Archive for June, 2011

29
Jun
11

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

She leaned closer. Her ears straining to hear the introduction. She shushed me with a meaningful look as I continue munching popcorn with the stamina of an Extra Joss-induced college student cramming for his useless term paper. I tempered the mastication. Embarrassed but curious, I noticed her date slouched and unmindful of the narration. The girl stopped listening after ten minutes. Her date moved a bit to stretch his legs then his arms.  I am not sure if this is the perfect date movie but I feel it is going to be a long and silent taxi ride for this couple. Same goes for the fifteen courageous or misguided souls inside the theater last night. I cannot help but note their complaints and reactions after sitting through an unusual film. It validates the strange effect of art in general and films in particular to an audience of different purposes  and intentions.

Tree of life - at least of the religious and philosophical kind – refers to the interconnection of all life. Like the circle of life. Since it is some sort of a religious motif, almost all religions have their versions of the tree of life. It underscores the need to respect one another since the interconnection reflects a deeper relationship among all life forms. Cannes Film Festival winners do not figure much in local cinemas so it is quite surprising Terrence Malick’s latest polarizing movie is accessible to the Filipino audience. Is it the Brad Pitt factor? Is it it a change of mindset? Or did some film distributor made a mistake in his drunken stupor?

I am torn. Should I consider this movie a triumph in film-making because Malick decided to expand a simple drama with his questions on life and God? Should I call it a dick-act of epic proportions as Malick tries to impress with beautiful images but could not keep things simple and elegant? I am torn. But I am thankful such artists still exist. To rile and touch emotions at the same time is not a manageable job. There is a part of me hankering for a shorter film; stripped of the dream sequences and scenes of evolution. But then there is something delightful in dinosaurs; romantic in rock formations; surreal in school of hammerhead sharks; and thoughtful in soaring trees, interspersed with human life.

Removing these will make the movie just like other run-of-the-mill dramas set in a certain period. I do not think Malick falls under the run-of-the-mill directors. Some people just do their thing. Some people are huge dicks to impose their vision to us and expect positive reciprocation. Such dicks. Such artistic dicks. 

It is not the best movie. Not the best Malick movie. I clapped (Jessica Chastain and  the child actors are brilliant.); criticized (The hell is beach scene all about.); listened (Narration is delivered in soft voice as if telling the audience to lean closer like that girl in a horrible movie date in front of me.); laughed (Dinosaurs! Chastain sliding ice cubes to wake her kids. Then her offspring exacted revenge with a fat lizard.); smiled (The eldest kid comforting his father after losing his job.); sneered (Sean Penn is doing something.); waited (…for the film to end.) and wondered (…if the general audience will like it.) as the film started, progressed and ended.

I am still torn but I am thankful. 

RATING: B+

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22
Jun
11

Movie Review: Green Lantern

This is one of the suckiest comic book adaptation I have seen in a long time. I ended up composing the previous sentence fifteen minutes or so before the movie ended. Seems its suckiness has to be cemented as quick as possible. Right off the bat, the film  had problems in the movie trailer department. Just like the other green hero, Green Hornet, this Ryan Reynolds-starrer had an early trailer misfire. Fans of the comic book felt Hal Jordan was depicted like a total jerk and an incurable as*-hole. He is not. Based on the comics that I read (Yep. I read it.), Jordan is a tortured soul turned reckless fool. The as*-holeness is a bit incorrect.

Green Lantern is one of the most important superheroes in the DC universe. He is one of the founding members of Justice League. That is the Justice League! But these seem lost to the filmmakers. Might be thinking, “Green Lantern should be accessible to most people. Emphasize his human-ess. That worked well for Spider-Man.” Yeah. If he WAS Spider-Man! But he is not. He is Hal Jordan. He is the first human Green Lantern. One of the greatest Green Lanterns of all-time. He is the chosen one. He carries the ring of Abin Sur. He is our guardian. Our protector. Do I need to go on?

If the filmmakers got him WRONG then it is their seldom DUTY to up the ante and make the rest of the movie bearable. But it is boring as hell. I kept waiting for the credits to roll so I can start pounding the little Nokia E63 pad for a blog post draft. Still the movie continued chugging to snoozerhole that I whipped out the phone and started punching one hapless letter after another. That boring.

There is no possible reason a film about Green Lantern to end up a total bore. Hal Jordan does dogfights (I begged for Tom Cruise to make an appearance and grab the pilot seat because that has got to be one of the dullest dogfights of all-time.) in his real work. Green Lantern has his corps and the Planet Oa in his superhero time. I am calling it as sad case of laziness. Good material but bad execution. This is not the first time a comic book material is adapted on-screen. There are a number of blueprints to choose from but instead, it decided to take a shortcut. Read: 3-D-fied it. Add  a smattering of laughs. Condensed historical beginnings. Do not forget the abs. Put a romantic angle. Some enlightened realizations.Voila! A superhero film. No one is willing to take risks nor put some time to think things out. No one. Poor Green Lantern.

On paper, the cast screams, “Yeah!” Ryan Reynolds. “Yeah!” Peter Sarsgaard. “Yeah!” Tim Robbins. “Yeah!” Angela Bassett. “Yeah!” Mark Strong. “Hell! Yeah!” Hold it. Angela Bassett?! “Hell. Effin. Yeah.” Uhmm…the glorious Ms. Bassett? I guess her agent thought this is a good idea. So stunned to see her crack her face on-screen. That or Robbins getting incinerated. 

So let us start discussing more important matters. Like BLAKE LIVELY.

Blake is beautiful but forgettable. Her gorgeousness is not strong enough to sear her alluring strength  to the memories of moviegoers. She is too stiff. Too made-up. Too packaged. Offers nothing special. Just a face to ogle at. There is no x-factor. Nothing. Her fake lashes in the movie ranges from distracting to disturbing. It is a bad thing if people notices such things instead of one’s acting. Or if a blogger finishes this paragraph first before the rest of the post. 

RATING: C-

14
Jun
11

Movie Review: The Hangover Part II

Just like the eternal and – admit it – nonsensical question, “If a tree fell in a forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?”, it is also right to ask, “Is a so-wild-I-lap-danced-the-arresting-officer-drinking-spree still fun if one remembers nothing in the morning after?,” The second question offers a far more entertaining point of discussion and the essence of its philosophical blueprint remains. Admit it. Of course the obvious answer is NO. Waking up with a throbbing pain and fleeting memories is never fun unless someone or something clears things up. Then the fun and embarrassment begins.

That is the path Todd Philips traversed in The Hangover, the surprise R-18 hit flick. Question: does a material remains comic gold if it is remade for a second time? TRICKY. Based on the mental audience laugh barometer, The Hangover Part II rocked the cinemas over the weekend. Stu and Phil and Allan still has enough antics up their booze-soaked sleeves to entertain their hard-core fans. The format is the same and it CANNOT GO WRONG. Right? Uhm. I am not sure. Something tells me this is a mediocre repeat. I did laugh but still. There is a nagging feeling the movie  is just a repetition. Not even a sequel. It is not as good as the first but the kind of still entertaining bad. A lot better than the sequel movie about four Big Apple ladies in a Middle Eastern trip. Sarah Jessica Parker needs to evaluate her career path. 

Stu (Ed Helms) is about to get married in Thailand. His friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) along with their drug-spiking comrade, Allan (Zach Galifianakis), traveled 16 hours for the ceremonies Much to Allan’s displeasure, the Stanford pre-med brother of Stu’s bride is also on-board. (Still remember the first one? Good. It is just a REPEAT so I will stop here and not bore people with more details.) Better start a drinking game instead of a review.

I am serious. Dead serious.

THE HANGOVER PART II DRINKING GAME

Directions:

  1. Gather friends after watching the movie.
  2. Pick a booze. The stronger the better.
  3. Print out the YES or NO checklist.
  4. Drink up EVERY TIME a question merits a YES.
Checklist:
I am so excited about the sequel.
  1. YES
  2. NO
The movie focused on Ed Helms because he did not get a big break like Cooper and Galifianakis after the first film.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Zach Galifianakis is better than Jack Black.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Ken Jeong is hilarious.
  1. YES
  2. NO
I like the TIGER better than the MONKEY because the big cat is a more outrageous choice than a primate.
  1. YES
  2. NO
I expected the movie to make fun of Buddhist monks.
  1. YES
  2. NO
I expected ASIAN STEREOTYPES.
  1. YES
  2. NO
That prostitute is a man. Stu is too blind not to see it.
  1. YES
  2. NO
A scene featuring the trademark she-males of Thailand is inevitable.
  1. YES
  2. NO
The film-makers are hoping to elicit laughter from a barrage of penis jokes.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Ed Helms look like an older Christoher Mintz Plasse.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Paul Giamatti?! The hell is he doing here?
  1. YES
  2. NO
Is it possible for Cho not to die from HYPOTHERMIA?
  1. YES
  2. NO
I like Stu’s song in the first movie than this one.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Fourteen shots? I am still not drunk.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Damn. This is like a cut-and-paste flick. Just use the first movie as a blueprint. Think of similar situation. You got a movie.
  1. YES
  2. NO
Justin Bartha has the best role here. Proper billing despite not doing ANYTHING.
  1. YES
  2. NO
It took sometime but there goes the song. “One night in Bangkok/And the world’s your oyster/The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free/You’ll find a God in every golden cloister/And if you’re lucky then the God’s a she/I can feel an angel sliding up to me”
  1. YES
  2. NO
HOLY CATNIP! MIKE TYSON IS SINGING! He has one of the most incredible but confusing career of all-time.
  1. YES
  2. NO
He still managed to take photos despite a missing finger and a colossal alcohol content. You are killing me.
  1. YES
  2. NO
RATING: C+
13
Jun
11

The Top 10 Reasons Super 8 is Super

Spielberg and Abrams must be like that aspiring director kid in the movie, badgering their friends to star in their amateur projects. I imagine them scouring their neighborhood for possible shooting locations, experimenting with train models for special effects and wearing out their cameras looking for the perfect shot. There cannot be a better explanation for their success in the field of film-making and iconic status in the science-fiction genre. It is not surprising that their first big screen collaboration produced one of the most entertaining films in the first half of 2011. A cross between E.T.: Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg influence) and Cloverfield (Abrams influence), the movie satisfies the need for a superior special effects-laden movie with a huge heart. It reminded of District 9 – the amazing film from the geek partnership of Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp – and though not as superb as the aforementioned movie, this one is still a must-see. Despite some dragging parts and a need for more action sequences, this film is still super for me.

NUMBER TEN: BECAUSE IT FINALLY AFFIRMS OR REJECTS OUR HYPOTHESES ON ITS MYSTERIOUS MOVIE TRAILER

I thought it is about  a GOVERNMENT COVER-UP involving a LAB-CREATED MONSTER. Spoiler: one of the all-capped phrase is correct and the other is incorrect.

NUMBER NINE: BECAUSE IT INVOLVES TWO FILMS

Do not leave the theater in haste and check the credits out.

NUMBER EIGHT: BECAUSE IT HAS ZOMBIES

Zombies make all things better.

NUMBER SEVEN:  BECAUSE THE ALIEN IS NOT CUTE

Looks like a mutant spider. I hate spiders. I hate the alien. Invading aliens must not be cute because it is so hard to overwhelm people with adorableness. Yeah. Sure, people will find their presence irresistible but they’ll be three minutes from turning them into pets or stuffed space creatures. Aliens should be mean killing machines.

NUMBER SIX: BECAUSE IT FEATURES ONE COOL SPACESHIP

Three words: collapsing metal cubes.

NUMBER FIVE: BECAUSE IT IS SET IN THE 1970s

Cassette tapes. Bell bottoms. Midriff blouses. Hit song of Knack in the soundtrack. It is so mint!

NUMBER FOUR: BECAUSE THE KIDS ARE PORTRAYED AS SMART PEOPLE

Kids making movies. Kids taking care of their troubled parents. Kids deciphering government f*ck-ups. Kids taking on aliens. Smart kids. Thanks JJ!

NUMBER THREE: BECAUSE OF ELLE FANNING

Dakota Fanning has announced her intention to go to college. Moviegoers need not be alarmed as her career takes a backseat because her sister Elle will take the cudgels. She is so good! The movie made good use of her as a take-charge girl, part of an amateur film project. Watch her do zombie movies. Damn. Please investigate the air the Fanning girls breathe.

NUMBER TWO:  BECAUSE IT IS A COLLABORATION OF SCIENCE-FICTION ICONS

Steven Spielberg + JJ Abrams = Geek. Triumph.

NUMBER ONE: BECAUSE STEVEN SPIELBERG REDISCOVERED HIS MOJO

The last thrilling Spielberg movie stars Tom Cruise before he terrified the couch of Oprah. No. Not the alien invasion remake. The other one. Mr. Spielberg it is nice to earn accolades and all via historical films and other Tom Hanks-related projects but I miss the adrenaline. Do more of these films please. I am sure a lot of up-and-coming and current SF directors are more than willing to clear the schedules for future collaborations. 

06
Jun
11

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

Mutants in mini-skirts and other fabulous 1960s ensembles. That had me sold from the beginning. I am going to see this film, despite a not-so fantastic experience during the last X-Men screen adaptation. It left an indelible albeit thankless impression. I fell asleep during the better part of the screening. Despite the much-anticipated adamantium duel between first-rate hunk Hugh Jackman and up-and-coming abs-tacular staple Ryan Reynolds, I curled up and snoozed while my bag of Texas Barbecue popcorn wilted amidst freezing temperature. Tolerance is a virtue I place high on the list. None more obvious than tolerating half-as*ed, fart-inspired movies. I can set aside a certain level of tolerance for all kinds of films so I never expected to roll the zzz’s in a loud crash-and-bang effects-laden comic popcorn flick. The prequel X-Men: First Class is so perfectly named because it is indeed a first class adaptation with a fine cast and narrative. It never insulted the moviegoers’ intelligence nor shortchanged their taste for spectacular action sequences. But the real treat and fulcrum of the film is the wonderful chemistry between James McAvoy (pre-Professor X, Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (pre-Magneto, Erik Lehnsherr). SWEETHEART JAMES! DARLING FASSY! Can I ask for more? No. So satisfied.

In the 1960s and the United States of America and the Socialist Soviet Republic share superpower billing. The threat of nuclear war is real and possible. Unknown to most people, the Cuban Missile Crisis is the fault of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) – a cruel mutant of infinite powers. An intelligence officer named Dr. Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) uncovered the truth when she witnessed Shaw and his evil ilk, Emma Frost (January Jones), Riptide (Alex Gonzalez) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng) threatened a top-ranking U.S. military officer into starting World War III. Shocked, McTaggert contacted the foremost expert on genetic mutation, Professor Charles Xavier. Eager to assist and demonstrate his personal belief that mutants can co-habitate  and contribute to the human race, Xavier along with his adopted sister Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), signed-up to thwart the evil plans of a megalomania. Another mutant though is hot on the trail of Shaw, the metal-bending Erik Lehnsherr. As a kid, he had the horrific misfortune of meeting Klaus Schmidt, the former identification of Shaw, in a Nazi concentration camp. Vengeance in his mind, Lehnsherr teamed-up with Xavier in forming a band of mutants. Soon enough, Hank McCoy or Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), Sean Cassidy or Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Alex Summers or Havok (Lucas Till) and Armando Munoz or Darwin (Edi Cathegi) formed the first class of mutants against a global threat. But the group faces a bigger problem as the increasing ideological schism of Xavier and Lehnsherr comes to light in their moment of triumph.

I must confess to certain personal bias: I love the 1960s. There. Still thinks it is hard to top this iconic decade in terms of global politics, music and fashion. To insert X-Men lore during the JFK era, Beatlesmania and Jackie O sunglasses is an inspired choice. Mutants learning to accept their situations in a decade full of social and historical changes is one hot mess. So I smiled each time Emma Frost appears in another mini-dress; each time Charles Xavier drops another “groovy” in his sentence; and each time the mutants crowd around their ultra-mod living room. Delightful. Never doubted the feeling that I used to live during this decade in a past life.  ’60s or no ’60s though, X-Men: First Class is a positive contribution to the profitable genre of comic book screen adaptation.

The director never let his material go out of hand. His strong directorial hand is quite evident. I can hear him remind himself throughout the movie, ” I must demonstrate the development of each major characters and the prior relationship of arch-enemies Magneto and Professor X, set in the Cuban Missile Crisis while reigning on a potential ham acting of Kevin Bacon.” Ah. The perks of the cast includes a first degree Kevin Bacon connection and acting alongside a most-underrated performer. He is good and the rest of us must be reminded. I felt he had a romp performing acts of megalomania. So did the other cast members. (Even cameo appearances! A popular mutant makes a brief presence.) Jones is one hot ice queen. Special mention goes to Jennifer Lawrence. She is 2-for-2 in the acting department. Though a strange sophomore film to her memorable performance in Winter’s Bone, this is just the beginning of her storied career. Next stop: Katniss Everdeen.

But none tops the cinematic bromance of Xavier and Lehnsherr. Chess games in front of the Lincoln Monument. Slapping knees after a successful telephatic communication. Tinkering hidden memories resulting to tears. Mixing work and pleasure while searching for other mutants. The fun never stops! Until fate intervened and the friendship ended in tattered hopes and dreams. As the life-altering bullet struck Xavier in his spine, I almost screamed, “No! He should not be stuck in a wheelchair. The 1970s is approaching. He and Lehnsherr should be disco-dancing and scoring ladies in shimmering hot pants. Or sharing drinks with the Burtons in Studio 54. The ’60s has not even ended! I am sure Charles got room reservations in Hugh Hefner’s famous mansion. Dead sure.”

Sounding a bit cuckoo? Yes. I am almost sure I will create a slashfic of The Bromantic Tales of Charles and Erik. Of course, I shall make an appearance as the girl both mutants are fighting for. (In one scene, as Erik is bending the metal frames of his bed to handcuff me during an afternoon rendezvous; Charles seethes in rage as he tap into his friend’s mind. Using his telepathic abilities, he mind-controlled Erik into slapping me so hard until I bleed in despair. Six slaps after, Erik left and Charles entered the picture. Mind-controls me to serve his mutant pleasures.) Hah! Personal. Fantasies. Never. Fail.

Scotsman McAvoy is not new to big-budgeted flicks after taking on Tumnus the Faun in the Narnia series and stealing the spotlight from Angelina Jolie in Wanted, however, this is the first time he is tasked to headline a major project. Irishman Michael Fassbender first caught attention via a supporting role in Inglorious Basterds and as Magneto, he takes on his biggest role yet in his exciting career. James and Michael injected depth to the movie just like Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan before them. Plus these men are so damn hot.

Lovefest commencing. James has a pair of soulful eyes that come in handy in big drama films where he is more associated with. But he ditched the soulfulness and turned on the charm engine for his mutant character. Who knew Professor X is a mansion-living, beer-guzzling rich but genius cad? Scoring girls in bars with his time-tested genetic mutation-related pick-up lines. He is so fun! On the other hand, Michael has an apparent alpha maleness just like his mutant alter-ego. He is like a more masculine John Hamm. Not that Hamm is less masculine but Fassbender has a rugged allure and palpable screen presence. His Erik Lehnsherr is a difficult character but it took a tenacious telepath to break his strong interior. Soon enough, he is shedding tears, laughing hard and filling wine glasses in a girlie club. He is so fun! The Internet Movie Database lists a number of movies lined up for these gents. I am in for a cinematic treat. Yum.

RATING: A-




my read shelf:
Jowana Bueser's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

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