The Top 5 Worst 3D Movies List
There are actually many movies (both animation and live action offers) that are made into 3D flicks for the heck. And not all stories or film style or cinematic treatment are best suited for the 3D medium.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is a disappointing second installment from the Chipmunks franchise. Well, it becomes at the least commercially watchable (for some laughs) with its light campy touch of comic fun. Thanks to the endearing CGI characters – these singing-and-dancing rodents become really charming in this seamless blend of CGI and live-action elements. It is predictable, terribly acted especially by the live action guys, and heavily reliant on slapstick humor, but it has some entertaining moments nonetheless.
Featuring these rodents in cool outfits while shaking their tushes as they cover a number of danceable pop songs, this Chipmunk squeakquel delivers pretty much the bare minimum: a peppy, brightly colored, tune-filled scenes just enough to meet the low standards of watching merely for some laughs. Its high school rom-com style has no much effort to even mask its predictability. Indeed, the Chipmunks, along with the featured Chipettes, are as cute as ever here, but the plot is almost insultingly predictable, even for the younger viewers.
Amidst the not so engaging plot and flat jokes, the major upside to the movie is still the song and dance numbers. For the most, director Betty Thomas maintains the world famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio as an appealing pop culture sensation in the big screen. And this time around, they contend with the pressures of school, fame, and a rival female group known as The Chipettes.
Trading on children’s endless appetite for talking animals is really a buy. Yes, there are some slapstick action and catchy soundtrack to enjoy and it can be counted as a family-friendly flick. However, a movie being aimed at children isn’t an excuse for it to be too simple-minded and trivial. In fact, all the more that quality should matter so that even the pre-kindergarten core audience can benefit on a good story. Talk about films like “Up” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” now those are awesome films for the kids (and even adults).
The Chipmunks Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (voiced by Jesse McCartney) are still as appealing as the first movie. The addition of the Chipettes Brittany (voiced by Christina Applegate), Jeanette (voiced by Anna Faris), and Eleanor (voiced by Amy Poehler) add to the delight for these performing CGI animals. However, I just wonder, instead of paying for just celebrity voices that are actually unrecognizable and dispensable, why not pay for better writers to make the quality of the story in par with the charm of these adorable computer-generated talking animals?
As Alvin, Simon, and Theodore deal the pressures of high school, Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor provide two additional things: a reason to get more appeal to those who enjoy pop tunes; and more importantly, the chance to include female pop hits on the cute roster of performances. It is a given that these high-pitched boy and girl pop routines provide the bulk of the enjoyment for the movie. It is interesting to note that the Filipina singing sensation Charice Pempengco actually did a cameo performance here. As always, she’s got that impressive voice to back her up!
And given the circumstances, you could expect an inevitable Threequel for this movie.January 6th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Animation, Children's/Family, Comedy, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
My second 35mm film “Aninag” (Light’s Play), 15 mins., 2005May 26th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Children's/Family, Dance/Musical, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Noir/Expressionism, Film Review, Films, Independent Films, Melodrama, My Films, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Surreal | no comments
May 22nd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Children's/Family, Dance/Musical, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Noir/Expressionism, Films, Independent Films, Melodrama, My Films, Personal/Expression, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Surreal | no comments
A Concert Experience for the Price of an IMAX Ticket
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
“U2 3D” is a spectacular, musically and visually superb experience simulating a front row view and beyond of a U2 concert – probably the closest you can get to the real thing at this point of time. This concert film features cutting-edge technology that gives the audience a better-than-front-row seat as it establishes an uncommonly intimate and occasionally surreal bond between them and the performers.
Every development in the history of cinema has always been about making the experience more realistic, fun, and amazing. And for over a quarter-century, U2 has been recognized not only for their musical innovation, but for their incomparable gift on reaching millions of fans through new technology while keeping up with the band’s decades-spanning catalog of great music.
As the next best thing to attending a real concert with a ticket costing about ten or even a hundred times less, this 85 minutes of closely replicating the feeling of a live gig through 3D glory makes a solid rock experience that’s still quite new to the general film audience. Now, if you could just pipe in the smell of sweat, cigarette, pot, and beer, it would then be like going to a real concert with the bonus of meeting and seeing Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge performing upfront, then you go behind them or on top of them at the most impossible angles. From the breathtaking close-ups and panoramas to the convincing nature of the latest 3D technology, you get to watch the band members playing from a vantage point 4 feet above their heads, you get to see them face to face while reaching out to the crowd, and you get to see a wave of rocking concert-goers moving in unison inside a massive stadium lit by thousands of cellphones. Add up the 3D shots of multiple band members in the same frame with the final cut with as many as five 3D layers – this dazzling concert film exudes that true spirit of a U2 show.
The 3D visuals and multi-layering effects envelope you with a drift that fuses with the band’s surround-sound rapture. With a sound quality that is no less than impeccable, it creates a full-scale sensory high with the pleasure of its showmanship. The immersive marvel of the music and sound mix are electrifying. Truly, it transforms a great rock spectacle into something intimate as you become similarly immersed like the crowds filling the South American stadiums of U2’s 2007 Vertigo Tour as they go absolutely mad for U2 music. Their wildly infectious enthusiasm is very much apparent with their hands waving to the every beat. Indeed, marrying advanced 3D imagery and 5.1 Surround Sound with the unique excitement of a live U2 concert makes “U2 3D” such an incredible performance captured in a medium that attains unique aesthetics of immediacy and humanity from the powerful rock quartet – making it the next best thing to actually being in a live concert as of today.
Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, “U2 3D” makes this film project more than just a nifty 3D experiment. It elevates itself into a rock solid redefinition of 3D live-action filmmaking. For now, it captures the premier band’s live shows in a way that no other medium could. And it boasts of state-of-the-art 3D experience showing the undubbed and purely live recording performances of one of the greatest rock bands, together with several of the greatest rock audiences of the world.
Shot at a number of stage acts of U2 shows in Latin America, the production employs the greatest number of 3D cameras ever used for a single project. It is the first digital 3D, multi-camera, and real-time production reflecting the band’s longstanding embrace to technology. Produced by 3ality Digital Entertainment, the film comprises footages from seven different concert performances. A massive undertaking, the filmmakers create live-motion collages emphasizing constant, overlapping, and evanescent dissolves as the curving runways allow Bono, Adam, Larry, and The Edge to move far out into the crowd and make more accessible angles for their various movements. The 3D effects inclusive of the new trick of layering the visuals to simulate shifting your focus from foreground to background is successful in making you feel that Bono and crew are within arm’s reach. While also offering plenty of footages of the rapturous crowd in a sight of a hundred thousand stoked fans, you get so close that you swoop towards Bono’s face and his outstretched hand surging through the screen and seizing your own. And to keep the 3D engagement for more than an hour of fun movie experience, the filmmakers also added animated versions of U2′s backdrop videos while capturing the ecstatic joy of a massive rock show – most notably a series of icons suggesting that the world’s major religions are one and presenting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In some ways, this 3D concert film is considerably superior to a real concert. This may vary in many aspects and points of view of people. But what mainly makes this a better option is how the sound is perfected in post-production that what you hear from your seat is the best surround sound you can get for it. Moreover, you get even closer to the band and even get on stage and beyond as the 3D images bring you to the most impossible angles and the best view of the performers that even the most pricey concert ticket wouldn’t be able to provide. Furthermore, you don’t have to put up with the rowdy drunks who may block your view or you can simply avoid hysterically sweaty and smoking crowds. For those safety points, there would also be less probability of mobs, stampedes, fights, and annoying crowd members in dope and alcohol. And amidst all these, “U2 3D” makes you feel like you’re there in the crowd, and at the same time, as close as you’ll get to being on stage with U2.
Personally, the strangers on my left while watching the film at IMAX were really enjoying the concert experience with their waving hands holding on to their lit toys and cellphones – and they were standing and moving to the beat while the visuals allow every person watching to floating above the fans and riding their energy. And I found myself singing and shouting like I would probably do in a concert!
“U2 3D” is a world class live act in its finest as of today. Taking viewers on an extraordinary cinematic journey beyond the traditional concert film experience, it has a top potential in revolutionizing digital 3D technology. The 3D format may go a long way just like how technology has developed the 2D film as of today. And with the living legend U2 pioneering on this new 3D film experience, the epic nature of the U2 songs and stage acts blend them perfectly to this larger-than-life treatment for a band composed of masterful rock performers in their top form.May 3rd, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Dance/Musical, Documentary, Film Review, Films I Like, Music | no comments
Laugh Hard with Walk Hard
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Content provided by: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale
The music biopic parody “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is both a satire and a spoof. And it generally works in both ways with wit as well as heft.
“Walk Hard” looks and sounds much like a real musical biopic. It offers its share of small pleasures and amusements with a room to enjoy a little insanity. With a fearless sense of silliness and a savage swipe at the conventions of the genre, it moves through the pleasure, ego, and sheer exhaustion of what happens on stage and behind the music. Replicating famous scenes from other films with a clear perspective in its theme, this burlesque of biopic clichés pokes fun at the conventions of the musical biopic genre while moving through the motions of a satire with numerous references to pop music history.
The story has three repetitive jokes: Dewey Cox (John Reilly) cut his brother in half, Dewey can’t smell, and Dewey is going to take drugs. Jokes are played off with Dewey’s last name. There are a number of frontal nudity both male and female. “Walk Hard” has its moments, and for the most part, it works. It effectively mocks the fantasy of Johnny Cash’s cinematic life story with such loose and improvisational story and treatment. It deconstructs the conventions of the genre both with subtlety and blatancy. Its outright mockery coming out as a raunchy relief works for such appeal. It may have its share of flat spots and some exploitative it may not be the most brilliant comic cinematic offer, but it nails its target right on. It goes a long way amidst some patchy moments of it growing thin within its basic routines.
Director-writer Jake Kasdan and writer Judd Apatow manage a good balance in delivering a silly and crude comedy that rolls out a procession of smartly-crafted one-liners, toe-tappingly hilarious songs, dead-on parodies, and stunning sight gags all paving the way for a good route to comic bliss. With its laugh out loud screenplay, fun staging, and great music, the mood, tone, and treatment promotes the genre gleefully.
“Walk Hard” is a bawdy, anything-goes spoof of such music biopics as “Walk the Line.” For all of the care and creativity put into its original songs and scenes, the genuine, ridiculous, hysterical, and often funny moments make this film quite enjoyable to watch.
John Reilly makes a likably goofy Dewey Cox. He renders a solid performance as a beer gut middle-aged teen, a hilarious stoner, a celebrity blinded by fame and money, and an old, accomplished family man and artist. With a performance executed with a perfectly straight face and without a hint of self-consciousness, he blends well with the good ensemble acting of his co-actors and actresses. There are several brilliant cameos, including wicked Beatles and Elvis sequences.
“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is silly in a fun light. It restores the good reputation to the genre spoof, which has been so long sullied by garbage franchises of “Scary Movie” down to the trash flicks “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,” and “Meet the Spartans.” “Walk Hard” is a satisfying contribution to the mockumentary genre with its rambunctious and funny musical spoofing of musical biopics with a satiric twist to it.March 27th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Comedy, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Period/Historical | no comments
Phantasmagoria with Love
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther
Directed by: Julie Taymor
Julie Taymor’s rhapsodic ode to John, Paul, George, and Ringo is an interesting mix of Beatles music, old-school psychedelic effects, revolutionary setting, audacious acting, and resplendent choreography – truly marking a phantasmagoric trip ‘Across the Universe.’ All you need is love for you to come up with such visual flair and sheer joy… and make strawberry fields forever a lavish labor of love and war…
This musical tribute to rock’s most loved British band playing in America marks an impressive music video anthology that drops in character names from the lyrics of the Beatles’ legendary songs. ‘Across the Universe’ delivers an idiosyncratic rock opera set to the accompaniment of 33 Beatles songs and creates a magical mystery tour of emotional resonance and wildly creative consciousness. Taymor crafts a lush, interesting mix of addictive montages that let you remember why you loved the Beatles so much. As a collection of narrative and music videos scored with Beatles tunes, this inventive film work utilizes the songs that have defined generations with such tour de force.
For the die-hard fans of the Fab Four or for anyone touched by the magic of the ’60s, this strange, nostalgic, and suitably outrageous vehicle to an abstract interpretation of a revolution is a compelling salute to love, liberation, and creative expression that will take your breath away. It uses art, culture, and history to give meaning and depth to the characters and their stories through experiment and stylization. Moreover, this musical shows how social, cultural, and political events can change the people’s tunes.
‘Across the Universe’ is hugely ambitious in serving up the brilliant music videos strung together by a typical narrative. Its visionary attempt to wed a story of young love and 1960’s war protests to transcendence and exhilaration of the Beatles music terrifically integrates songs, strong performances, visceral production values, and phantasmagorical direction to form a musical masterpiece.
The film clearly stretches a thin love story across a bold canvas and creates magic through its breathtaking visual inventiveness. ‘Across the Universe’ features masked dancers gyrating on ocean waves, weary soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty across a tabletop, a slickly choreographed military induction scene with trademark giant puppets and carnival heads, psychedelic bus vividly attuned to the broad streak of 60’s fun, cheerleading scene with melancholic identity running through, a resplendent feast of rock, romantic, and revolutionary music, strawberry bombs displaying love and war together, and lots of other opulent, eye- and ear-filling musical extravaganza. Set in a tumultuous decade filled with counterculture voyages, you have to be totally open for the experience in order to appreciate its visuals and tunes until you get lost in moments of near ecstasy mixed with an actual drug experience as clean living can offer. And with the emotional involvement it generates, it’s hard not to be seduced by the big heart of this chaotic, flamboyant, and colorful moving picture.
‘Across the Universe’ may have a thin premise in its boy-meets-girl simplicity, but interestingly, its clichés go beyond the relatively minor failings on story coherence with the way Taymor treats the great Beatles music, the theatrical approach to convey abstract messages, and the terrific musical performances – all making up for the film’s supposed narrative weakness which ironically doesn’t find itself a weakness anymore because of the artistic approach utilized for it. It may be a little flawed in that aspect of narrative expectation, but it goes beyond the rules of cinematic writing with the way it fills the screen with gorgeous and uplifting music videos that actually tell the story. Kudos to Taymor’s production team including writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, director of photography Bruno Delbonnel, production designer Mark Friedberg, editor Françoise Bonnot, musical scorer Elliot Goldenthal, and the rest of these talented production people marking great contributions in creating the right mood, tone, and temperament to this musical opus.
Amazing performances from mainly unknown actors further levels up Taymor’s vision of wonderful strangeness and psychedelic storytelling. Every time a character unfolds with the names like Jude, Max, Prudence, Jo-Jo, and Sadie, the Beatles music really comes to life as a cinematic fun for both hard-core fans and newfound fans of the Beatles. And its hopes for peace in a microcosm of a love story recreate a world that makes you live vicariously through the film’s characters and its universal implications beyond the era it dwells into. Jim Sturgess as the artist Jude keeps the film grounded with a rumpled, earthy charm that strikes such a Beatles appeal for the male lead role. Evan Rachel Wood as the female lead Lucy Carrigan brings a much-needed emotional depth through her sweet voice, demure beauty, and innocent grace amidst her character’s profound strength and radical convictions. The rest of the major characters including Joe Anderson as Max Carrigan, Dana Fuchs as Sadie, Martin Luther as JoJo, and T.V. Carpio (a Filipino-American actress) as Prudence, along with cameos from Bono as Dr. Robert, Salma Hayek (also Taymor’s lead actress for her Academy Award-winning film ‘Frida’) as the singing nurse, and Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite, all make up a great and fabulous ensemble.
‘Across the Universe’ has truly captured the 60’s era. And it has also captured the hearts of the people of today whether born during the times of the Beatles or generation/s after them. This flower-powery film celebrating life and love is an artistic, imaginative, and visionary masterpiece that will get you rewarded with repeated viewings. Thoroughly entertaining and delightfully tuneful, it is an innovative, marvelously constructed musical that will get you truly swept away.March 10th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Period/Historical | no comments
A bloody good musical
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall
‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ is another feat for auteur director Tim Burton. Visually expansive and imaginative, it has a razor-keen wit for its dark tale of vengeance – successfully marrying the flight and fancy of a musical and the grisly grimness of blood and goth. It takes pleasure in its own theatricality with a complete trust in the power of Stephen Sondheim’s music and the masterstroke of Burton’s signature visual style.
The film starts with a Burtonish trademark as a director and animator – an opening credits summing up the distinctively cynical, chill-inducing, blood-splattering cinematic operetta set in a spidery gothic world. It sets the mood for its mercilessly dark humor and oddly amusing tunes. It binds together the CGI and live action parts of the film quite admirably with the effective approach of Burton’s expressionist elements. From its operatic gruesomeness to its Victorian gothic moodiness, the consistently dark and foggy visuals create the right dose of menace as the murder, music, and ‘monsters’ become happily drenched in blood gore. And interestingly, when the characters break into songs, they become tailor fit to the world Burton has built.
As always, Burton’s work is filled with great imagination. Having the most outlandish extremes as a great storyteller, he keeps his very stylized pursuits without sacrificing the thematic and emotional elements. In this film, he has not allowed the lavishly dark production design, the fantastically haunting cinematography, and the elegantly thrilling music to dominate the storytelling. In fact, he utilizes all these to turn a great play into a great film. Burton creates a vast world that ideally sets off Stephen Sondheim’s grimly intricate lyrics with the right scale for his film version of the grandiose 1979 Broadway musical. He seems clearly in love with his material and makes the film strangely beautiful and beautifully strange at the same time. With a director without much stage experience, ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ is such a great feat for Burton – a perfect fusion of the filmmaker and his material where his bravura for his visuals stamps its way to offer such an unlikely pairing of musical and horror. Indeed, Burton brings ‘Sweeney Todd’ to life for his audience. The dark, disturbing pictures and the lilting melodies make for a mad synthesis that really suit the story, in a way that they both coincide and contrast each other. The city is literally dark, and yet, the people living in it are even darker. And the film has a wicked humor and characters initially showing ghoulishness but ultimately revealing themselves as sad and sympathetic. And more than the brooding gothic romanticism and throat-slitting mayhem, the macabre story goes beyond the gothic yarn of revenge and lost love – it is a venerable human story.
‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ is an interesting and invigorating stage-to-screen translation. It provides the audience with moments to get twisted, manipulated, repulsed, and entertained. The film benefits from Dariusz Wolski’s jaunty and swooping camera work and darkly whimsy lighting with a groundwork for a really discomfiting sense of horror and fantasy. The dismal sets, cartoonish gore, and the cheeky, good-looking splatter fest from production designer Dante Ferretti and his team carefully blend with the CGI works from the special effects department. Chris Lebenzon’s elegantly stylized and spasmodic editing is in par with the imagery, propulsive orchestrations to create an intoxicating blend of vengeance and madness. And the overall caustic, spider-blood visual scheme takes pleasure of the power of Sondheim’s gorgeously intricate rhymes and melody to make a fluid and dynamic story from the screenplay of John Logan, coinciding with the writings of Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler for the musical and Christopher Bond for the musical adaptation.
Burton’s uniquely collaborative relationship with his longtime lead actor Johnny Depp proves nothing less than film worthy. So goes with his off-screen and on-screen muse Helena Bonham Carter. The performances are pitched at just the right scale as fantastic morbid and fantastic sets, gorgeous costumes, and twisted CGIs all match the wry and maniacal characters of the film. Depp and Bonham Carter illustrate the psychological factors of their characters in subtle nuances – producing strongly deep emotional performances with stupendous rapture. As an actor, Depp is such a tour-de-force. Depp as the malevolent, ivory skinned serenading barber slitting throats in random really skirts along the edge of emotional chasm. He successfully incorporates Sweeney Todd into his own. From being once a pure man to his transformation into his darkest, most menacing persona, Depp makes Sweeney Todd disturbingly attractive. And his defining performance for the title role is convincingly one of his greatest. Indeed, with such a director-actor tandem of Burton and him, there is no role too great for Depp. Bonham Carter as the cheeky Mrs. Lovett is delightfully gruesome. Laced with morbid humor, she is equally charming in a dark and twisted way. Her meat pies are just as stuffed as her performance. Undeniably great performances are further strengthened by a number of great acting talents including: Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, the true personification of evil in disguise of an elite member of the society; Sacha Baron Cohen as Signor Adolfo Pirelli; Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford; Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope; Laura Michelle Kelly as Lucy; Jayne Wisener as Johanna; and Ed Sanders as Toby.
The outstanding singing performances from most of its gifted cast members have one main issue: the main performers are not great singers. It’s good Burton is witty enough not to make Sweeney Todd about the songs. Depp may not be a trained singer, but his voice is more than passable – and his mere presence as a great actor overcomes the singing limitations. Despite the considerably weak vocal works from Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, this cutthroat musical effectively presents the story. They may not be carrying their tunes quite as impressively as a deadly sharp razor or as a truly delectable meat pie, but the film maintains such brilliance in storytelling.
Burton deconstructs and redefines Sondheim’s masterwork into a motion picture masterpiece. This uncanny film version is true to the composer’s original vision while being spectacularly cinematic as well. It is at once different from the play and yet not different at all – it is such a unique achievement. It makes the play’s already familiar fare into something that has awakened and inspired the audacious Burton. With a cinematic visual style paying homage to a truly ‘Grand Guignol-ish’ appeal, Burton’s morbid imagination transforms the piece into a cheerfully gothic morality tale. The source material plays right into his cinematic wheelhouse as the music and spirit of the original piece show the way in bringing to the fore all the additional aspects that the film can provide as a medium and art form. And Sondheim’s musical provides a deliciously demonic dalliance for a combination that is as engrossing as it is unlikely. It may be rare for a film to achieve a feeling of unequivocal, breathtaking transcendence, and yet, this film adaptation does just that.
‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ preserves best the corrosive power of Todd’s revenge. Its sense of tragedy and loss weighs heavily in its compelling story. Although not without some flaws, overall, it stays faithful to its own, uniquely haunted soul. And it serves as a satiric commentary on a human being’s greed, capitalism’s cannibalistic thrust, and human nature’s sense of vengeance.
This elegant slasher film glories in the gory. As a wickedly entertaining blood feast, it is hypnotic, brilliantly executed and positively electrifying. It breathes new life into the genre by dousing itself in buckets of blood spurting spectacles the way ‘300’ makes its own trademark blood spurts as its own glorious treat. It is a thoroughly entertaining gore-filled cinematic experience.January 21st, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Dance/Musical, Film Noir/Expressionism, Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
The cute singing ‘Munks’
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Tim Hill
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Justin Long
If you are in for a light, nostalgic, and escapist fun time, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ provides a lively and charming family comedy courtesy of its spritely mischievous and cuddly endearing little creatures Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.
Based on the cartoon series about a music group of chipmunks comprised of the cool and rascal leader Alvin, tall and quiet Simon, and chubby and impressionable Theodore, the CGI versions of these three famous and furry nut-gathering mammals cheering people up through their charismatic singing and antics turn out to be really merry and cutesy even after 50 years of existence. Indeed, they are rendered very well and gracefully upgraded into their 3D film incarnations. From the fun musical numbers to the cartoonish humor, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ manages to entertain both the children and the adults (and the children inside the adults). Alvin and his band of little beasties are reasonably realistic and cute in their CG forms. And in this film, these three squeaky-voiced squirrels are convincingly turned into pop superstars.
With its thin plot and trite story about the animated singing rodents and how fame and fortune get the better of them, this family comedy is still a good provider of light-hearted fun. Don’t expect an artsy film, just a light pop sensation story with the fulfillment of having a loving family – both for kids and for their parents who may most likely get hooked by the nostalgia brought by these classic characters. The film is filled with slapstick and bathroom humor. It has the one solid idea of the chipmunks talking and singing – the same concept that fueled novelty recordings and two cartoon series for ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ decades ago. The bright and energetic fun really makes these chipmunks way so cute and charming that the film makes you smile – and you may even sing along with it at times.
Director Tim Hill is able to bring back good memories that veer into the formulaic Disney territory. The nostalgia really counts. And the musical numbers are generally appealing with the close harmonies and smart foot stepping to the likes of ‘Funkytown.’ Truly, the film becomes successful in maximizing the old television properties of ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ with a slick updating for such a musical-cartoon franchise.
Targeting the family audience with some satiric flavor, the script leans heavily on the pranks and big-eyed cuteness of the li’l guys, along with the slapstick offer for the young viewers and Dave’s amiable frustration as the trio’s surrogate dad being something the parent viewers can relate to. ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ provides family values and a shallow anti-exploitation message about the two sides of the music industry and showbiz as a whole. You see Alvin and the ‘Munks singing novelties, recurrent hits, and boy band stuff in their chipmunk signature voicing.
There are some fumbling parts that are just too obvious. You may get to see Alvin, Simon, and Theodore lovingly rendered as huggable CG stars, apparently sapping much of the movie’s budget to the point that such things as continuity and art direction have gone out the window. You see wretched actors clearly pretending to know what’s going on as the CG effects take place beside and around them. One example is at the after-performance party scene where Uncle Ian directly talks to Alvin – Uncle Ian’s line of sight clearly doesn’t match what he is supposed to look at. The discontinuity on Simon’s glasses is also quite obvious. Right after Uncle Ian replaces his old glasses with a new one that doesn’t really help Simon see better, you see him wearing his old glasses on the next scenes – without any problem with his sense of sight at all. And then, a few more sequences after, there goes Simon’s scene with him searching for his old glasses and happily finding it – and he finally gets back his clearer eyesight with it.
Jason Lee as Dave Seville and David Cross as Uncle Ian contribute to the building up of the chipmunks’ characters, although they don’t get to flesh out more with the treatment for their considerably cardboard roles. Alvin, voiced by Justin Long, Simon, voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler, and Theodore, voiced by Jesse McCartney, are given life with such CGI inherent cuteness that make them look like living plush toys.
‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ is an endearing effort appealing to its viewers with its animated characters of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore – all still very much lovable until now as they’ve been decades ago.January 12th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Animation, Children's/Family, Comedy, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Music, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, War/Spy, Women | no comments
Traditional Meets Postmodern Enchantment
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Disney’s ‘Enchanted’ is the best postmodernist fairy tale I have seen to date. And I am confident to say that it is bound to become a classic. This shimmering pastiche is obvious but inescapable: ‘Enchanted’ is as good as its name.
How refreshing it is to be able to gently make fun of Disney tradition while upholding it at the same time – no cheap or vulgar jokes or any treacle of whatever kind. Under director Kevin Lima’s inspired helm, this heart-winning musical comedy is a new breed of fairy tale that pokes fun at Disney’s animated classics without any hurting. ‘Enchanted’ maintains a delicate balance between the magic of traditional fairy tale and the deconstructionist approach to the princess genre. As a sweet, lighthearted antithesis to what is commonly shown in cinemas nowadays, this sardonic fairy tale unites animation and live action, fantasy and realism, practicality and dreaminess, and CG effects and hand drawn elements all suitable for kids and adults alike. Essentially postmodern and deconstructionist, the film indulges in all the dreams of fairy tale romance while making some 21st-century adjustments. It equally sprinkles fairy dust to its world of traditional fairy tale animation and its contemporary New York counterpart. As an expert blend of comedy, romance, and adventure, it proves that a motion picture can be light and frothy and yet still be intelligent and emotionally rewarding.
‘Enchanted’ takes its enchanting premise and prances away with it, and in turn, holds the audience happily captive. An irresistible blend of screwball comedy and fairy tale musical, it manages a warm, charming story that makes itself much more than a simple satire. It successfully recasts the traditional, sugar-spun Disney fairy tales into a winning, modern-day opus spinning its story with the needed puffiness as provided by its sharp and clever script, enchanting direction, and charming performances. This witty romantic fantasy romp playfully spoofs animated-fantasy formula with unabashedly romantic goofiness and clever winks – delightfully reworking the many old Disney favorites while incorporating fresh twists of its own as it commutes between Disney’s patented cartoon universe and the real world all with cleverness and grace. This surprisingly sophisticated riff on animated fairy tale movie clichés is one of those rare pieces that will actually work for all ages: not only kid-friendly but a guilty pleasure for adults as well. In short, it provides an all out entertainment for the whole family.
Disney really goes ‘meta’ in this witty, exuberant musical comedy with classic Disney set pieces, splashy production values, and freshly deconstructionist approach to what the Disney canon has offered for all these decades. From its real world fairy tale premise, its parody of its own is notable for how its heroine makes us realize how far a bit of innocence and optimism can uplift the people’s outlook in today’s untrusting world. While keeping its wish-fulfillment fantasy aspect in tact, it recognizes the idea that the world inhabited by its audience is filled with disappointment as well as with joy. And its pastiche and nostalgia serve as a sweet and affecting romance with fluffiness surviving the needs of its postmodernist attack.
The situations in this cinematic charmer are funny. It feels effortlessly fun. As a hugely clever and comic story of a fairy tale heroine who finds herself in real-life New York City, Princess Giselle’s happily ever after views on life and love changes after meeting a handsome and pragmatic lawyer from the Big Apple. What is even more impressive is how the film’s postmodernist outlook effectively tries to touch on both sides of the world’s duality: the traditional and the modern as seen from the plot to the production design; the happily ever after concept of love and the realistic pains and happiness of loving; the damsel/prince charming in distress and the damsel/prince charming fighting and saving her/his true love; the lover who fights for his love and the lover who loves unconditionally to the point of doing the ultimate sacrifice; the sweet and adorable animals on children’s stories and the sweet and not so sweet animals found in the big cities; and the storybook romance and the complicated situations in the real world of love and relationships. There are simple and yet commendable symbolisms all throughout the film. And it gets its message across and makes us think of what are the Andalasias and New Yorks in our own lives.
Cinematography, production design, visual effects, editing, sound design, and music are pretty tight in contributing to the film’s acceptable musicality, fluffiness, and puffiness to the point that some may even want to sing all the way home and make some clothes out of the favorite curtains.
Anchored by an entrancing performance by the lead performer Amy Adams, along with the strong ensemble cast, the film is sensationally fueled. To begin with, watching Amy Adams’ thoroughly captivating acting as Princess Giselle is worth the price of admission. Her genuine comical charm weaves some serious movie magic as she keeps up with her role as a ‘Disney heroine come-to-life.’ Truly magical and cartoonish in the right dose of it, she looks and sounds as if she really emerges from a fairy tale land. This bewitchingly good actress is every Disney princess in one ebullient package. The sight of her gliding and beaming and chirping in this film is nothing but a magical cinematic fair. She brews up her most transfixing expressions and sings great fairy tale songs that absolutely complement her vivacious performance. She does something akin to what Johnny Depp has in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where an adorably inventive performance is what it takes to push the film over the top. Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip is terrific for his role as the representation of the postmodernist-deconstructionist thrust of love and life. James Marsden as Prince Edward makes a wonderful version of the storybook Prince Charming with a comic touch to it. Susan Sarandon’s wicked Queen Narissa blends with the ensemble even though her real-life version tends to look more like a drag queen than the typical dark, evil queen and witch with a traditionally classy but menacing beauty. The rest of the ensemble makes the film nothing but a true delight to the eyes, ears, and heart. This includes Rachel Covey as the cute, sweet, and street-smart little girl Morgan Philip, Idina Menzel as the modern woman with a soft side Nancy Tremaine, Timothy Spall as the loyal servant and guilty struggler Nathaniel, among others. Most people will adore the slapstick performers as well – including a prominently featured CGI chipmunk. Indeed, all of them contribute to a musical comedy so affectionate with the conventions it spoofs and the message it brings.
Disney returns to its roots while embracing the manhole covers of actuality and modernism in this rare musical comedy that will appeal to the whole family. ‘Enchanted’ may not be a perfect film, but it is so thoroughly delightful that the audience can’t go wrong with its lightly and sprightly demeanor. It’s silly and sweet, but never cloyingly so – bringing sheer movie bliss to its audience. A great family film that entertains both the kids and adults, ‘Enchanted’ hits every high note it sings… and it more than lives up to its title.December 11th, 2007 Posted by Rianne | Animation, Children's/Family, Classic, Dance/Musical, Fantasy, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Love Story | no comments
The Energy Stomp
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Dewitt Henson
Directed by: Sylvain White
‘Stomp the Yard’ pumps up with energy-filled stomping moments within its minefield of clichés. This decent college dance flick runs on predictable rails, but it finds its strength with its impressive dance routines. And though missing a number of beats because of its soapy subplots, its dynamic dance moves promote enough energy to sustain the vim and vigor of the film.
‘Stomp the Yard’ clearly puts its time, energy, and dynamics into its dance sequences. In this level, it creates a whole stomping culture set in a black university obsessed with step-dancing and fraternity. Formulaic but energetic, the various rousing moves transform into extensive exhilarating routines under the umbrella of college comradeship. Some of the non-dancing scenes yield towards corniness – stopping short on its dramatic potential. But the total package becomes something sweet – and the movie doesn’t stumble into pieces with its clichéd dramatic moments. Thanks to the powerful dance numbers pumping real excitement and vitality to it.
The dancer-choreographer-actor Columbus Short plays the role of DJ, a college freshman lamenting for the loss of his brother, and at the same time, coping up with the demands of his new university environment. A story of loss, acceptance, and belongingness, and brotherhood, he moves around in a shallow frat rivalry and a poor-boy-meets-rich-girl subplot amidst a series of acrobatic dance routines – bringing a particular intensity on him playing the lead character. Short has a certain charm to warm up his performance scenes and he brings some explosive talent to really burn the dance floor. His body coordination in his gangster style dance steps adapted for a competitive fraternity step dancing is undoubtedly impressive. Meanwhile, the charming Meagan Good effectively works as DJ’s captivating love interest April. The rest of the characters contribute to both the movie’s vital, energy-boosting performance sequences and its formulaic collegiate drama details.
The movie starts warmed up with talented break dancers showing it all on the dance floor. Known for making music videos and commercials, director Sylvain White treats the performances in a montage of furious dance-offs with jerking cameras, speed alterations, and frame flashes the way a number of music videos are normally utilized. During the middle part of the story, the initial dance showcase of the fraternities look way so funny, and at a certain point, corny – where drugs, guns, and gang fights are out of the toughness and prestige list – and everything that matters is the prestige of winning the step up championship.
Predictable as it is, ‘Stomp the Yard’ highlights a championship competition with the two fighting fraternities battling out in the film’s final showdown. From start to end, it is full of clichés. But as the performances render so furiously intense during the formulaic climax, it wouldn’t be surprising that a number of the viewers leave the theater stomping their feet and doing some wolf sound or some slithering moves (The stomping kinda reminds me of ‘Happy Feet,’ too!). The incredible talent within the dance scenes makes a room for amazement – making ‘Stomp the Yard’ something energizing and watchable.April 2nd, 2007 Posted by Rianne | Crime/Gangster/punk, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Youth/Teenybopper | no comments
Vocal Power at Its Best
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose
Directed by: Bill Condon
‘Dreamgirls’ transcends a mildly engrossing and clichéd theme about the splendor and pitfalls of fame and how the music business makes and breaks stars into an electronically-charged musical that moves effectively by interpreting lives and emotions with spectacularly staged song and dance numbers.
Filled with bravado, ‘Dreamgirls’ manages to grapple some good statements about black pop music, racial issues, art versus business, drug abuse, civil rights, failed marriages, betrayal, greed, pride, loyalty, redemption, and a human being’s true sense of fulfillment. Based from the Broadway musical about a trio of black female singers building their dreams and capturing the pop charts during the 60′s, this film version triumphs with its old school glamour look dazzled by glossy production values and impassioned performances.
There is really nothing new about the storyline: a rags-to-riches story about three small-town singers making it big time until their breaking up during their peak because of personal motives and the politics of the showbiz industry. But what makes this film interesting is the well-mounted and exhilarating entertainment it provides. Packed with strong and energetic performances, it elevates the film into an invigorating cinematic offer without yielding to a totally lowbrow flick treatment.
Overall, the musical energy validates its showmanship. Though there are certain times that the story gets quite overpopulated with bleeding notes, the actual talents rendering the performances cover up the excess with the audience generally getting impressed with such powerful vocals.
The booming vocal power of newcomer Jennifer Hudson as the proud, self-destructive Effie White marks her very presence in the film. She belts out a song with so much soul that she dominates the screen with her every note. Along with her other song numbers in the film, her interpretation of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ becomes so heartfelt that it actually cries in pain to strike the audience with her delivery and the emotion the performance evokes. Her raw energy and voice plays a big part to capture the audience. Playing as the beautiful Deena Jones, Beyoncé Knowles’ ‘Listen’ also renders a painfully impassioned and soulful musical piece that becomes a summation of her lonely side. Eddie Murphy is a revelation as James ‘Thunder’ Early. His interpretation of the fading star’s up and down moments gives him such a rare chance to go beyond the comedy flicks he has been selling for most of his movies. Here, he delivers both musically and dramatically. Jamie Foxx as Curtis Taylor grounds his character as an ambitious businessman who pushes the conflicts of the story forward. Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell Robinson and Keith Robinson as C. C. White render good performances as well. So goes with Sharon Leal as the replacement member of Effie for the group (Trivia: according to IMDb.com, she is of Filipino and African-American descent).
‘Dreamgirls’ is a flashy and flamboyant emotional spectacle. Its catchy show tunes give energy that makes it a considerably crowd-pleasing film mainly because of its gusto of musical performances. Flaws and all, the film is mainly watchable because of its splashy, superficial, and yet powerful energy. The performances rev up the entire film as it shows the perils of fame and stardom. From its visual design to its show-stopping performances, it becomes a 131-minute impressive emotional showdown of vocal power.March 14th, 2007 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Melodrama | no comments
The pursuit for ‘Happiness’
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Florida Bautista and Real Florido
Cinemalaya’s ‘Saan Nagtatago Si Happiness?’ by Florida Bautista and Real Florido is a semi-musical comedy film that revolves around the life of Tikyo (Andy Bais), a middle-aged ice cream vendor searching for his long-lost mother. Marked by its yellow tones and handheld shots, the film tackles the conflict between finding his mom (Caridad Sanchez) and courting the girl of his dreams (Darling Lavina) and how he attempts to become successful in winning these two women of his life. Tikyo believes that true happiness will come to him if he�ll be successful in winning the two women. He must find his way to happiness in as much as the other characters who are struggling for it as well.
At the age of 50, finding dreams and happiness isn’t part of Tikyo’s everyday life anymore. More than offering a helping hand to other people in need, Tikyo lives day by day with the simplest things in life as selling sorbetes, his only source of living. Given the kind of life he has somehow accepted, everything seems just fine for him. But things start to change when he gets the news that his mother is still alive. His life takes a different turn from then on. He does everything to find the woman of his life from enduring long lines in TV studios to raiding radio stations to seeking the help of a lunatic and even hysterical fortune teller. Then, his world spins into confusion when the charming girl of his dreams, Sara, comes into the picture. He becomes torn between finding his mother and pursuing the young woman’s heart. With the help of his good friend Nene (Mica Roi Torre), a child suffering from scarcity both in material and emotional aspects at her very young age, the two become more serious confidantes ready to help each other during their best and worst times and everything else that come in between.
The warm tones of the film tend to become overboard at times – especially because there are minor inconsistencies in the color grading. There are some underexposed and washed out shots, too. Some of the scenes with low-key lighting do not look fluid to the film’s entirety. The editing is very poor. The whole film becomes too straining to the eyes because the cuts are not seamless. Moreover, the cuts are generally abrupt and it lacks a certain kind of mastery of the language with the way the scenes are presented. Even the significant scenes needing enough establishing of emotions become wasted primarily because of the wrong cuts. More often than not, the parts with dialogues are mainly what are shown on screen without enough care on giving some breathing space to emancipate the right emotions from silence and from the characters’ supposed emotional take-off. The visuals lack proper timing to establish or sustain a mood and it generally yields to being verbose. Moreover, a number of shots tend to break the 180 degree rule in an audio-visual production – making the audience either confused with the shots or lose touch of the supposed fluidity of the cuts. Overall, the visuals become the major weakness of the film as it seems more of a rough cut because of the rawness of the editing. Furthermore, like the usual weakness Pinoy films tend to have, the sound of this film has minor problems too. There are some uneven sound elements and certain shots have no ambient sound. A number of discontinuities are very apparent as well – including the shot of Nene holding the bars of a gate and reaching something to the ground – the discontinuity is very obvious.
All the said weaknesses won’t make the film sink into oblivion. Giving due consideration to the fact that the filmmakers are first timers, it somehow shows how important it is to make careful judgments and ask for consultations in order to effectively film a promising vision and story. At this point of time, a major re-editing can really help much in order for the film to gain its redemption.
With the aura of the film overall, the production team seem to have real fun during the shoot. It reflects the kind of ‘personality’ the film projects. And this happy mood radiated helps to somehow pull off some heart for the audience amidst its technical weaknesses.
The story is promising. On a personal note, a revamp should be made in order to achieve technical quality. The performances are generally good. Lou Veloso, Nanette Inventor and Rez Cortez render such funny scenes. However, a deeper characterization of the supporting characters may also help uplift the story. The songs meant for the film are complementing. However, there is something vague with its stand as a semi-musical. Though there are some entertaining dance numbers, something is lacking on this part.
Media Revolution’s ‘Saan Nagtatago si Happiness?’ is a promising story. I just hope that the makers of the film would look into the brighter side of the spectrum and take objective results from what they have read on this article for the betterment of the film. The filmmakers may consider to re-editing, or if possible, they may deem it necessary to reshoot some scenes or add some shots that would help the film. And in doing so, the ‘pursuit for happiness’ can really push itself to the surface.August 2nd, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Comedy, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Independent Films, Pinoy Films | no comments
Tulad ng Dati: Inspired by music and memories
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Cinemalaya’s ‘Tulad ng Dati’ by Michael Sandejas revolves around a fictional character inspired by the iconic life of The Dawn frontman Jett Pangan, who, after an assault, wakes up without a memory of his life after 1988. He merely remembers that he is a 20-year old rock idol who is enjoying the peak of his band’s career as it has been way back 1988. Wishing to change things back the way they were before, he embarks on an emotional yet hilarious quest against time.
Sandejas takes advantage of various cinematic possibilities in favor of a fictional narrative based on the band’s life and music. Crafted with the influential rock group’s fan base on the side, the story creation becomes a promising offer for the Pinoy audience looking for something beyond the formulaic mainstream offer and more especially to The Dawn fans who can relate to the film the most.
The film is a fictionalized bio-drama that pays tribute to The Dawn in an unusual and yet appealing way. The passion from the people behind the film is very much apparent with its outcome. The tribute promotes sincerity as its core can really be felt without unpretentious elements. It tries to validate how The Dawn has risen to become the pioneer rock group during the second half of the ’80s and the details that followed after that.
Amidst the surging New Wave music during that time, Teddy Diaz, JB Leonor, Caloy Balcells and Jett Pangan cracked out from the fad by introducing their music and hitting it big with their impressive talents and rock tunes. At the height of their popularity, their leader, Teddy Diaz was murdered. The remaining members decided to continue with the music but eventually disband in 1996. In 2003, The Dawn reunited. And now, with their contribution to Filipino music, indeed, these legendary rock pioneers radiate a beguiling account worthy to be archived in film as well.
The film revolves around 2006 when Jett loses his passion for music and entertains thoughts of retiring from the band. And the film takes its title from a hit song by the band. The lead actors for the film are no less than The Dawn themselves: Jett Pangan, JB Leonor, Francis Reyes, Carlos Balcells and Buddy Zabala (formerly from the Eraserheads). Compelled to undergo acting workshops, the rockers render effective performances playing themselves. Ping Medina plays the role of the late Teddy Diaz. Agot Isidro plays the character of Beth, Jett’s wife. Also joining the roster are Karl Roy of POT, Mylene Dizon and a few more commendable talents from the film and theater circuits.
The film tends to lose touch on some of the eras it’s supposed to project as Agot Isidro’s make-up and hairdo not really changing in a span of around 5-10 years. Overall, the film’s comedy works but the one who acted for the VJ role tends to push the film into something less than mediocrity. The acting and execution of the scenes on TV especially with the fictional music channel featuring the ineffectively slow-speaking VJ looks too fake and annoying. If ever the said kind of performance is really intended for reasons like to exude a certain type of satirical act or anything similar to that, it doesn’t really work at all.
The execution and overall treatment of the film promote the celebrated music of the band. The music video approach tends to uplift The Dawn’s morale, thus gaining for them another form of cult following through this moving picture’s refreshing move to highlight their iconic life. The video footages of the band, particularly the last part of the film paying tribute to the exceptional talent of Diaz playing the guitar similar to a violin further boosts the drive for the band’s music especially to those who don’t belong to the peak era when the band has performed. However, there are certain missing points that can make the film better in order to capture the hearts of those who don’t know anything about the band. Somehow, for the film to be completely effective, the audience is required to have at least a little background about The Dawn. And this becomes a weakness for the film especially if it goes abroad for exhibitions and festivals. Good thing that this weakness is a little bit supported by the establishment of the band’s performances, particularly the implementation of the music video scenes, to somehow justify their fame and greatness.
The internal struggle of Jett Pangan’s character becomes effective as how the script could have probably deemed it to be. The path he takes while finding his place in his strange new world proves itself to be a tough, emotional and sometimes hilarious journey accompanied by the vast expanse of the band’s music experience. The fiction works to promote the universal theme concerning denial and forgetting instead of acceptance. A story about acceptance and moving on, this film becomes a story imparting a good message and aesthetics.
If you love bands and you’re a follower/fan of the Dawn, you’ll get a sort of bonus in watching this film.
Aiming to be more than just a vehicle for The Dawn’s music, Sandejas crafts a truly compelling fictional story that becomes a breath of fresh air from the crop of recycled dramas, comedies, horror, fantasy and action flicks that have been flooding the local film market.August 2nd, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Independent Films, Pinoy Films | no comments
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco
Directed by: Liz Friedlander
The charming Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) and a bunch of school rejects turned impassioned dancers take the lead in an inspirational story about the harsh realities in a New York public school. A dance-filled teen melodrama mainly set in a high school detention hall, the theme of ‘Take the Lead’ clings on to the interesting and exciting mix of hip-hop and ballroom music. And it turns out to be a predictable story hanging on to some good and entertaining dance and comic sequences in a pop fairy tale fashion. Its inspirational teacher movie formula where Banderas’ charisma mainly becomes its only source of strength associates it with films like ‘Dangerous Minds,’ ‘Mad Hot Ballroom,’ and ‘Shall We Dance.’
Inspired by a true story, the film revolves around the idea of a professional dancer Pierre Dulaine volunteering to teach ballroom dancing in New York City’s South Bronx High School. When his formal background and classic methods clash with his students’ rebellious and hip-hop instincts, his efforts are given due credit when his class gets to create a new style of dance so interesting, inspiring and challenging in every step. A feel-good story utilizing music and dance to infuse their emotions with their passion for dancing, Dulaine guides the problem kids with the complications in their personalize lives.
As a kickoff to set the mood is an impressive opening sequence that introduces a swing as a form of music and dance form. And from then on, the music shifts from the tango and the foxtrot to the hip-hop and some groovy remixes – combining ballroom and hip-hop moves in some exciting ways.
The hip-hop and ballroom music mix becomes a marketable concept. It has a certain appeal to peek the curiosity of the audience. The dances make the movie vivid but not as spectacular as expected. The movie’s dynamism and the characters’ coming-of-age adversities don’t stand as clear as the expectations for the film. What redeems the movie is a combination of splendid dance scenes, good music, and an Antonio Banderas making it energetic from the surface. Moreover, it seems like the debuting film director Liz Friendlander mainly leaves a mark of her music video directing roots with the film’s shifts in tone and its stylish cuts. Physically, it works at a certain extent; but its feature film potential weakens with its superficiality and lack of deeper sensation for the story. The film extends more on the flashy dance sequences and falls a bit short on depth and direction, along with its commercial compromises.
There are plenty of funny parts. The interesting character conflicts and drama make interesting accents. However, the ending doesn’t seem to wrap up everything. And although the film is convincingly pegged under the Hollywood mainstream formula, some issues are not clearly resolved. The dance performances and Bandera’s appeal deserve applause. The script is another story.
The wonderfully magnetic and charming Banderas in the lead delivers it all for the film. It certainly helps that he plays Dulaine. Oozing with charm and talent, he fits the role as if he were born to play it. The film loses redemptive power without his sophistication. His compassion, his accent and his flowery courtliness can obviously make girls swoon. From the way he effectively carries both his dramatic and comedic scenes as the perfect sexy gentleman to his mad hot dance performance with Morgan (Katya Virshilas), the endorphin rush for the film really takes the lead because of him.
The rousing finale is no less engaging – the audience tends to anticipate something hopefully surprising in the end. However, there are many false steps with its choppy finale and vague ending. Even the fusion of classic dance and hip-hop moves doesn’t give a clear final bow. It is entertaining but it could have used a better tempo to make it more worthwhile in the end and not just leave all the cliches unturned. The film knows which way to swing but it doesn’t know where and when to end itself with a thrill.July 14th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Dance/Musical, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Youth/Teenybopper | no comments
The New York Filipino Film Festival – Aninag is showing along with The Memories of a Forgotten War on June 12, 2005, in celebration of the Independence Day
This is an article from Yehey.com:
Date: 6/27/2005 8:20:49 AM
“Aninag” (“Light’s Play”)
a film by Rianne Hill Soriano
Isabel journeys in a dreamworld with her new mystical friends “Saya” (Happiness) and “Pag-asa” (Hope) in an attempt to overcome her isolation due to her blindness.
————-The filmmaker would like to thank the NCCA, Filmex, LVN, Provill, Optima, Museo Pambata, Kodak Phils., Kontragapi, UP Film Institute, First Call, Sun for All Children, GiantSponge, City Hall of Antipolo, DENR (Rizal), Municipality of Rodriguez and the people of Wawa Gorge and all those who helped us in this production.
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