gets the point across in moments that do not involve actual.teeth.biting.into.raw.human.flesh scenes. Although the hunt and chase for his 'victims' is chillingly portrayed through silently haunting and terrifying vignettes.

Carlos is pretty much a loner, hardly socializes and does not really have any friends in town. But he is a much respected tailor and judging from his esteemed and well heeled clientele, he makes quite a good living as a tailor.  Things get a bit messy when his new neighbor Alexandra moves into the upstairs flat. A Romanian who speaks Italian, she is clearly a troubled soul and leads a chaotic life. A stark contrast to Carlos' ordinarily routine life.

An intriguing yet quiet attraction develops between the two of them, although neither of them act on it. Until one day, Alexandra just vanishes after she seeks Carlos help with a domestic dispute. A few days later, Nina her twin sister comes to investigate the disappearance and also finds herself drawn towards the reticent tailor who lives downstairs. She too is intrigued by the supportive Carlos who 'helps' her find Alexandra. Although, we know that he probably killed and ate her as well. 

As the film and their mutual attraction progresses, numerous questions abound. Little if ever any facts are known about Carlos. What drives him to kill women then eat them? Is he truly falling in love with Nina or is she just another victim for him? There are too many elements of the film and the characters themselves that is never really explored.  

As the 'secret' and twist is revealed towards the ending, the natural reaction of Nina is both shocking and a bit underwhelmed, to say the least. Until the final scene of reckoning for Carlos comes to a close, the film barely answers any of the questions that twirls inside the audience's discerning minds. 

The cinematography though is top notch with vividly clear scenes of a small town, the snow capped mountain (where he vacations in his cabin) which all nicely capture the quiet nature of both the main character as well as the manner the film unfolded across the screen.

Although I was relieved that the depravity of its main character was not exposed through bloody and messy scenes, I was also disappointed that the audience is simply made to accept Carlos for what he is - a cannibal who just happens to be a tailor!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

LA GRAN FAMILIA ESPAƑOLA
(FAMILY UNITED)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


People who regularly read this blog would know by now that I simply love voice-overs in movies. So the moment I heard a voice over annotating this Spanish comedy/drama, I was hooked.

It starts with Ephraim, the youngest of five brothers narrating that he and his siblings were named after the characters in his father's favorite film "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". The brothers were named alphabetically from the Bible and in chronological order: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel and Ephraim. That they are two brothers short is beyond the point. 

Early on, it is established that Ephraim is getting married on a very important date. It just happens to be the day of the 2010 World Cup finals where Spain will meet Holland in the finale. 

All the numerous characters loaded with a gamut of facial expressions, peculiar behaviors and multiple traits are introduced through various scenes that all blend together. As expected, there are also various sub plots that touch on family secrets, infidelity, sibling rivalry, and many intrigues, which intertwine together and combine to produce one charmingly chaotic yet very well developed story line.

"Family United" (its English title - even though you don't need to be fluent in Spanish to understand that the real translation is "The Grand Spanish Family") mixes the two big passion of Spain - football (or soccer as it is known in other parts of the world) and family. Throw in a wedding setting and naturally a lot of dramatic and poignant moments tinged with really funny scenarios are bound to amuse the viewers.

It is the performances of the ensemble cast which really stand out and no matter how different their personalities are, the 5 brothers prove that what really counts is la familia! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

TODAS LAS MUJERES
(ALL THE WOMEN)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


This film explores in depth how a guy experiencing a crisis decides to approach all the women in his life for sound pieces of advice. Typical, no? Men cannot solve their problems without consulting the brainier specimen of the human species. Ha!

Kidding aside, you have to prepare yourself to listen closely to the dialogue since the film plays out in the various conversations that Nacho (Eduard Fernandez) has with the different women who have in some way or another influenced him his entire life.

Nacho, a 40 something vet finds himself in a bind after he stole 5 heifers from his father-in-law which he attempts to sell in Portugal. But his plan goes awry when the truck carrying these goods crashes somewhere along the route. His marriage is on the rocks so he cannot really talk to his soon to be ex-wife about his plan since he schemed it with his young mistress.

He turns to an ex-flame who tells him to confess and ask for forgiveness. After ignoring her suggestion, he approaches his mother. A wise woman who is willing to put up half of the money he lost yet at the same time suggests it might be best he goes to jail for his 'crime'. Two more women are consulted and both of them still unable to influence Nacho in a way that he thinks will be beneficial for his own good.

Nacho's common line is that "I'm not a bad person" like this statement would somehow justify his failed plan. Yet in some quiet and subtle manner, each of the conversations he has with these women, mark his ego and his conscience with self awareness of his own failings (not just with the heifers but in his life!) whether he cares to admit it or not. 

Great acting from Eduard Fernandez (an actor I've seen in several Spanish films) whose nuanced expressions reveal a gamut of emotions billowing inside his tension filled brain. Although there is no specific conclusion on how he intends to solve his massive problem, from the conversations alone, one can ascertain that Nacho (whatever he decides to do) will hopefully become more mature and wiser moving forward in his life's journey.
 

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