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Showing posts from March, 2012

THE HELP (Tate Taylor, 2011)

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Racism is a very sensitive material to deal with in cinema. The slightest error or inaccuracy and people are quick to react. The reason is that racism is a very emotional issue; it speaks to the heart of the oppressed. 
THE HELP, based on the bestselling book of the same name may be accused of the same skewed view that white people solve racism, which also happened with THE BLIND SIDE, the semi-controversial film that won Sandra Bullock her Oscar. While this may be true, I am inclined to believe such claim for THE BLIND SIDE rather than this movie. First of all, THE HELP's relevance and timelessness is easily felt. 
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s, THE HELP centers on Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) and her observations in her hometown after returning from college. Seemingly the only woman left unmarried in her circle, her pals led by the narcissistic and self-absorbed Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) have made it a mission to set her up with a guy. …

THE ARTIST (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)

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Whoever said that silent cinema is dead clearly hasn't seen THE ARTIST, which I can safely say the feel-good movie of this year's Oscars lineup. Jean Dujardin is in top form playing the proud silent actor George Valentin while equally entertaining and deeply affecting is Berenice Bejo as the cheerful actress Peppy Miller. The tandem is a match made in heaven. 
A tale of love, ambition, change, and redemption, THE ARTIST has everything- thrills, humor, romance, spectacle, nostalgia, and a very lovable dog. The film concerns a silent movie actor, George Valentin faced with the inevitable shift of Hollywood into talkies, and the arrival of a girl, Peppy Miller who is big on dreams and bigger on heart. She will affect his life in ways he will not expect, and the redemption in the end is every moment worth it of all the dialogue we've been robbed off. 
Guiding the plot into absolute cinematic heaven is Ludovic Bource's exceptional musical score, highly-deserving of its Academ…

THE IRON LADY (Phyllida Lloyd, 2012)

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Biopics are risky. People are always looking for authenticity, veracity, or fearlessness in storytelling- especially if the subject is a controversial figure. There's a good way of doing it (GANDHI, THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and then there's a bad way of doing it (AMELIA, CLEOPATRA). In the end, it's what you have to say for your subject that makes all the difference.
Take THE IRON LADY for example. The subject is former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher-controversial indeed. The actress playing the character is Meryl Streep- more than capable. But what does the film want to say about Thatcher?
The focus of screenwriter Abi Morgan's script is on how Thatcher remembers her rise to glory and eventual downfall, and director Phyllida Lloyd, who reteams with Streep since MAMMA MIA mounts the scenes and pieces them together like a memory: non-linear, jagged, and selective, which is not to say that there isn't any amount of truth in the telling. 
We see Thatcher as she batt…

THE HUNGER GAMES (Gary Ross, 2012)

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With a relaxed pacing that gives ample time to establish the plot and the struggle of its main character, Gary Ross' adaptation of the smash hit novel by Suzanne Collins manages to dish out some important moral and existential issues amidst the action and the budding romance factor. However, THE HUNGER GAMES is far from perfection.
Fans will appreciate the filmmakers' adherence to the book, given that Collins co-wrote the screenplay and served as executive producer. I haven't read the book yet, but judging by what I saw onscreen, THE HUNGER GAMES has a pretty interesting material to begin with. Charles Darwin is in the works, plus a submission versus subversion contrast. The setting is a dystopian future, and the movie showcases wildly glossy and excessive hair and make-up for the rich and privileged, suggesting class division. Meanwhile, people in poor districts dress in pretty much similar clothes, as if in uniforms, and line up for the "Reaping" (where the &quo…

THE DRIVER (Walter Hill, 1978)

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Here's the movie that may have influenced that recent movie most of you have been raving about (well, including me) - Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE. Both movies have familiar basic elements - the lone "driver", the mysterious woman, that sticky situation, a cunning adversary, the protagonist works as a getaway driver for thieves, and there's some burning tires to be had.
In fact, the first 15 minutes of THE DRIVER made me ponder if Refn ripped off this Walter Hill 70s action thriller. Later scenes in THE DRIVER would prove that the two movies have so much differences as there are similarities, but still I cannot shake the fact Refn was somehow influenced by this one. 
THE DRIVER, like DRIVE puts style over substance, yet THE DRIVER falls short of logic in its storytelling. There are plot holes sufficient to create a different movie altogether.
Ryan O'Neal plays the titular unnamed character. Bloodthirsty to pin him down is the cop (Bruce Dern), who is so full of …

SHATTERED GLASS (Billy Ray, 2003)

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Here's a movie written by a screenwriter who knows how to thrill using normal conversation. With co-writing credits such as STATE OF PLAY (which is another journalism-themed thriller), FLIGHTPLAN, and the upcoming HUNGER GAMES movie, Billy Ray dishes one intense scene after another in SHATTERED GLASS, a true story based on an article written by H.G. Bissinger for Vanity Fair about The New Republic Associate Editor Stephen Glass. 
But wait there's more. Billy Ray also directs this cat and mouse game (he proves to be quite an effective suspense director with this, and his 2007 film, BREACH), putting to a good test the code of ethics of journalism. In this tale however, the offense committed against the moral foundations of journalism is clear cut, and the penalty shall be exacted without consideration whatsoever.
Hayden Christensen gives the performance of his career as Stephen Glass, the journalist who became famous with his heavily-researched and thought-provoking articles, most…

HUGO (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

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Perhaps the best way to begin a review of a Martin Scorsese movie that doesn't sound and feel like a Martin Scorsese movie is to acknowledge the fact that at least, here's one Scorsese movie you can show the whole family. Eventually, this stemmed from Marty's wife telling him they cannot show any of his films to their young daughter.
That fact alone is reason enough to go and see the movie. Heck, see it twice. HUGO's magic never degrades; its scope timeless.
HUGO, based on the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick, links a young boy's search for meaning and purpose to an ultimate celebration of the cinematic art as a means of realizing dreams. What begins as a fated encounter between rascal Hugo who's been living alone in a train station, and toy shop owner Georges (Sir Ben Kingsley) unfolds into an adventure of self-discovery and resolution of suppressed emotions for both characters, all set against a lavish backdrop of 1930s Paris, and…

MONEYBALL (Bennett Miller, 2011)

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MONEYBALL, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, reinvigorates the sports drama genre, with its underdog tale and protagonist filled with conviction, yet what makes it a must-see is its exciting look at how the business of sports is played, which is certainly not via conformity.
Brad Pitt is in top shape portraying real-life Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, a former baseball player turned scout trying to manage a losing team. The action begins as Beane defies industry standards and experiments using a calculated approach into predicting success, known as sabermetrics. With the help of Yale-educated economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Beane pushes the limits, much to the dismay of almost everyone around him.
The movie takes its time to let its characters explore their potentials, and to build up the result of its analytical premise. In between, flashbacks of Beane’s life as a youngster with his life ahead of him help shape the decisions his character…

THE RUM DIARY (Bruce Robinson, 2011)

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A semi-trippy mix of conspiracy, sunshine journalism, alcohol, politics, and a very sexy Amber Heard, Bruce Robinson's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's THE RUM DIARY has Johnny Depp at his comfort zone; as journalist Paul Kemp, Depp navigates the sane and the insane, amidst a sea of white collar crime in 60s sunny Puerto Rico. And we all know Johnny Depp can do bizarre in his sleep.
As the newest writer in a rundown newspaper, Kemp breathes in the Latin culture, both the savory and unsavory. His boss is the pessimistic Edward J. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) who first assigns him to do daily horoscopes; his best pal is a fellow writer, Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) who leads him to murkier waters, as if their other fellow writer, the overratedly alcoholic and downright subversive Moburg (a tasteful and noteworthy performance by Giovanni Ribisi) isn't causing enough trouble.   
Kemp then gets mixed with PR Consultant Hal Sanderson, who is really more than just a PR Consultant. S…

JACK AND JILL (Dennis Dugan)

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JACK AND JILL is hardly original concept, and while most of the jokes are low-grade toilet humor, the film manages to be funny at some point. It's a bar better than the awfully excruciating GROWN UPS, and its evil spawn JUST GO WITH IT.
Adam Sandler plays both of the titular characters, who are brother and sister twins. The female twin Jill, is coming to L.A. for Thanksgiving, and is going to stay with his brother Jack for a few days. Jack's wife Erin (Katie Holmes) is more accommodating, while Jack can't wait for his sister to already leave. When a business deal that requires actor Al Pacino (yes, the one and only) to be wooed into doing a coffee commercial for a donut company (shameless product placement), Jack uses his sister as bait knowing that Pacino fancies her. 
Oddly enough, I was surprised the producers got Al Pacino to be in this movie. Make no mistake, Pacino's presence is hilarious and right on. I am just baffled. And another thing, since Pacino was made to …