Sunday, December 29, 2013

QUICKIES: Some 2013 movies

A group of retired crazy ass killers. Giant monsters and robots. And two movies with basically the same plot, same illogical twists & turns, and a "Jack Bauer/John McClane"-cloned protagonist to save the day.

Either I'm too lazy at the moment, or the movie does not deserve a full review. Here are my straight-to-the-point reviews, QUICKIES if you will, of RED 2, PACIFIC RIM, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, and WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Starting my own Christmas tradition: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

A film made even more nostalgic by making us aware of an entirely different era - a time where you can hear the phrase "I like children" without raising any red flags. LOL

When I heard that "I like children" line, then Falkor asking Atreyu to scratch behind his ears and gleefully commenting "Oh that feels goooood!" with the creepy old man voice, I was like O_O seriously? Then I chuckled. Society today has thoroughly messed up my innocence.

For several years now, Christmas for me has lost its magical charm. Call me jaded, or Ms. Scrooge, or better yet just call me an adult - Christmas is just not the same as before. It really is an occasion for kids, and a kid I no longer am. And while everybody were too busy cooking holiday food, eating, opening gifts, singing christmas carols, taking pictures with their christmas trees in the background - I was moping in a corner, trying to read my book, unsuccessfully, while waiting for my movies to download. Yes, t'was the night before Christmas. And several minutes past 12, while there were firecrackers cracking in the neighborhood, "Merry Christmas" greetings resonating all over, and just plain old jolly merrymaking happening around me, I saw that wonderful notification! My movies are finally downloaded. I was a happy elf!

So today, December 25, the moment I woke up I went straight to my couch and started my movie marathon. Christmas is that wonderful feeling of magical mysteries as seen thru the eyes of a child - getting gifts, Santa Claus, everything romanticized - I decide to re-experience that old nostalgic feeling. What better way to do that than watch something from my childhood - that first ever movie I recall watching as a kid (as I've mentioned here). And I'm watching that with my family. My very own Christmas special. And how fitting this movie is. :)

I have ranted, but thank you for humoring me. It's Christmas after all. ;) 

Now, I'm ready to talk about the movie. A special movie that has stayed with me (or at least some parts of it) my whole life. The movie which has opened my eyes and heart, which has affected me in such a way great films are supposed to influence people - it has made me appreciate the world of cinema at such a young age. It sent me into another world, into another story, and I have stayed inside. My own never ending story. 

"A troubled boy dives into a wonderous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book."
Directed by:  Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One)
Screenplay by:  Wolfgang Petersen, Herman Weigel
Based on the novel of the same title by Michael Ende
Music by:  Klaus Doldinger (Das Boot)
Cinematography by:  Jost Vacano (Das Boot, RoboCop, Total Recall)
Editing by:  Jane Seitz

Starring:  Noah Hathaway (Atreyu), Barret Oliver (Bastian)
Running Time:  107 mins
Budget:  around $27 million
Box Office:  $100 million

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

Faster than a speeding bullet, here comes the brooding alien with steel abs! The co-destroyer of everything in sight.

Zack Snyder has got style, that's for sure. But my problem with him is that his movies are all gloss and pretty pictures, but lacking in substance. Maybe it's his trademark, but this is the reason why it's hard for me to warm up to him. Too bad, because I was expecting something that will raise the standards & revitalize the inexplicably humdrum trend of the Superman franchise and I thought the time has come. Not this year. Man of Steel is simply another superhero/blockbuster movie that's high on repetitive explosive action and booming sound effects, but sadly low on any lasting impact. 

Directed by:  Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch)
Screenplay by:  David S. Goyer (Blade trilogy, Nolan's Batman trilogy)
Music by:  Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Dark Knight)
Cinematography by:  Amir Mokri (Taking Lives, Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
Starring:  Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
Running Time:  143 mins
Budget:  $225 million
Box Office:  More than $660 million

Monday, December 9, 2013

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

A truly intense sibling-rivalry thriller that's made more interesting because of the real-life rivalry between Davis & Crawford.

"I didn't bring your breakfast, because you didn't eat your din-din!"  No actress has ever gotten me to hate a character so much and pity her at the same time. No one but Bette Davis. I mean my god that woman is a fascinating actress! To switch from spiteful madness to regression in a blink of an eye - a hateful countenance to child-like mischievousness flowing smoothly like a river of emotions in her grotesque face - is nothing short of brilliant. At some point she made me wish I could go inside the screen just so I can push her down the stairs, and yet in another scene, she had me bawling like a milk-deprived baby, just wanting to hug and comfort poor Baby Jane. She should have won the Oscars for Best Actress that year. Dammit, she should have!

This scene! ugh -_-

Here's a short info about the movie. :)

"A former child star torments her crippled sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion."

Directed by:  Robert Aldrich (Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte)
Screenplay by:  Lukas Heller
Cinematography by:  Ernest Haller (Rebel Without A Cause)

Editing by:  Michael Luciano
Music by:  Frank De Vol (Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte)
Starring:  Bette Davis, Joan Crawford
Running Time:  133 mins
Budget: a little over a million dollars
Box Office:  $9 million

Sunday, December 1, 2013

QUICKIES: A Home Security Salesman, A Rape Victim's Revenge, A Drug Dealer, and An Innovative Jerk

Either I'm too lazy at the moment... or the movie does not deserve a full review. Here are my straight-to-the-point reviews, QUICKIES if you will, of The Purge, I Spit On Your Grave (2010), We're The Millers, and Jobs.

THE PURGE (2013) 

Written & Directed by:  James DeMonaco
Cinematography:  Jacques Jouffret
Starring:  Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Running Time:  85 mins
Budget: $ 3 million
Box Office: almost $ 90 million (which is why they're making a 2014 sequel)
The idea is fascinating, the potential is huge, but this film is ultimately nothing but a missed opportunity. Murderous yuppies in freaky masks, wielding machetes & all that government-approved crap, wreak havoc in search of a homeless black guy who they deem to be purge-material. The ideas explored are thought-provoking and interesting, but instead, it just became another generic home invasion thriller that may have a few good moments, but that's about it. Overall, it's just another cliched thriller filled with gaping plotholes and eye-rolling scenes or plot devices. Eugenics The Movie. Uh huh. 

And those masks! Ugh. It may have worked in The Strangers, but in here, it just makes me want to suckerpunch the smirk off of their arrogant faces. And what's up with that ugly RC baby doll camera? Surely there's something less conspicuous (and prettier) than that?

I'm curious though, who are the New Founding Fathers of America? ;)

My Rating: 1.5/5 - A movie deserving to be watched for its intelligent ideas, but also deserving of the low ratings because of its failure to express & explore.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Catching Fire (2013): A much better, more sizzling Hunger Games

The girl on fire is back with unlimited arrows

"Eyes bright, chins up, smiles on. I'm talking to you Katniss." Still sulky, still independent, still a pain in the ass - it's so fun to watch Katniss Everdeen (played by the ever so charming Jennifer Lawrence) annoy the hell out of President Snow and his Stormtroopers - er, Peace Keepers, once again.. and kick some baboon's ass. 

"Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem."
Directed by:  Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend)
Screenplay by:  Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire),
                       Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine)
Cinematography by:  Jo Willems
Music by:  James Newton Howard (Batman Begins, The Bourne Legacy)
Running Time:  146 mins

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1978): Burton's first film job, Led Zep, and why REMAKES aren't always the bane of films

Fantasy... beyond your imagination. 

That is the movie's tagline - and while it's not really beyond my imagination, Ralph Bakshi's TLotR has in a way exceeded my expectations. Not that I was blown away or anything but let's face it - it's an animation made in 1978, the sequel never pushed through, and I love Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy - so I was half-expecting a Disney cartoon about hobbits, dwarves, royal bloods, and wizards going tra la la la la through the woods and deep into the mountains, and I'm glad that I got more than that. Okay, I admit, the animation is at times jarring, my favorite characters look like rejects from the drawing table of a comicbook artist, and the overall color scheme a bit bland. But I did enjoy this film. Because in contrast with Jackson's drawn-out epic saga, this one is fast-paced (considering it's based from a Tolkien book) - with books one & two condensed into a 2-hour movie. 

The Fellowship of the Ring embark on a journey to destroy the One Ring and end Sauron's reign over Middle Earth
Directed by:  Ralph Bakshi (Wizards, Last Days of Coney Island)
Screenplay by:  Peter S. Beagle, Chris Conkling
Music by:  Leonard Rosenman, Paul Kont
Cinematography by:  Timothy Galfas
Running Time: 133 mins

Thursday, November 14, 2013

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Campy with the right amount of creepiness + Vincent Price hamming it up = Pure horror classic delight!

I'm telling you now, you may or may not (depending on your preferences) like this film. Some may complain that it's corny, not scary, and a total waste of time. Others may insist that it's a genre-defining horror classic that's both spooky and atmospheric, which, its huge success has inspired Alfred Hitchcock to create his own little horror picture - Psycho. And then haters will retort that one should NOT EVER compare Psycho with this campy "horror" film.

Well I say, it's all a mix of everything. And to each his own. :)

But before I tell you what I think, here's a bit of info about House on Haunted Hill.

A millionaire offers ten thousand dollars to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife.
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Cinematography by: Carl E. Guthrie
Running Time: 75 mins
Watch it
here  (YT)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why THE SADIST is the best torture you can experience

Don't mind the fact that this is a low-budget film made in 1963. Or that Arch Hall Jr. has a cheesy filmography to boast (or not) about. The Sadist is one of those B-movies that stands the test of time and deserves every bit of recognition it could get. The only thing that's dated in this film, aside from the clothes, is the Coca-Cola bottle. 

It's seriously one of the most tension-filled movie I've seen from start to finish - especially that climax! Modern film makers could learn a thing or two from this little black & white exploitation movie that's unfortunately, undeservingly buried in obscurity - unbeknownst to most people. I haven't even heard about this film before. Thank god for Timeless Classic Movies in Youtube!

So what makes this under-appreciated gem a timeless classic? Before I start my nonsense, here's a short info about the movie.

The Sadist is loosely based from the murder spree of serial killer, Charles Starkweather, and his 14-year old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, which other movies such as Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Starkweather (2004) were also based from.

"Three people driving into Los Angeles for a Dodgers game have car trouble and pull off into an old wrecking yard where they are held at bay by a bloodthirsty psycho and his crazy girlfriend."
Also known as Profile of Terror, and Sweet Baby Charlie
Written & Directed by:  James Landis
Cinematography by: 
William Zsigmond
Starring:  Arch Hall Jr., Richard Alden,
Marilyn Manning, Don Russell, Helen Hovey
Running Time:  95 mins.

Watch it on YT here

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Back 2 Back) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO: Oplev's or Fincher's?

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.
          (2009) Directed by:  Niels Arden Oplev                              (2011) Directed by:  David Fincher
        Starring:  Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace                        Starring:  Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
                  Running Time: 152 mins.                                                         Running Time:  158 mins.

It's rare to find a movie adaptation that is as good as the book, or better. What's even rarer? A Hollywood remake that is as good as the original film, or better. I'm actually already partial to the film adaptations even before seeing them since I was mildly disappointed with Larsson's novel (or the translated one). While its plot was intriguing and the context & themes explored provocative, somehow the manner it was written was at times off-putting. Here's my book review, if anyone's interested.

Now let's talk about the movies! 

Michael Nyqvist vs. Daniel Craig:  Who's the real Millenium's Don Juan?  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gravity (2013)

"Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris"

What makes Gravity one of the best in the history of space exploration-themed sci-fi movies? It pulls you in. The visuals will enrapture you, the score will mesmerize you, and aside from that, there's an emotional pull - you're not just feeling the action, but you're also feeling the terror & threat that Bullock is experiencing. At last, a space movie that deserves to be recognized for its grandeur alongside Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I won't compare the two because that's not fair, all I'm saying is that after all these years, finally we have a movie in this era that has a vision pretty much like what Kubrick did in 1968. And I'm so happy I have witnessed this in the cinema (and in IMAX). I thought it's gonna be a sucky movie experience because behind me, there were three girls with foreigner boyfriends chatting non-stop, and passing the vinegar (yes! you heard me!) for their isaw (chicken intestines) or chicharon (I'm not even kidding), but when the movie started - complete silence. And not another word about the damn vinegar all throughout the film. That's how powerful the opening sequence was. It makes you forget about vinegar.

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Directed by:  Alfonso Cuaron
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas 
Music by:  Steven Price
Cinematography by:  Emmanuel Lubezki
Starring:  Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Running Time:  91 minutes

Monday, September 16, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption.

Author: Stieg Larsson
Country:  Sweden (2005)
Published in English: 2008, translated by Reg Keeland
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Series:  #1 of the Millenium Series
Pages:  590

"It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor - there had been no time for any fine polishing - but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice." -(Berger, describing Blomkvist's book)

Maybe it's the translator's fault, I don't know, but that quote above is how I will describe Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, now, before you flare up and start to defend this book like how I would defend my secret stash of Twix candy bars - Battle Royale style - I'm not saying this book is not good. It is. But it's overrated. In my opinion, it really is. While reading, once or twice I said to myself, "Surely, the film versions are better than this. Hopefully." (I haven't watched its film adaptations yet)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pitch Perfect (2013)

Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus competition.
Directed by:  Jason Moore (his debut film)
Screenplay by:  Kay Cannon 
Starring:  Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Britanny Snow, Skylar Astin
Running Time:  112 minutes

"Get Pitch-Slapped"

This is Glee... in college. I won't say more on that subject.

Forget about the story - it's typical.

Forget about the song choices - it's average, and it seems they blindly picked songs from the Billboard 100 or whatever you call it. Okay, they added some 80's flavor (which I love), so, good move!

Forget about the performances - because they are, again, average at best. Although that last perfomance of The Bellas entertained me a lot.

But, I kinda liked the movie.

Maybe it's because I wasn't expecting much before pressing PLAY. But seriously,

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Mortician and A Lame Giant Slayer

I rarely do this now but for some reason I was able to watch 2 movies in 1 day (I used to watch more than 5 movies a day. *nostalgic sigh*).  Anyway, the first movie I watched is about a man who dresses/prepares a corpse, and the other is about an acrophobic boy who has slayed one giant, "killed" another one with the help of bees, definitely not a giant slayer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Evil Dead (2013): Why this remake is so DEAD but not EVIL

In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.
Directed by:  Fede Alvarez (his first feature film)
Screenplay by:  Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody (for polishing)
Starring:  Jane Levy (Mia), Shiloh Fernandez (David), Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric), Jessica Lucas (Olivia), Elizabeth Blackmore (Natalie)
Running Time:  92 mins

"The most terrifying film you will ever experience."

That's actually the most deceitful movie tagline of all time -- and I'm not amused. Using a gazillion gallons of fake blood is not terrifying. A deadite basically knocked-off from The Exorcist isn't terrifying. A series of quick "scary inserts" and loud sound effects supposedly meant to make the viewers jump off their seats isn't terrifying. Lots of severed limbs and vomiting isn't terrifying. NO. NO. NO! Not one bit in this movie is terrifying! 

Okay, I'm not at all a biased reviewer. So let me start with the good points. First of all, the cinematography/photography & lighting is really good. It definitely has that eerie atmosphere fit for a horror movie, and there are great shots that add to the visual quality of the film. But then again, there's a shot somewhere which greatly reminded me of The Walking Dead, is that a good or bad thing? I don't really know, but it makes it less special.  Secondly, it's really nice to see a movie which utilizes practical effects rather than an overload of CGI (that to me is the bane of today's film industry), which is also a nostalgic nod to the Raimi original. Third, is the smart decision not to do a FULL REMAKE of the original. Alvarez did a slightly different take on the story and mood, and that to me is his advantage - because seriously, who could ever replace Bruce Campbell or remake the original Evil Dead? 

So now, please let me compare just a little bit & tell you what makes the original ED (1 & 2) 10x better than this hugely disappointing 2013 remake. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kasambahay/The Housekeeper (The Dead's Grin) (2008)

Let's try Filipino Horror, why don't we? In this english-subtitled movie, Julius Roden, brings back old-school horror reminiscent of the 70's and 80's. If you're seriously getting fed up with mainstream "horror" movies, both in Hollywood and the Philippine Cinema, which relies on cheap scare tactics & ridiculous CGI ghosts or monsters - then please consider this one. It's freaking scary. Believe me. 

Kasambahay (The Dead's Grin) or The Housekeeper, which you could watch HERE, is Roden's debut into independent cinema, his first feature film paying homage to old-school horror which to me is much more effective than what we see right now. Given that the movie tends to become cheesy, and amateurish in terms of acting, still, this experimental film is a really impressive feat for a young director. 

At some point while watching, I thought "Did he use a digicam for this?" because scenes get a bit blurry when zooming in or out. After watching, I've read that he did use a digital camera. I wasn't annoyed at all, I mean I was watching an indie film after all. Plus, the scratchy tone of the movie and unpolished cinematography and camera angles are meant to look like an old classic.

So, just how scary is this film, you ask?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BOOK + MOVIE: Watchmen

Who watches the Watchmen?

"Yes, we were crazy, we were kinky, we were Nazis, all those things that people say. We were also doing something because we believed in it. We were attempting, through our personal efforts, to make our country a safer and better place to live in." - Hollis Mason (novel)

Friends have been simply raving about the adaptation. After reading the graphic novel, my expectations of the movie are ridiculously even higher. Watchmen (novel) is simply awesome in my opinion, so the next day I plopped my lazy ass on the couch and started the movie.

The movie was three hours long so I'm guessing it's the Director's Cut, but I'm still planning on watching the Ultimate Cut which I've read is more or less 4 hours long. So, basing from the version I just watched, did the film adaptation deliver?

As a faithful adaptation, yes it delivered. It's amazing to see a graphic novel come to life the way Zack Snyder made it - every frame, even the minute details that I loved in the novel were done essentially the same way in the movie. The frame-by-frame zooming in or out was there in the movie as well. In terms of content, the movie still retained the gist of what the novel is all about but less meatier. I like Snyder's technical style, but the gloss & vibe of the movie didn't feel too 80's, which is a shame because there's something about that era that I love. Yes, in alot of ways Snyder's Watchmen did deliver (and more than enough... and better than most comicbook movies), but essentially, there's something lacking, there's something uneven in his execution.
I did love the opening credits, the history of the Minutemen was nicely summed up in a very entertaining, eye-candy way. I also love the fact that the cast were very similar to the novel's list of characters, with one or two exceptions. Like I said, it's a very faithful adaptation, even with the changed ending. So what went wrong?

It's not that the movie failed in general. This is just me. Maybe my prior knowledge about the story affected the way I regarded the film, maybe it's a typical book-to-movie expectations of those who love book versions, I don't know. This is my personal opinion and I could very well be wrong. Anyway, these are some of the things I found in the movie that didn't seem right.

For those who haven't seen or read Watchmen, this is NOT a spoiler-free environment. You've been warned. :)
Ozymandias. For me, Matthew Goode as the beautiful face of consumerism & all that is good and fit is a miscast. It's not about him as an actor, and if it was any other character or movie, he would have been great. But in the novel version, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias is a big body-building guy who was able to beat The Comedian to fruity pulp & throw him out of the window without any difficulties. Goode just doesn't seem like the guy who could do that. Also, novel-Ozy looked like a harmless guy, a retired superhero who was smart enough to quit and venture into business... and nothing else. Forgettable. Charming, unassuming face. Goode, from the get-go looked sinister. Like he had evil plans swirling around his head the moment he was born. He sneers, he smirks, he looked like someone who knows something that most do not. And that's where Goode's Ozy fails. But, I liked how he played the "assumed homosexual" part. Really nice.

Laurie Juspeczyk. Playing Silk Spectre II, Malin Akerman falls second on my Miscast List (there are only two of them on the list lol). She had her good moments & she did look alot like the novel-Laurie, but most of the time she felt flat. I liked the movie-Laurie better, but that's only because novel-Laurie is a whiny bitch who just uses her womanly wiles, whether it's intentional or not, to toy with her guys' feelings. It's interesting to note though that she is the reason for "jump-starting" both Dan's & Jon's waning passion to save the world. Although she used tears & her boobs for that. Girl power!

The ending. I had no problem with Snyder changing the alien ending of the novel into a typical "terrorist attack" angle - I guess he had to do that for easier explanation. Admittedly, the alien factor kind of surprised me a bit as well. Like woah where the hell did that come from? But I still prefer that. It's more tongue-in-cheek, has more comicbook vibe, like Ozy quoting Hitler, the bigger the lie the more believable it gets. And what's bigger than aliens, right? For me, the terrorist angle is cliched. Plus, if that's Ozy's way of uniting the world, is it really believable? Countries suddenly feeling mushy and peaceful and not blaming the U.S. for its haphazard handling of a powerful weapon (Dr. Manhattan)? The way the novel presented the alien angle & Ozy's logic, it's easily believable to unite the world against "alien invasion" rather than a terrorist mayhem, obviously, even though unwittingly, caused by one country. But that's not my real issue regarding the ending, it's actually Rorschach's ending. To me, the reason why the novel felt so perfect is because it depicted the imperfect world of vigilantes. We're all shown a dysfunctional, even sociopathic, lives behind those masks. How they fought for justice, and eventually fought against society's fear of them. And while most of them have hung their capes and went on with their "normal" lives, only Rorschach continued his fight against injustice. And that's the reason why I liked him. He is painted as a sociopath, the antithesis of a costumed hero (e.g. Bruce Wayne/Batman) - a smelly loner who lives in a dump, with an affinity for violence as a means to his end, and with a black & white view of the world. Yet, he is the real hero here. His real face is Rorschach's, Kovacs is only his alter ego. He refused to be domesticated by the government's Keene Act, because he felt the need to clean the streets reeking of evil. He never stopped being a hero. And how did Alan Moore kill him? He was blasted into pieces by Jon while Rorschach's only closest friend, Dan, is being all lovey-dovey let's-kiss-now-because-the-world-is-saved with Laurie inside Ozy's fortress. He was killed without anyone batting an eyelash. And there in lies the real tragedy, which is in continuance with the novel's theme or mood - that is the futility of everything they've worked for or they thought they were fighting for. We've seen that in the Tales of the Black Freighter, with Ozy's grandiose plan for utopia, and now with Rorschach. Like The Comedian upon figuring out what's really happening, he said it's all a joke. They're all pawns to society/government/whatever crap humans can think of, and history do tend to repeat itself, no matter what heroics have been done. And while the movie version was better for most, because of Dan's emotional reaction and Jon's hesitation before killing Rorschach which makes his death seem relevant, the fact is and my interpretation of the novel is that it IS irrelevant. Despite him being the only one who really cared for the world without any agenda, still, he is irrelevant. That's what made the novel perfect in its tragic and imperfect reality.

And now I've rambled on too much.

There are things that I really liked in movie. Carla Gugino as Silk Spectre, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. They fit in their roles perfectly and I was thoroughly entertained everytime they're included in the scenes. Patrick Wilson as Dan was good, still geeky, but a bit cooler than the novel-Dan. Dr. Manhattan is essentially the novel-doc come to life, but I was just annoyed with the glowing blue - it hurts my eyes. Oh and I love the owlship! :)

I just have to mention this, so the lesbian superhero & her lover were murdered for being "lesbian whores", and the "antagonist" is a possible homosexual. Hmmm. Is that tongue-in-cheek as well? Possibly. Hopefully. lol.

To finally end this, the novel is fantastic, not one page to throw away. And I'll say that the movie is a breath of fresh air. While The Avengers still remain my favorite ensemble cast superhero movie mainly because of its comic relief and Joss Whedon's execution (kill me now, pretentious bastards =P), Watchmen is the best adaptation in my opinion and it also stands out among all those influx of CGI explosion superpower extravaganza. But it also makes me wonder, is Snyder's adaptation really a good movie OR is it only because of the novel's intriguing content and great story? It's like re-painting Mona Lisa, maybe it could be done stroke by stroke, but is the essence really captured? Is the smile still as enigmatic? I think Snyder did a good job technically/visually-speaking, but I don't think he grasped the novel's totality or essence. But then again, can anyone do both? That is, to delve deeper into the complexity of the novel & the characters while remaining as faithful to the novel as Snyder has been?

My Rating:
(novel) - 5/5
(movie) - 3.5/5
- mainly for the technical/visuals

Check out MY ULTIMATE BOOK BUCKET LIST or the books I wanna read before I die!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Side Effects (2013)

A young woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.
Directed by:  Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Contagion)
Written by:  Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion)
Music by:  Thomas Newman
Running Time:  106 mins
Starring: Jude Law (Dr. Banks), Rooney Mara (Emily), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Siebert), Channing Tatum (Martin)

"One Pill Can Change Your Life"

Previously titled The Bitter Pill & reported (at the time) to be Steven Soderbergh's final film as a director,  is Side Effects the right film to be his swan song? Well, as it turned out this is not his last hurrah, and thank god for that because I still would love to see him for a long time. 

Labeled as a psychological thriller, viewers may bring their popcorn expecting an edge-of-your-seat movie oversaturated with your typical thrill rides & scare tactics, but this is not that kind. More of a thriller of the mind rather than of the senses, they say it's a movie of the Hitchcock mold and while the camera movements, characterization, and such, are reminiscent of the master's works, I wouldn't dare box Soderbergh with that because he has his unique style and he owns it. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Only God Forgives (2013)

Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's recent death.

Written & Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Cinematography: Larry Smith (Eyes Wide Shut)
Starring: Ryan Gosling (Julian), Kristin Scott Thomas (Crystal), Vithaya Pansringarm (Chang)
Running Time: 90 mins
Language: English, Thai 

"Time to Meet The Devil"

Only God Forgives opens with an ominous score, like something bad's gonna happen, like someone's gonna get you & if that someone does it won't be pretty. And like with a twisted sense of humor, Nicolas Winding Refn gives us this destructive & violent criminal underworld with all the trappings of immorality effectively contrasted with a striking cinematography that makes even the darkest part of Bangkok surprisingly beautiful. Visually, I was bombarded with neon lights which I have enjoyed, and red hues which kinda made me feel claustrophobic - like I'm inside a DarkRoom, and lots of play on shadows & artistic shots. Then, aside from the visual feast, I was stimulated with a unique musical score that fits well with the movie's heightened sense of reality. With perfect visuals & musical score, it's so hard to take your eyes off the screen even with the scenes you wouldn't normally enjoy seeing.

I love Refn's overhead shots. This could be another symbol of the battle between good & evil. There is a similar shot later in the movie with Chang & Julian.

That out of the way, let's talk about the story and the characters. If you look behind the form, you would see a simple story of revenge & redemption, quite a straightforward plot in fact, but riddled with symbolism and messages that are conveyed mostly by non-verbals & meaningful shots. More than a revenge flick, it's also a story of a dysfunctional family, a society's concept of vengeance & justice, and a "protagonist's" quest to heal his wounds & look for love. More than a revenge film, this is actually a fairy tale..  a dark fairy tale as never been told before.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Heat (2013)

An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord.

Directed by:  Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)
Written by:  Katie Dippold
Starring:  Sandra Bullock (Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Mullins)
Running Time:  117 mins

"I'll shut the door on you. You lay down here and put your head in the door. And I'll slam it about 157,000 times."

Foul-mouthed, deglamorized, angry at the world - is Melissa McCarthy getting typecasted? I hope not because as much as I enjoy her as a comedy actress, seeing her in the same abrasive role for several movies straight makes her less appealing for me. Having said that, her role here is a big improvement over Identity Thief, because her delivery in this movie is more spot on in an over-the-top crazy way. Sandra Bullock, still better in Miss Congeniality, has her funny moments as well. Marlon Wayans is surprisingly watered-down and ain't that a breath of fresh air? haha. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waking Life (2001)

A man shuffles through a dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe.

Written & Directed by:  Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Slacker)
Music by: Glover Gill
Cinematography:  Richard Linklater, Tommy Pallotta
Running Time:  101 mins
Watch Waking Life HERE

"They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn't you say the same thing about life?"

This is a film for the dreamers, the thinkers, the lovers of life, the confused, the those who seem to sleepwalk through the hazy fog of everyday living.  It's for the people who like to smell the flowers as they walk, thinking about the concept of life, our existence, reality, even death. 

The first scene caught me off-guard, feeling and sensing the real people behind the hypnotic yet grotesque rotoscope animation. At first it might distract or feel weird seeing shakiness all over and big eyes seemingly pulsating in and outside the lines of their faces, but after the initial unsettling  cartoonish vibe, everything just becomes more surreal. It's art, and it's beautiful. 

Waking Life is a philosophical buffet for those whose minds are hungry. This movie connected to me in a deeper, more personal way than any other films probably because it spoke of ideas or philosophies that I couldn't put into words. I think about it, I believe it, I dream of those ideas, but I couldn't express it myself. This film did that for me. It's rare to find someone to talk to on a philosophical level, and Linklater managed to make another movie which made me feel like I was part of the conversation. I spent most parts of the movie smiling, just trying to absorb all the "conversations", and feeling attached to this film more & more. 

Richard Linklater's attention to details with his cameraworks and cinematography gives you a unique experience, but what makes his movies stand the test of time is his script. As taut as a newly-adjusted guitar string, his dialogues/script reverberates from your ear into your mind & into your soul, and it will be hard to shake it out of your system . It's as real as life, as tight as Superman's spandex.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trance (2013)

Directed by:  Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)

Written by: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge

Country: UK

Genre:  Crime, Thriller
Running Time:  101 mins

Starring:  James McAvoy (Simon), Vincent Cassel (Franck), Rosario Dawson (Elizabeth)

"An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting." - IMDb

"The choice is yours. Do you want to remember or do you want to forget?"

The first 40 minutes, I was excited & impressed. I like James McAvoy, I think he's a really good & charismatic actor. And Vincent Cassel, in my opinion, always delivers. The movie pumps you up with an intriguing storyline, flashy & artsy camera shots & angles, thrilling scenes backed up with a really good musical score. Then enter Rosario Dawson. It has been a steady downward spiral from that point on. No, it's not because of her, although I thought she looked a bit tired 90 % of the film. It's the plot and the shameful use of hypnotherapy as the driving force of the whole movie. Hypnotherapy as the structure of the movie? That makes the plot shaky at best. The moment Rosario inserted herself in the scheme I found myself shaking my head more and more. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Before Midnight (2013)

"We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna."

Directed by:  Richard Linklater

Screenplay by:  Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Starring:  Ethan Hawke (Jesse), Julie Delpy (Celine)

Running Time:  109 mins

"Still there. Still there. Still there. Gone."

In the world of cinema where sequels are bound to disappoint, I'm actually very happy to say that I finally found the perfect trilogy that not only have the sequels delivered, but also in my opinion, have surpassed its predecessors. I have so much respect for Linklater right now for achieving a rare feat for any director, that is to create sequels that are actually better than the original (which is really saying something since Before Sunrise is already a masterpiece by itself), and respect for Hawke and Delpy for maintaining that magical chemistry that they have had since the first film.

Monday, July 8, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Digital Fortress

Author:  Dan Brown
Genre:  Techno-thriller
Country:  U.S.
Year:  1998
Pages:  430 (Paperback)
"She was still struggling to comprehend its existence. She's spent her life breaking codes, firmly denying the existence of the ultimate code. Every code is breakable - the Bergofsky Principle! She felt like an atheist coming face to face with God." - Digital Fortress

After reading five books by Dan Brown, it seems that there's no hope left. I've read and liked The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons back when I still thoroughly enjoyed badly-written books with equally badly-structured plots and 2D characters AND sugar-coated with a whirlwind of mystery & thrill rides, but seriously Mr. Brown, THIS HAS GOT TO STOP. Book after book, it's the same pattern, same twists, same underdeveloped characters that after a few pages I already know what's going to happen. It's the same thing over and over.

The dialogues range from bad to cringe-worthy. The twists are so very predictable. The main characters, who are supposedly "academes" & "geniuses", seem to be so dense & do stupid things most of the time. And that climax where a group of "NSA-elite" tries to figure out the clues left for them & they stand there totally baffled and useless, like lumps of warm crap.. I almost wanted to shout the answer, but I know they won't hear me, not because it's a book but because they're a bunch of dimwits created by the master dimwit himself - Dan Brown.

On a slightly positive note,


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