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,

Friday, July 5, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Symbol

Author:  Dan Brown
Pages:  671 (Paperback)
Country:  United States
Year:  2009
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

This is Brown's third novel that features Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon.

I don't wanna hate, but Dan Brown's formula really is becoming annoying. It may have worked in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons (I really liked both), but this one is bordering on painful, laughable, & unbelievably predictable.

Monday, July 1, 2013


It's a cold, rainy day here and what better way to spend a lazy Sunday than to have a movie marathon of one of the most successful Hollywood franchises ever made? Eight hours & twenty minutes of space ships, aliens, chestbursters, humanoids, alien face-hugging, aliens being sucked into space.... oh and yeah, Sigourney Weaver. Almost 9 hours of sitting/lying/squatting/gymnastics in the couch drained me yes, but seeing Weaver kick alien ass, oh it was so worth it. Three things that kept me watching: Ripley, the humanoids, & the aliens.

*      *      *      *

"Sometimes the scariest things come from within"


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