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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

10,000 Years of Disappointment

The movie directed by Roland Emmerich had some serious flaws that made the two-hour "epic" feel like a 10,000 year long film put on a very slooooowwww motion.

For starters the movie that boasted Independence Day and Day After Tomorrow as the director's credit failed to get a casting director worth his salary. From the very beginning of the mammoth-ly disappointing film the viewers were assaulted by
the implausibility of a tribe of what looked like an American Indian people with an admixture of characters from the present-day United Nation.

There was a Middle Eastern tribal leader (who also looked like the New Zealander in Whale Rider) who was with an American Indian priestess, the protagonist was clearly Caucasian but his friend was Black Latin American. Some women of the tribe looked strikingly Malaysian and even Filipinos. And of course, the lady love of the film was of Hispanic-Asian descent. Go figure. We thought this movie was about a pre-historic tribe fighting to survive the glacial age and slave traders. Why should they be of mixed ancestry? At least Mel Gibson (of another hugely disappointing movie, Apocalypto) had the decency of putting characters who more or less resembled one another in physiognomy.

Then there is the problem of language: never mind that the movie was in English (although that one was also jarring to the ears), but do the tribesmen have to speak in different accents? Or speak fluently like a modern English speaker does? Whew!

Finally, the long-winded journey was really looooooooooooong. Though it was punctuated by some chase scenes (that awakened me and my friend in between our naps), the whole story seemed trite and shallow, a hyped spin to the old caveman epic that brought nothing new expect so so CGI animation.

And then the teeth! This was supposed to be before dental procedures were invented, why do they all have sparkling white teeth when sabre-tooth cats were still roaming around?

Oh, well one can argue that I'm missing the big picture by nitpicking on the nitty-gritty details.
But sometimes, you know, when you aim for the big thing, you ought to pay attention to the little ones as well.

Back to the Land Before Time guys! It's more satisfying.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Superman Returns

Call me anti-Superman or anything but I can't say that this Brian Singer adaptation is great. I've seen it twice and appreciated the "divine" elements Singer highlighted in the film but still for me the movie lacked depth and warmth.

The Superman (Routh) did not strike me as a very interesting fellow. He was cold and distant (as if he were still in his planet Kryton) and terribly unemotional. Then there was the chemistry factor (or lack of) between him and Lois Lane. True there was a gap between his disappearance and Lois' being a mother and prospective wife to another man but aside from her nervous fidgeting of cigarettes there was no other indication that she still longed for her ex.

Another downside of the movie was its predeliction for dark scenes. As my brother Mike commented, "You can hardly distinguish him (Superman) from a bat flying." Kevin Spacey's Luthor was superbly portrayed by a criminally-cold megalomaniac but his role in the movie was centrally focused on just discovering the weakness of Superman. It did not in any way propelled the story.

Sorry guys, but I won't be seeing this movie the third time around.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

Wow! Some day all Marvel movies will be made this way.

So far this is the most awesome, fantastic, eye-popping and satisfying comics-to-movie adaptation of a Marvel series. The characters loom larger than life and have not been dwarfed by special effects. And the story too is something to rave about.

The Last Stand is the third and, fingers crossed, not the final episode of the X-men series. Not only is the third installment the most explosive, it is also the most heart-rending of all episodes as three major (am not telling who, you have to watch it and I mean in the big screen!) characters sacrifice their lives for the cause they are fighting.

To get rid of the mutant problem. The government has discovered a "cure" that would permanently alter the genetic make-up of the mutants and make them normal human beings. But the line between what's normal and what's not, who's the menace and the victim gets blurred as two opposing ideologies clash. The X-men find themselves in the middle of the turbulence: protecting the humans who hate and fear them and convincing the outcast mutants to co-exist peacefully with them.

Professor Xavier and his friend/nemesis Magneto once again marshall their armies in the hope of winning the battle to their sides. But along the way, great sacrifices were required and people who were fated to do so, paid dearly for it.

Bravo to the X-men 3 team!

X-man Fans: Don't leave the theater until after the credits have fully finished rolling.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Yes. I'm back again after a hiatus of two and a half months. Contrary to what many believed that I had altogether stopped watching movies because of extreme frustration over the Oscars, I'm here--alive and well. Truth is, there had never been good movies after the Academy Awards season, except for one or two, so I temporarily stopped writing. But the gaga over MI3 and Da Vinci had me rushing back to my keyboard again.

For starters, here's my review of the "most highly-anticipated film of the year."

Well, well, well. The first question that might be of interest is: why was Ron Howard picked to direct this movie? He's a good actor and director no doubt, having starred in and made unforgettable movies like The Cocoon, Far and Away, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. But to create a suspense, action-filled mystery-thriller, one would expect that producers would bank on the credibility of the likes of John Woo, Brian Singer and others of the same league.

What resulted in the adaptation of Dan Brown's novel was, to quote a friend and fellow critic, a "National Geographic special on slow-mo." The movie relied heavily on the popularity (some say notoriety) of the book and forgot that the two media are of different genre, and therefore what works in the other might, and in this case, did not work on the other (the movie).

After Prof. Langdon (Hanks) and Sophie (Tautou) reached the Chateau Villette, where they were given a crash course on biblical hermenuetics, apocryphal writings and ecclessiology and the occult, and where the "biggest hoax in the history of mankind" was revealed, it was down, down hill all the way through the end. The movie kept on topping the revealed secret with surprising twists (which were never really surprising, anyway) to up the ante but it miserably failed to do so.

If the ho-hum reaction of the audience is enough an indicator of the interest of the audience (or its lack of), then Cannes critics have the reason to raise their eyebrows. At the end of the movie, one flabbergasted member of the audience exclaimed, "That's it?"

Dan Brown fans, consider yourselves warned.

I wonder what Mona Lisa was smiling about?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's the Oscars! (Time to place your bets)

(Mine goes to the red-lettered ones. )


Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Joauqin Phoenix, Walk the Line
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Charlize Theron, North Country
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

George Clooney, Syriana
Matt Dillon, Crash
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
William Hurt, A History of Violence

Amy Adams, Junebug
Catherine Keener, Capote
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

George Clooney, Good Night & Good Luck
Paul Haggis, Crash
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Bennett Miller, Capote
Steven Spielberg, Munich

Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
Dan Futterman, Capote
Jeffery Caine, The Constant Gardener
Josh Olson, A History of Violence
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich

Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, Crash
George Clooney and Grant Heslov,
Good Night and Good Luck
Woody Allen, Match Point
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Stephen Gaghan, Syriana

Howl’s Moving Castle
Time Burton’s Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit

Good Night and Good Luck
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Pride & Prejudice

Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck
Memoirs of a Geisha
The New World

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
Walk the Line

Darwin’s Nightmare
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
March of the Penguins
Street Fight

The Death of Kevin Carter:
Casualty if the Bang Bang Club
God Sleeps in Rwanda
The Mushroom Club
A Note of Triumph:
The Golden Age of Norman Corwin

Cinderella Man
The Constant Gardener
Walk the Line

Don’t Tell (Italy)
Joyeux Noel (France)
Paradise Now (Palestinian Authority)
Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (Germany)
Tsotsi (South Africa)

The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Cinderella Man
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain
Alberto Iglesias, The Constant Gardener
John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha
John Williams, Munich
Dario Marianelli, Pride & Prejudice

“In the Deep,” from Crash
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from Hustle & Flow
“Travelin’ Thru, ” from Transamerica

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
The Mysterious Geographic Exporations of
Jasper Morello 9
One Man Band

Ausreisser (The Runaway)
The Last Farm
Our Time Is Up
Six Shooter

King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
War of the Worlds

The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Walk the Line
War of the Worlds

The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
King Kong
War of the Worlds

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Capote (2005)

American literary giant Truman Capote gets a chance to show his more human side and his often misunderstood and derided personality in Bennett Miller's Capote. Chronicling the years following a brutal murder of a wealthy farming family in Kansas in 1959, Capote depicts the fictionist's non-fictional account of convicted multiple murderer Perry Edward Smith's troubled life. Without pandering on the melodrama, the movie at the same time paints the author's sensitivity, magnanimity and unique friendship with Perry.

Based largely on the best-selling and critically-acclaimed non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, which enevitably sealed for Capote the distinction of being one of the finest writers America has produced, the film is very careful not to parody Capote's speech defects and bohemian personality (and thinly veiled homosexual tendencies). Rather it is a moving portrait of someone who truly understands what it means to be abandoned and unwanted. In one scene, when Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), another literary giant and Capote's good friend, confronted Truman about the rumors circulating that he has fallen in love with Perry, Truman told her "It's as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front."

Philip Seymour Hoffman who portrays Capote deserves the Oscar Nomination for best actor in lead role. We all know that he might lose the plum to Heath Ledger or David Straithairn but our respect for him as a talented actor in this film knows no bound. Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper are also commendable for their supporting roles.

One caveat though: Capote fails to connect with the audience, unlike what Dead Man Walking did when it elicited an agonizing sympathy for the killers (not that we should always do so, but that's the magic of cinema) with the outstanding performance of Sean Penn. The plot is mostly linear and is unable to prepare the viewers for a hightened emotional response because there isn't any to begin with. The film revolves around the hesitation of Perry to divulge what really happened on the night of the murders but when he finally did so, nothing further (in terms of sympathy) could be squeezed from the audience. It also has the tendency to drag especially in the middle and towards the end.

I admire the fluidity of Capote's writings but I guess the screenwriter was not able to capture that on paper so the director had trouble translating it to the silver screen. A regrettable act.

Fanatic Verdict: Watch it (only to see how good Hoffman is!).

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Who is Melquiades Estrada? And where on earth is the place (between two hills , verdant pasture and flowing river) called Jimenez?

Ranch owner Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) had only two passions in life: horses and Freddy Fender songs. He was not a loner but when Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo) came to his ranch one day, looking for water for his horse, Pete had instantly found a long-lost brother and a bosom friend. Melquiades was an illegal immigrant who crossed the Tex-Mex border to find himself a better job and opportunities for the family he left behind. "I'm just a cowboy," he told Pete when the latter asked him what kind of job he could do. And right there and then they had struck a friendship so unique and warm that the Brokeback Mountain cowboys would surely envy.

Through a series of flash backs, typical of Guillermo Arriaga writing (21 Grams), we learn of Melquiades' past, his dreams and his heart's deepest desire. This desire included being buried in his hometown and in his own place. Pete made a promise to him that he would see to it that his friend got his wish. When an ill-tempered, extremely loathe-able (I invented that term because it best describes him from scene one until just before the end) Border Patrol guard, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper), thought that he was being fired at, he pulled the trigger on Melquiades, instantly killing him.

What followed was a neat, poignant, darkly humorous and ironic story of how Melquiades had three burials. For a debut directing, Tommy Lee Jones did a wonderful job on Three Burials. For sure he would be snobbed by Academy Awards because critics are still euphoric over Brokeback. But then again, Cannes is there to take notice of Jones' masterful directing and acting. And if it's any consolation, Mel Gibson was not even nominated for best director and his opus Passion of the Christ thrown into the garbage bin. This is Hollywood, anything is possible!

The Fanatic Verdict: It wouldn't hurt to include this in your weekend viewing list!