“Like” if you like!
Pera-perahang Lata (Penny from the Tin Can)
Aninag (Light’s Play)
“Like” if you like!
Pera-perahang Lata (Penny from the Tin Can)
Aninag (Light’s Play)
List of Filmmakers Who Can Replace Guillermo Del Toro as Director for The Hobbit
This list is not simply categorized according to how their filmographies made them who they are. in the industry now. These choices explore a number of complicated aspects, perspectives, and considerations about each director’s works.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Movie Review: A Curious Narrative
Based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards, this far-fetched fairy-tale about the freakish birth of an infant born as an old man captures the sadness and exhilaration of life and the melancholic ideas concerning mortality.
Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is a sweeping epic complete with spectacle and pageantry; yet, it collapses into an epic cliché. With its elaborate plotting unable to live up to the roaring fires and engaging fights, it merely lingers around like a topnotch archer drinking buckets of mead, then expectedly fails to hit the crucial mark. At the least, it hits the edge of the target through its noteworthy performances and production values.
It could have been a tighter cinematic offer instead of being a two and a half-hour story of a few hits and lots of misses. The action part is considerably fine, but the drama part fails. While there are a few intelligent and bull’s eye moments between the talented Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride/Robin Hood and her equally talented partner Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley that work, the very essence of this Robin Hood story has a lot of dead spaces and pointless name-checking. Its salvation is how it manages to keep the action up and running within its well-mounted set pieces; thus, making it a “beautiful bore” to some, a “just fine” compromise to casual moviegoers and Robin Hood aficionados, or a “just another hollow adaptation” to the rest who felt they got robbed money from movie tickets.
Scott’s spin on the classic Robin Hood yarn turns the familiar old English legend into a serious gritty and grubby lesson in 13th century British history. This time, he and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar swashbuckling bandit of Sherwood Forest into a serious story focusing on the man behind the legend. It works like a sort of a prequel on how the legend came to be. It attempts to explain the earlier life of Robin Hood by stripping away the fantasy from the myth and making his story more like a societal lesson and a historical exposition. It seems to aim higher than all these, but it lacks the needed depth to transcend the intended character study into a more valuable piece of cinematic work.
Robin Hood is filtered through all the trademark requirements of a summer blockbuster. It has good cuts, camera movements and engaging sound. Scott is at his best with the action sequences; yet, he is unable to put enough dimensionality to the characters, amidst the solid acting performances. The robust script from Brian Helgeland has a sense of struggle in it. The climactic battle sequence is another technical saving grace amidst some overstuffed and ill-conceived moments.
On the positive side, the sense of epic sweep and detailed grounding of the film’s intentions make the uneven pacing work on a basic entertainment level. John Mathieson’s cinematography effectively relives the medieval setting and English countryside feel. The wealth of well-researched period details from production designer Arthur Max keeps the movie appealing.
The film has a strong ensemble that lodges well within the Middle Age setting. The cast of veteran actors and actresses including the supporting cast Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, William Hurt as William Marshal and Mark Strong as Godfrey maintain the serious mood befitting the director’s treatment. However, some scenes tend to inappropriately have accents wandering all over England.
For its specific merits, Robin Hood is one entertaining material. This story about the English philanthropic outlaw is still a watchable fare to the non-demanding viewers. It is technically a handsomely made movie that reworks the traditional characters of the legend into the world of real people. Its production reins over the story, though. And if not for the “too much of this and not enough of that” issue, the solid performances, rousing action sequences and impressive style could have made it a much interesting piece of cinematic wonder.
Robin Hood Movie Review: Bull’s Eye Action but Miles of Missed Storytelling
Robin Hood is a sweeping epic complete with spectacle and pageantry; yet, it collapses into an epic cliché.
The Legend of Zorro Movie Review: The Dela Vega Heroes
The Legend of Zorro tones down a bit by fronting the more human issues about family relationships as compared to the visually purist, action-filled premise driving the storyline on such an action genre.
Watchmen: Deconstructing the Film in Reference to the Graphic Novel
The film Watchmen is no doubt a love letter to those who have been waiting for the graphic novel’s cinematic rendition for the last two decades.
Sherlock Homes Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes Takes a Modern Slant
Sherlock Holmes is a visually stylish rush of adrenaline. Irreverent and yet true to the spirit as it is, this movie is both fun and numb, enjoyable and exhausting.
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.
‘Roller-coastering’ Towards Adulthood
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“Adventureland” is a sweet, insightful, and heartfelt coming-of-age story with loads of sensitivity and a genuine heart. It offers a refreshing retro drama-comedy about the joyride of the young adults’ present angst and their preparations for their future. Smart and perceptive as a typical tale about college-aged kids in crappy jobs struggling to learn about love and life, the film presents the hearts of teens and young adults fluttering up and down just like riding the roller coaster.
The film’s strength lies in the power of its well-delivered performances, beautifully written script, and carefully crafted characters – each of whom is both sincerely flawed and purely compelling. The characters are genuinely tarnished and appealing as they seize those uncertain feelings teens have in becoming young adults. Full of humor and nostalgia as a period story resonating with a universal touch on sex talks, drugs, awkward situations, goofs, intrigues, and humor, it does a pretty good job in capturing the teens and their times. From the way kids generally behave in their 80’s American culture to the ups-and-downs of late ’80s rock, it provides a sort of a noteworthy melancholy of a classic young adult novel made for the big screen. Its heart and soul are deeply invested in its shaky, awkward, sweet, funny, and tender drama with an indie-art touch. It manages a certain combination of the maturity, absurdity, and anguish of young adulthood; thus, crafting a refreshing take on “the teen turmoil issues” where the uncertainty and inherent fear of an idealist are intensely charged with personal feelings, doubts, and dreams.
“Adventureland” is the sort of film that seems simultaneously derivative of countless teen-oriented coming-of-age offers while thoroughly exploring the familiar territory to become a genuinely integral story with an effectively loose and scruffy appeal. Director Greg Mottola puts plenty of heart to this tale. It clearly puts that feeling of “already seen and heard before,” but this linear narrative proves that old stories can be mounted well through authentic touches on its already predictable structure. As long as the storytelling is done well, it can be admirably personal and specific for its dedicated audience.
The heart of the film lies in the emotional microcosm of the local amusement park, a place happily rambling along with its share of laughs and lust. Set in 1987 Pittsburgh, the recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a nowhere job at the nearby “Adventureland,” where summer vacation leads to summer jobs, and possibly, summer love. It becomes a sweet and irreverent tale about characters with real hearts under those goofy shirts. Surprisingly, this very place actually becomes a perfect course to get them prepared for the real world outside the realms of childhood and teenage life.
Filled with likable actors and 1980’s pop songs, “Adventureland” entertains without pretending to be more than a tribute to doing odd jobs, meeting unlikely friends, trying anything fun, wild and exciting, and hanging out without the concern for adult responsibilities. Credible performances from the ensemble cast make effective use of music and moments to enrich their eclectic roles. Eisenberg has the ability to endearingly convey gawkiness and mortification, along with his quirky, intellectual, twenty-something virgin character delivering for what makes the story come full circle – his high virtue and worst defect – his sincerity. His life experiences with a bunch of his kind at the amusement park find prime solace in Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). Stewart shines in a raw and tender performance bursting with charisma. Here, innocent fun, true friendship, and an added spark of love work for the story in which he and Stewart put deft touches of realism to a heartbreakingly genuine couple. Mottola does quite a good job in weaving his characters to be unaffected by their already marked personalities as celebrities – especially with the recent hype for Stewart’s character in “Twilight” and Ryan Reynolds being Wade Wilson/Deadpool in “Wolverine.” Reynolds here as Mike Connell is very low key and fits perfectly for the tricky part he has to play – just like the rest of the characters in the story from main to support to minor roles all working for their specific roles in a similar way as the various jobs inside “Adventureland.”July 23rd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Youth/Teenybopper | no comments
Fluff and Pathos Equals Adult Fairytale
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day” is a gentle period piece that keeps the comedy humming while unpacking Miss Pettigrew’s one extraordinary day. This Depression-era Cinderella comedy has a certain kind of sophistication backed up by a fluffy form of lyrical cleverness. And for those who are into ultra-light screwball fun, artsy romance, and happy endings, this grown-up fairytale can surely live up for a day of cinematic entertainment.
Light and pleasant, this snappy adaptation of a 1938 British novel by Winifred Watson is a valentine to a by-gone era. Its old-fashioned qualities explore women’s roles in the society at the time – with an impending war hanging heavily at the background. Nicely cast, this handsome production is a delightful farcical fairytale that plays like a joyous whirlwind. Its mood and treatment is reminiscent of a period theatrical piece bolstered by moments of depth and emotion. It’s a veritable treat that’s quick, breezy, witty, and charming amidst the considerably tough and uneasy blending of comic delight and pathos.
Set in 1939 London, the era, costumes, sets, and music make the film feel like a classic. The world war fear is carefully dissolved into a blend of eye-candy production value, cliché romanticism, and screwball comedy that give the film a certain gravitas to keep up with. Director Bharat Nalluri maintains a light mood, a brisk pace, and a pleasurable wordplay for such a film that is pulled down by its own predetermined ending.
Period comedy is a tough act to mount. And “Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day” works with a certain heft. Interestingly, it is aimed at the ‘art house’ crowd while keeping a treatment that is as light as a feather and as stereotypical as your usual romantic comedy. What it lacks in substance is counterbalanced by the energy of its heavyweight actors and actresses – the thespian acting performances fitting the film’s fairytale-ish needs. At the same time, those who are not demanding for some heavy meanings and deeper artsy points would still enjoy the film by just the sights and sounds of cheeky purses, shoes, and dresses, vintage cars, and period music.
Delightful performances make the film a charming 1930’s “Cinderella-meets-Sex and the City.” Frances McDormand puts a frazzled charm and endearing insecurity to her character as the frumpy Miss Guinevere Pettigrew. Amy Adams as a wide-eyed delight of a would-be starlet Delysia Lafosse lends her frivolous charm amidst such an autopilot-ish acting for her ingénue character. The two ladies blend in a likable manner that keeps up a British fortitude and class to the mounted picture. Even the romantic angles of each one (Delysia’s young womanizer producer Phil played by Tom Payne, the rich, have-it-all businessman Nick played by Mark Strong, and the financially modest but simpatico musician Michael played by Lee Pace, and Miss Pettigrew’s urbane fashion designer Joe played by Ciaran Hinds) form an appealing bond that promotes light and gentle laughs. The rest of the supporting cast led by Shirley Henderson as Edythe and Christina Cole as Charlotte Warren are equally entertaining.
This film works as a quick throwaway comedy mixed with period romance, theatrical drama, and relevant theme. Overall, it is fluffy as it is fun.April 26th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Comedy, Film Review, Films, Films I Like, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Pinoy Films, War/Spy, Women | no comments
A Study of a Marriage Gone Wrong
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Ryan Simpkins
“Revolutionary Road” is a tragic study of a marriage tearing itself apart. Director Sam Mendes creates a portrait of a dysfunctional relationship and digs into American suburban life with a riveting and stark drama. Its account of marital failure and dreams lost may take the audience down a familiar road, but it survives as a heavily engaging social mirror through the powerful and emotional performances of both the major and minor roles.
Based on a novel by Richard Yates, “Revolutionary Road” is a moving examination of a young, unhappy couple desperately trying to deal with the plateau of their married life where freedom, ambition, and ideals clash with their faltering relationship. Mendes pinpoints the brutality of banality in a considerably good stream. Chilly and academic, he generally covers a similar ground as that of his Oscar-winning “American Beauty” – with its high quality affair in terms of production and performance. Justin Haythe’s faithful screenplay is energized by the fine acting that reflects the genuine angst of the era. Kristi Zea’s production design effectively evokes the details of the period and situates the road to ruin for the main characters. The sublime camerawork by cinematographer Roger Deakins stylizes suburbia as a lavish velvet coffin for its doomed residents. Tariq Anwar’s editing exerts a pretty good pull towards the brilliant source material as its beautiful but ill-fated protagonists navigate through the tedium of adult life. Thomas Newman’s score bolsters the film’s bleak, troubling, and tragic underside as it reveals the hidden disease at the heart of American life during the 50’s era.
The film is an intense drama striving for heaviness. It keeps the people engaged with a consistently absorbing and occasionally heart-rending adaptation of a classic American novel. However, it does not completely pass by the road to perfection. On a certain dose, it fails to fully engage the audience’s sympathy despite its first-rate performances and high production value. And it’s not merely due to traversing a path so familiar that it doesn’t take the demanding audience by surprise anymore; perhaps, it’s because of some of the dramatic fireworks getting the better of particular scenes, that in the end, there is no enough emotional punch to the film’s totality anymore. Moreover, it doesn’t fully hit the mark due to some moments where certain dialogue becomes on-the-nose – which tends to be more akin to theater (like April’s unfulfilled career as a thespian in the story) than in real life. Some of it works with the characterization, but not all. And there are times that far too much get said already when the brilliance of the scenes lay in the amount of what can be left unsaid. With such, there are instances that the viewers feel removed from the messy energies and doomed sensibilities of the characters. Nevertheless, overall, solid performances take over some of the smaller bumps of the film still.
The cinematic reunion of “Titanic” lovers Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet highlights another tragic, emotional grip to a depressing tale. They are once again, set in the bleakness of a relationship gone wrong. As Frank and April Wheeler, they are a young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-50’s who struggle to come to terms with their romantic, personal, and familial problems. They are on the verge of marital and emotional collapse as their growing desperation and dissatisfaction for their town, their marriage, and their two children lead them to think of an escape. DiCaprio and Winslet brilliantly depict a married couple with histrionic tendencies channeling much nuance into their home sweet home turned into a home-based hell. Their darkly effective portrait of a marital partnership tragically falling short of realizing their dreams and aspirations deliver some compelling and emotionally gripping scenes. And they get valuable opportunities to display fearless acting prowess through a number of “in the moment” scenes.
“Revolutionary Road” survives pretty well with powerful and emotional performances. And it features terrific acting not only from the two leads but the entire cast. Considerably, the performances are rightfully more involving than the tragic story they depict. Kathy Bates as Mrs. Helen Givings provides humorous scenes that balance out the heavily dramatic bulk of the film. Also adding humor and spice to the movie is Michael Shannon as the psychologically unstable son John Givings – who steals just about every scene he is in. Kathryn Hahn as Milly Campbell, David Harbour as Shep Campbell, Jay Sanders as Bart Pollack, Dylan Baker as Jack Ordway, Max Casella as Ed Smalland, and the rest of the supporting and minor characters contribute well to this essay about the emptiness of 1950’s American suburban life.
“How do you break free without breaking apart?” For the “Revolutionary Road,” it doesn’t provide the answer, but it offers an existential look at desperate lives, wrong moves, and spoiled dreams that can bring self-delusion to such a plight in a married relationship.
The film is stylized, sobering, well-observed, and bristling with great performances. It is bitter as it is engrossing. It is heartbreakingly sad as it is roadworthy. It may not be a revolutionary work, but it is still remarkable in certain ways.March 30th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical | no comments
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Jeanette Hain, David Kross
A provocatively intentioned story about sexual awakening and moral dilemmas, “The Reader” is a tragic film romance examining post-Holocaust guilt, the confronted atrocities of Nazi Germany, the beauty of literature, the shame of man, and the limits of law. It is a film that contemplates on the deeply complicated relationship between rational thoughts and instinctual feelings.
Based on Bernhard Schlink’s “Der Vorleser” which is also a hugely popular selection of Oprah’s Book Club, this film adaptation directed by Stephen Daldry tells the story of a young boy’s first sexual encounter traversing an uncomfortable territory. Set in post-war Germany, he finds himself having a torrid affair with an older woman, only to find out years later, as a law student immersed in courtroom proceedings, that she is a Nazi war criminal. While confronting his own family’s complications as an aging man and experienced lawyer himself, he is then haunted by the trial he witnessed from years ago and determined to sort out his own feelings of guilt and love. And so, from a titillating romance between an upperclass Berlin teen and a sexy but coarse tram worker, the film suddenly morphs into a modestly scaled courtroom drama that pushes profound questions about guilt and redemption.
Carefully, specifically designed to be adored for a certain demographic, the film starts erotic and sensual – with naked bodies in various states of repose and impassioned lovemaking – punctuated by the school boy reading through his school works with his woman: Homer’s “Odyssey,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Lady with the Little Dog,” and eventually even reading comic strips for her. After a sensuous first half, it becomes an exercise in philosophy and history where the past haunts the present in how truth and reconciliation can finally exist in such a chaotic and painful world.
“The Reader” is a Holocaust morality play alternating on passion and pain, distance and drama, literacy and law. Daldry’s sensitive treatment of a challenging, nuanced subject merits the attention of a discerning audience. Its structured plot and twists justified by the impressive performances make it a skillful piece of emotional manipulation where literature is an aphrodisiac and living with arresting secrets could reach out to blight lives in unexpected turns.
“The Reader” is admirable within its limitations. There are some convoluted and unevenly executed parts, but under the gloss of high production value and layered ambiguity about redemption, deception, and hidden truths, Daldry’s approach in making an emotional impression makes the film an absorbing drama about reconciliation. With its probing script by David Hare, atmospheric camerawork by Chris Menges and Roger Deakins, and painterly production design by Brigitte Broch, the film is considerably a worthy memorial to its producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella.
For some, especially to those who are not able to read the book, “The Reader” is actually easier to admire than to genuinely like. It seems to lose its more confident footing with some jumbled inserts of the past and present having indistinct pacing. There are also instances that the long, redemption-seeking end tends to detract from the impact of its most poignant moments. Nevertheless, this cloaked male fantasy, soft-core love story turning into a nuanced historical drama gets the viewer’s hand to gloss its very surface then move to certain depths mainly through its convincing characters. From within its own choppy and overdrawn elements, it interestingly develops a certain cumulative power to make things work.
“The Reader” is elevated by calibrated performances. The pleasingly adult material is powered by searing portrayals of Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz and David Kross as the young Michael Berg who commit to their piercing relationship with substantial nudity and the real colors and looming tragedies of their lives. There is something gripping about the May-December love affair between Michael and Hanna. The intricate, sensual performances pave way to a heartbreaking reunion in the end. Winslet, whose tense body language speaks of a quietly forceful, heartbreaking Hanna, finds herself as a woman who is willing to share her body, but never the secret that defines her. Built around her enigmatic character, she is brusquely adult and childishly vulnerable at the same time. She is intended to be an uncompassionate and unsympathetic character – and the audience doesn’t quite feel sympathy towards her. And yet, her achingly, crushingly real presence puts a validated foundation to the film being a moving tale of complex affection and shortcomings. Kross is superb as the coming-of-age Michael. He brings such a grounded, impeccably crafted characterization to his role – to the point that he actually gets missed by the film’s end part. Ralph Fiennes as the adult Michael Berg plays out a stately part as a solid, respectable, and matured man whose hidden and repressed boyish demeanor comes out as he tries to make up for what has haunted him through the years. The sharp work from the supporting performances also defines the film’s emotionally engaging presence where passion is nothing far from how illiteracy becomes an issue in itself.March 9th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, European Films, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, War/Spy | no comments
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco
“Milk” is a highly affecting film. And its greatest assets are its director and cast. As a powerful tale about love, politics, human rights, and heartbreak, this spirited portrait of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay California activist elected to a major political office, lives up to its warm, emotional, non-preachy, and surprisingly jubilant slice of contemporary history.
This compelling biopic from the “Good Will Hunting” director Gus Van Sant is expansive yet intimate. His storytelling approach is filled with both passion and purpose. The story is steeped in tragedy, but the mood is exuberant and the energy is raw and bristling. In tandem with Sean Penn’s masterful performance, this cinematic masterpiece creates sufficient depth and emotional complexity to humanize the California icon who energized a historical movement during his period. Both triumphant and disturbing, it becomes a penetrating depiction of an unconventional political figure immersed in the chaotic struggles of his era.
The film’s lessons in political history feel sincere and involving. Beautifully detailed, evocative, and convincing, the many crowd and protest scenes provide believable scope to the civil rights movement that gripped and changed San Francisco during the 70’s. And it creates a loving, humanistic tribute to Milk, the courageous gay San Francisco supervisor who, along with Mayor George Moscone, was assassinated by fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
“Milk” has a powerful story to tell. Van Sant crafts the film with a gritty, documentary-like treatment infusing archive footages with the narrative film elements to give the action the astuteness and genuineness that will further engage the viewers. It truly makes a judicious use of contemporary newsreel with a tone both impassioned and restrained. It has an unflinching eye on putting emotion, breadth, intelligence, and candor to the factual timeline of Milk’s activism, his days in politics, and right down to the moment of jarring violence that ended his life. There is no concession to mere melodrama, nor a moment wasted… It understandably and movingly centers itself on the central character who discovered that in order to make the change he thought the world should have, he had to find his voice.
Sean Penn delivers a brilliant, transformational performance as Milk. Bolstered by an unquestionably outstanding turn in this potent and involving picture, his career-topping performance is so lifelike that the film earns its smiles and tears primarily through his uncannily three-dimensional performance – as if he were born to do the part. His luminous vivacity and soulful energy is truly electrifying. He disappears behind the upright shoulders and coquettish grin of the title role with great pride. His amazing embodiment of the gay activist and political leader makes him a feisty charmer who goes beyond the pink issue. He completely disappears to make Milk one of the most charismatic figures ever seen in the big screen. And he absolutely gets the job done without resorting to caricature type of portrayal.
“Milk” boasts of a great ensemble cast. From Penn’s magnificent performance to the supporting cast’s valuable contribution in the acting department, the film marches forward with profundity and purpose. Feeling authentic in every frame, it represents a thought-provoking, cathartic tale of courage and politics. What it lacks in daring narrative, it makes up with the electric portrayal of its radical subject. Josh Brolin is no less perfect as Dan White – his character is not depicted as a cartoonish villain but as a frustrated, emotionally underdeveloped man who lashed out at a low point in his life. Emile Hirsch as the gay activist Cleve Jones, James Franco as Milk’s lover Scott Smith, Alison Pill as campaign manager Anne Kronenberg, along with the rest of the supporting and minor characters, all play significant parts on this impressive piece.
The film’s various thematic, technical and aesthetic aspects all work well for the film’s totality: direction by Van Sant, screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, cinematography by Harris Savides, production design by Bill Groom, music by Danny Elfman, editing by Elliot Graham, the actors’ and actresses’ piercing performances, and all the other facets of the film production.
“Milk” is a master class on how a film based on a true story can be mounted into a rich, uplifting, and inspiring biopic. This cinematic opus conveys the humanity of the main character with simple but effective storytelling. While most message films tend to become polarizing, this noble picture proves how films with heavy themes about events of historic significance can be intimate, accessible, artistic, and entertaining through the power of simple human expressions. The film doesn’t quite escape the clichés of the biopic genre, but within its bounds, it still finds its own place and takes advantage of it. Van Sant’s innovative and passionate direction keeps things real and authentic without diluting the film’s colorful tone. He keeps things tidy, gentle, and digestible while expertly infusing humor and poignancy to the story. The filmmaking is admirable while the film feels deeply touching.
A tribute to a political figure who brought gay rights forward, “Milk” is a genuinely powerful political film that works equally well as a story of personal triumph. It is one of the more fascinating political biopics in recent memory and an immediate classic of gay cinema.February 23rd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Biopic, Film Review, Films I Like, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood Films, Period/Historical | no comments
Not Quite Enough
Submitted by: Rianne Hill Soriano
Some things on “Valkyrie works,” but not quite enough… Bryan Singer’s long-in-production war thriller falls short in pulsating an admirable tale about the courage and idealism of some Germans during the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler – undone by the cowardice and politics of others within the same sphere. Its technique is fine, but it misses its mark emotionally. It lacks the valuable inner conflicts to keep up with the war thriller that it tries to be. As a grandly ambitious movie with much potential, Singer delivers some suspense, but the film lacks emotional connection with the characters. It’s short of the epic scope and dramatic urgency that could make it a truly memorable piece.
“Valkyrie” raises timeless, universal questions about the demands of military duty when placed in conflict with higher principles. A meticulous thriller based on a large-scale conspiracy within the German army to assassinate Hitler, this anachronistic film is clearly not intended to be a history lesson nor be a character study – but to simply be an absorbing adult suspense film. However, while trying to ramp up its heroic aspects and cinematic bearing, the script and the Hollywood treatment simply aren’t strong enough to hold the audience’s interest. And it ends up being rather flattened in the process. Being based on a true story, the problem is not that people already know the outcome. The problem is the buildup which stops it from being the scintillating wartime thriller it could have been. Given the subject matter, it is nowhere near the gripping cinematic experience it aspires to become.
“Valkyrie” is handsomely mounted on the outside, but it is not quite distinguished in terms of capturing the human values of the German resistance. This film is grounded to be either a more cerebral thriller promoting artsy elements and approach, not a mere mindless action-suspense movie. Yet, it fails to connect the moral and political conflicts running through the story about love of country, revolt against the system, war, genocide, and even the more basic love and longing for the family. And amidst the thorough physical reconstruction of a real-life plot to assassinate Hitler during the last months of World War II, along with some deliverables on the acting side from the supporting cast, the tension and pacing yields too much towards the style and technique and not much towards the heart. For this reason, the general audience just sees the story on screen, someone plants a bomb, someone gets caught, someone gets killed, but they don’t feel much for the characters and the events. From the surface, all they appreciate are the occasional flourishes of visual panache; but they don’t get to sympathize well to the story – it’s more like just being respectful rather than becoming inspired. And from here, the film becomes rather shallow and clinical.
“Valkyrie” could have benefited from more scrutiny and complexity with a heart to become more riveting. Despite having a rich seam of moral ambiguity to mine, the bland characterizations are no deeper (and even less genuine) than Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s lost eyeball. It rarely lets the people get inside its characters as much as to compare to the attention provided by the external details of the plot – leaving too little for the inner realism of its participants. So when the plan begins to fall apart, audience sympathy is fatally missing. Like the coup in the story, it fails to sweep the viewers along for what should have been a suspense-filled and dramatic ride.
As a sleek, high-gloss WW2 thriller, “Valkyrie” seems more interested in process than in people. It works as a full-dress military drama fleshing out a historical footnote in vivid detail, but less the prime emotional strength. It merely makes fascism look more stylish and profound on the big screen like a typical vanity project streamlined with top period design, but its sense of opportunity to touch its viewers is left elsewhere. Moreover, there are even no convincing romantic/familial elements nor a coherent rhythm to its procedural parts to make the underlying story a truly engaging cinematic experience. The screenplay introduces a seemingly endless series of characters, but there’s no time to flesh out from any of them and make the audience worry about their fate nor feel pain to what transpired in their tragic story.
On a good light, Singer’s tightly controlled direction marshals his camera and sound well in lending the film such a stylistic “period” feel. The treatment of transforming the use of the German language to English during the first part of the film is something to appreciate in terms of understanding that this is a Hollywood movie vehicle primarily intended to English-speaking viewers (with regards to the film’s cultural correctness and related issues, I have nothing much to say as I’m not that familiar with German history). Personally, the most powerful moment of the film is the scene of Stauffenberg and his family inside their aristocratic home, bonding with his wife and costume playing children, going down the basement after hearing some bombing from the outside – with the Valkyrie tune carefully mounting a nice montage that builds up the kind of needed emotion to heighten how Stauffenberg came up with the idea of using the Valkyrie for their plot against Hitler. And there are some aspects of the genocide part near the film’s end making up for some artistic mounting as well.
The film makes ample use of a strong supporting cast to keep up with some of the film’s demands as an elaborate WW2 procedural. Disappointingly, the celebrity status and contemporary demeanor of Tom Cruise strongly overshadows his performance. As the major conspirator Stauffenberg, his character is off-putting and far beyond the issue considerably resolved with the film’s treatment as he plays a German with a pronounced American accent. His unconvincing turn as the head of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler is primarily detracted by his ego-driven performance. His fellow conspirators in the story including Bill Nighy as General Friedrich Olbricht, Thomas Kretschmann as Major Otto Ernst Remer, Kenneth Branagh as Major-General Henning von Tresckow, and Terence Stamp as Ludwig Beck makes the film survive some dodgy dialogues; but the supporting performances can only do so much. Overall, the cast doesn’t make convincing enough Nazis and there is no sinister rigidity and fear that could have really enhanced the thriller aspect of the story.
“Valkyrie,” like the conceived plot to kill Hitler, is commendable for its premise, but it is not well-executed. The cold and metallic staging just doesn’t work for the demanding audience’s satisfaction. It’s difficult to get immersed in this glossily mechanical recreation of the 1944 plot by German officers to assassinate their dictator. It feels more like a sketchy and narrow thriller that has less impact than expected. It’s bland and underwhelming whether in its historical value or in its escapist, artistic, and moral sides. It’s superficially executed, boringly carried out, and utterly easy to forget.February 11th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Biopic, Film Review, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Suspense/Thriller, War/Spy | no comments
Outback Romance and Adventure
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Shea Adams, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Baroo, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, David Gulpilil, Brandon Walters
Part fairy-tale, part western, part war movie, and part epic romance, the grandly indulgent “Australia” is a soap opera of moods and gorgeous visuals. It embraces director Baz Luhrmann’s work on cinematic magic to bring a wildly enjoyable piece of kitsch into the big screen. As grand as the Down Under itself, the film’s flair sprawls with its unashamedly old-fashioned and unabashedly corny pastiche of exhilarating images that are proudly romantic and sentimental. It fluctuates among various tones and genres. And with its clearly monumental weight and ambition, its cliché-ridden filmmaking interestingly drives the story with a good enough dose of passion, mysticism, and melodrama; thus, making this rich, ambitious, and brave film a magical playground of sappiness and formulaic elements where the excesses become part of its charm.
In his kitschy way, the Aussie director’s self-indulgence in epic extravaganza delivers a worthwhile adventure about his homeland. Luhrmann shamelessly wallows in the most sweeping style of filmmaking imaginable, filling the screen with expansive images, action and emotion, and old-fashioned thrills and entertainment.
Set in northern Australia before World War II, the film revolves around the story of an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch where she meets a stockman to protect her new property from a takeover plot. Featuring race relations and the competitive beef market in the north of the country, they drive 2,000 head of cattle over an unforgiving landscape, and not for long, experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia by Japanese forces firsthand. This romantic epic that primarily takes place in the outback is cheesy and ridiculous on certain levels, but it’s also surprisingly enjoyable and engaging. The film is trying at times with its tangled ideas, but it remains an ambitious romantic epic where the performances and the story are slapped onto such beautiful backgrounds in a broad, imaginative scope. And if you look at it in the right light despite its very lengthy running time, it can rather have a beautiful and entertaining bearing. Like with his “Moulin Rouge,” Luhrmann’s affinity with musicals is infused with renditions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the mentioning of “The Wizard of Oz,” along with some whistling tunes, musicians in a ball, and playing of the harmonica. Like what he has offered before, he utilizes the many formulaic elements in a good enough form where they still work in their own ways as a form of movie entertainment.
“Australia” provides some remarkable moments of imaginative and moving melodrama-adventure-fairytale rolled into one. Its derivative of the old school maternal melodramas, westerners, and actioners with a commercial touch of cinematic humor and magic. It has full measures of quirks and swoons from its earnest drama to its brisk comedy. And amidst the difficult way of holding together such a lengthy piece of screenplay, Luhrmann labors well in framing his work as a grandiose film with a considerable binding factor – its entertaining side.
With considerably three storylines in one single cinematic offer, “Australia” offers a vintage Hollywood spectacle with some exotic elements and exhilarating frontier adventure. It shows stunning locations that offer everything from a cattle drive, horse-galloping, panoramic stampedes, hopping kangaroos, romance under a huge tree and the moonlight, mystical quality of the aboriginal land, old-fashioned action and drama to swells of emotion filling the screen with ambition, artistry, and market value. The film has a particularly messy side, though it’s a spectacularly made mess that’s carried along by its own passion to please. And so, you can forgive its excesses, enjoy its bits and pieces along the way, and revel in its sweep.
Hugh Jackman as Drover persuades as an Outback cowboy with the appeal of the typically effective and clichéd hero who tries to save the damsel in distress. With the same air and tone of voice she’s been giving for almost all her films, Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley/Mrs. Boss is too fey in her character and her accent gets problematic at times. Nevertheless, she and Jackman jive together in terms of that needed chemistry, and well, her star power adds enough wattage to make the film work in particular aspects. Brandon Walters as Nullah exudes a charming character with the innocent and street-smart traits of a boy who draws magic from his youthful glow. David Wenham as the dastardly henchman Neil Fletcher is not so impressive this time, after a good exposure as the storyteller Spartan in “300.” His character is just “too much over-the-top,” though it’s not of his mere own doing, since it’s what the characterization of his role requires him. His sell-out nature is reminiscent of the “Titanic” villain played by Billy Zane as he took shots of Leonardo DiCaprio while the Titanic was sinking into chilly depths. David Gulpilil’s King George is convincingly of an aboriginal heart. However, the treatment on him at times is just too overbearing, perhaps it may be intentional, but on a personal note, the overkill makes the film funny without the right intentions for it.
“Australia” has a knockout cinematography and production design. And if it had a script that could have sustained the film with a stronger sense towards perfection, the film could have been an ultimate classic. But in any case, it exudes a certain kind of wonderment, beauty, and grandeur. Mandy Walker’s cinematography interestingly wins the audience for a delightful entertainment inside the movie house as the massive panoramas of wild Australia parade much spectacle. The sweeping camera movements and gushy sentimental romance against the production design by Catherine Martin become absorbing and engaging enough for the film’s three-hour running time. The intense close-ups, the slow-motion parts, the period sets and props, and the epic proportions of David Hirschfelder’s score come together well.
Overall, “Australia” is a lively, rollicking, overlong, and overstuffed movie that can try your patience in as much as it entertains you. Though flawed and overlong, this wildly ambitious feat of Baz Luhrman’s sprawling fantasia is a throwback to the cinematic tradition of grandness, extravagance, and passion.January 28th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, War/Spy | no comments
In Doubt and Certainty
The powerhouse ensemble film “Doubt” is a cautionary tale about the dangers and consequences of both doubt and certainty. It provides a provocative glimpse into specific issues within the Catholic hierarchy through its hypothetical and debate-fueling ideas, interplay, and intrigue. With a collection of acting styles from the broad to the contained, the passionate performances really make the film work at its best.
Weaving an intense drama with some gun and blood-free thriller elements, it navigates around the claustrophobic air of the characters’ setting – a Catholic school and the church governing it – where moral ambiguity usually goes side by side with various human motives. It is a psychologically expansive film with crackling dialogue and top-rate acting. Its resounding themes and provocative issues raise major social questions and speak volumes about the many convictions thrown into the issues of tolerance and morality. Its own need for certainty and understanding in a world that is ambiguous and contradictory fuels faith vs. uncertainty debates in the heart of a church milieu.
Directed and written by John Patrick Shanley, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play of the same title, this stage-to-screen adaptation becomes a commendable new rendering. The film focuses on the questioning and proving of an allegation by utilizing drama, tension, and suspense to level up its emotional thrust. And the film’s mood and temperament adds a certain enigma that makes its title even more texturized in presenting its own thematic underbelly; thus, justifying the relative triteness of the material. The story is set right after the assassination of John Kennedy, a tragic time in America that shook the nation and questioned people’s faith in humanity and in each other. With its treatment on its internal conflicts, it effectively provokes varying interpretations, serious convictions, and lively conversations.
The film makes for a great story and magnificent on-screen performances. It proves what great actors can do when given roles that require complete conviction in order for the film to really work. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman inhabit their characters to the fullest. The face-offs between them form the film’s foundation – making “Doubt” an intense experience. They step up to the plate against each other while holding your attention for the supposedly typical confrontational drama. They gracefully fight in a riveting death match of words and actions. As Sister Aloysius Beauvier and Father Brendan Flynn, these two star heavyweights become a formidable pair as a nun and priest at odds over an unspeakable suspicion. The child molestation charges against Father Flynn become a series of quick-fire dialogue discussing themes and issues on religion, morality, and authority. You despise Sister Aloysius for her bitter crusade on the first minute, but then doubt Father Flynn’s innocence the next second – the clever treatment and performances make you swing to and fro for the trust and belief on these characters. You try to figure out whether the nun’s intentions are pure, whether her relentless pursuit of the priest is rooted in virtue, fear, jealousy, or any kind of angst inside her.
Meryl Streep is frighteningly good as Sister Aloysius, the “holy woman is a beast” principal of a 1964 Bronx parochial school. Acting like a fire, a storm, and a heavy wind who can put the fear of God in you, her histrionics makes a chillingly scary performance – and the film acts up right along with her as her sternness and cold-hearted behavior place a blanket of fear in all the students and even with the people of the church. Hoffman as the genial neighborhood priest successfully meshes suspicion with a charming personality and a friendly aura. The seemingly hypocritical personality is tough to pull off, and he does it in a way that people can like him while also pondering if he has the darker side behind an amicable mask. Impressive performances are also seen with Amy Adams as the innocent young nun and teacher Sister James and Viola Davis as the conflicted black mother Mrs. Miller. There has been a funny moment on Davis’ peak dramatic point though, and for purposes of not giving out a spoiler: the said scene just makes people laugh with the way she handles her face during a tough crying scene. The rest of the acting talents are superb in their jobs as well. And for all its high-caliber performances, indeed, the film showcases some of the finest screen acting in cinema today.
What raises the film’s aura is the apparently confident filmmaking utilized in it. The fiercely tight and clever script and the gifted production staff and cast makes “Doubt” an absorbing psychological thriller, a fine film adaptation of a provocative play with its distinct dramaturgy carefully re-crafted for the big screen. The tidy narrative provides powerful arguments and cinematic word play about a child molestation scandal that manages to be deeply disturbing on many levels. The authentic period detail where you can almost smell the Catholic setting – where Filipinos can tend to relate to given the fact that most are Catholics and have certain experiences with Catholic schools. Even the church scenes provide such familiar elements. There are moments, however, that the awkward and canted angles with the camera work kind of lose the grip on how the general audience can take such an approach – overall, the reasons for them not being that solidly defining for that matter.
“Doubt” lets things simmer for a while, and provide such electrifying results. Its success lies in its defiant refusal to ordain even a slightly satisfying answer to the question: “Did he or didn’t he?” And the guilt-drenched final line becomes a prism revealing new facets of character which strikes you, impresses you, and makes you ponder about things.January 27th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
Civil Rights and Women Empowerment
“The Secret Life of Bees” is essentially a coming of age chick flick with feminist elements and melodramatic instincts in its healing emotional exploration on love, family, race, and reverence. A well-intentioned film about compassion and love crossing the racial divide during the Civil Rights Movement in America, this gently paced and optimistic tale on woman and racial empowerment primarily works well through the chemistry translated on screen by the acting performances. It can sting particular viewers from both sides of the film audience spectrum. And it can tug at the heartstrings of those who can relate to it.
Adapting Sue Monk Kidd’s soft feminist, best-selling novel, “The Secret Life of Bees” portrays life in rural South Carolina during the 1960’s – exploring the life of a 14-year old girl haunted by the memory of her late mother and the pain of having to live with her unloving and uncaring father. Her search for love and redemption becomes a heart-affecting screen version of the deeply spiritual novel. The film is able to weave the healing and transforming elements of love to elicit genuine emotions in its inspirational take on family, love, and hope. And it may be embraced by moviegoers who find solace in its redemptive themes and values.
By maintaining a gracefully calibrated balance in its honey-sweet moments and its soft-pedaled tragedies, and by treating itself as a fairytale of the Civil Rights era, the film puts a better potential on its familiar themes on racial tension, family abuse, and intertwined relationships. Despite its clichéd script and heavy-handed symbolisms, the film works through its sweet and subtle touches on emotions without spilling over into cheap emotionalism. Running thick on sentiments like its metaphorical honey, it captures the unsaid through its own distinct taste. And this is achieved through its best element – its casting – putting life to a number of emotional characters with accomplished performers punching across the story’s humanist appeal.
The actresses and actors function well like bees effectively working for their beloved hive. Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood has encouraged fairly broad performances from the formidable roster of acting talents in the film. She generously showcases her ensemble cast by keeping a good room for them to explore their own characters while staying away from grandiloquent gestures that can make things too sugary. Indeed, it curtails many of the sappiness the story can project through the strong acting work. The now grown up famed child actress Dakota Fanning in a teenager role further proves herself a natural on cam. She moves gracefully from kiddie roles to a dramatic lead, this time, as Lily Owen, a girl longing for her mother and searching for unconditional love in all possible places. Her delivery seems to come from a genuine emotional core. Queen Latifah puts much heart into her character as bottled honey entrepreneur August Boatwright. Fanning and Latifah form the proficient core of this reliable story about black and female liberation. The film also has strong work from Jennifer Hudson as Rosaleen Daise, Sophie Okonedo as May Boatwright, Paul Bettany as T. Ray Owens, and Alicia Keys as June Boatwright.
A film about family, independence, the transcendent power of love, and the transforming comfort of home, the warmth of this entertaining and poignant American period drama cuts the usual schmaltz on a film of such theme and story. Tragedies strike and life lessons are learned with a beating heart.January 25th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Women | no comments
Finely Weaving a Human Drama
“Changeling” draws you from its quiet beginning, holds you through the creative steam of its compelling mystery and agonizing human drama, and keeps you through its beautifully mounted conclusion – all resonating with integrity and uncompromising emotional truth.
A gripping, powerful drama about a woman victim who struggled against the system, this long-winded cinematic retelling of a real-life case holds you through its perceptions on the capriciousness of crime and the determination of those who choose to fight it. Staged with somber exactitude, this mystery-cum-character study is intensified by its absorbing drama and engrossing tale – finely-weaved together.
Director Clint Eastwood crafts a discursive narrative and indulges realistic and complex character sketches to understand both how fragile and how essential people’s hopes for decency and truth are in a world of both love and chaos. He effectively draws a family and community together in the struggle against organized crime – from street violence to public service malpractice. For a drama about an ill-fated mother searching for her missing child, the story shows a parable of wronged innocence which has found expression in a woman’s tough experiences in a directly corrupt society. Set during the late 1920’s to the mid 1930’s, it exposes the era’s concerns which are still parallel to the societal issues of today. In collaboration with writer J. Michael Straczynski, “Changeling” boasts of a powerful story mounted to be nothing less than riveting as it uncovers the disorderly side of the period – police corruption, mental institution incarceration of women, and grisly serial murder of little boys.
“Changeling” is rich with diverse elements slowly unwrapped with significant details. It traces a good dose of the needed components of related subgenres including the corrupt-cop thriller, seeking-of-justice melodrama, courtroom drama, and political satire. For all its power, fury, and superb tension, the film marks inherently intriguing storytelling that takes advantage of the many strong emotions found within the story. Eastwood’s classical route in laboring the details of the film builds it with hammering intensity. And with a powerful central performance by Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, along with a valuable cast coming together with rare brilliance, this emotionally gripping drama succeeds as both a compelling mystery and a period piece that still feels relevant today.
Eastwood’s directorial canon is very apparent. “Changeling” bears his personal stamp on each frame. With outstanding period detail and moody characterization, his meticulous direction tells the story without the much poorly contrived dramatics nor shocking stunts that most filmmakers fall prey to. The polished details of the era are very much commendable and work accordingly with the story’s requirements. The film’s impeccably fashioned 1920’s to 1930’s Los Angeles provides an opportunity to peer into a different era with enough creative precision. From the production design by James Murakami, to the cinematography by Tom Stern, to the film editing by Joel Cox and Gary Roach, to the original music also by Eastwood, everything works for its favor and flavor. The period costuming and vehicles, the emotional baggage, the satirical moments… all of them work together for the film’s needed language. You see the crooked cops crippling the City of Angels and victimizing innocent civilians here and there with enough emotional investment. There are many finely directed sequences showing the anguish and pain of losing a loved one, the forces of motherhood and politics clashing in front of the media, the many facets of anger, the sacrifices made in the name of truth, love, and justice, the fear of loss, the many faces of abuse, the shocking moments of a victim, the animalistic nature of a murderer, the instinctive nature of survival and saving a face, among others.
The film is uniformly well-acted. Topping the bill is the main character played by Jolie in an award-bait role that the Oscars and other award-giving bodies would definitely take a look on. Propelling the film with a beautifully measured intensity and subtlety amidst her svelte figure not very much so 1920’s, her charisma in presenting a single mother’s heart in desperate moves to find her son delivers a performance of which any actress can be truly proud of. She renders a believable and shining character overcoming the striking beauty she is endowed with which could have upstaged or distracted her acting performance in the eyes of the audience. The rest of the cast, whether on major or minor roles, makes the film a truly well-acted period piece. To name a few, John Malkovich as Rev. Gustav Briegleb, Gattlin Griffith as Walter Collins, Jeffrey Donovan as Capt. J.J. Jones, Michael Kelly as Detective Lester Ybarra, Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott, Colm Feore as Chief James E. Davis, Amy Ryan as Carol, and Devon Conti as Arthur Hutchins all contribute to the success of the film in the acting department.
“Changeling” is a very good cinematic offer that just misses some outstanding points by small margins. The material is sufficiently compelling enough to override most of the film’s minor problems. On the side that the film seems made with awards season in mind, overall, it works. Although on a minimal degree, there are parts that suffer from more than its fair share of showy moments. There is a very minor concern on its deliberate pacing and contained sense of melodrama. You are impressed, but the touching part yields more on the artsy side that you generally appreciate it well, but the consciousness to the aesthetics builds a considerably thin wall against the core of the emotional attachment and the strike of the story. And this, on a small dose, hampers the complete sharing of the heroine’s pain, disorientation, rage, and grief to the policemen who have subverted their duty with staggering arrogance and misused their power for mere personal gain.
To sum it all up, “Changeling” is a mature, thoughtful, compelling, moving, and well-told adult period thriller that is sure to attract Oscar buzz.January 22nd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Classic, Crime/Gangster/punk, Film Review, Films I Like, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Women | no comments
A Curious Narrative
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a delicate undertaking. Stylistically showing a span of history and carefully orchestrating an evolution of style and mood sums up the long narrative with words like “people are born to die… and do things, fight, and fall in love in between.” The film provides a meditation on mortality and time’s inevitable passage amidst the fleeting sweetness of love and the tormenting pain of human suffering.
Director David Fincher’s cerebral aesthetics and visual mastery, Brad Pitt’s charisma, and Cate Blanchett’s acting talent, add up the well-delivered behind-the-scene work and the brilliant supporting performances, front this intelligent and exquisitely mounted film. It gives an interesting perspective on the human conditions of aging, loss, and mortality and connects them with the human desire to transcend the inevitable constraints of time.
Based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards, this far-fetched fairy-tale about the freakish birth of an infant born as an old man captures the sadness and exhilaration of life and the melancholic ideas concerning mortality – a reminder of the transience of life and the temporariness of the mortal flesh.
The film has a scope and reach of almost a century. It injects a number of American historical landmarks and tragedies within the story and let them blend gracefully together with a moving, lyrical tale that keeps its light and dark elements come up with a speculative and enthralling fantasy about what it would be like to age in reverse. Its eloquently epic sweep is backed up by its richness and intelligence. And amidst the few excesses and the pacing on the latter part of the film seemingly yielding to what I can personally brand as “film production pressure,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” still succeeds in leaving that kind of intentional wistfulness and morality and mortality plays. It’s sentimental fantasy through the use of an awkwardly mannered whimsy is both rambling and gorgeous.
What makes the film stand firm is its achingly human traits as a cinematic offer. Fincher tells an imaginative story with a solid eye for atmosphere and physical detail. He indulges with his noticeable flair for lengthy films with enough sense and wonder that you tend to forgive any one or two missteps. He is witty enough in utilizing the novelty, sentimentality, and emotional poignancy through visually arresting shots and in putting the right dose of humor to the film’s serious length. Interestingly, the film’s bleak message can even evoke feelings of hope and wonder. Indeed, this adaptation from Fitzgerald’s short story explores life, death, fate, and mortality in a long, impeccably detailed, richly textured story about a man’s unusual life and the bizarre consequences of him aging by growing younger.
With an adapted screenplay by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord and with Fincher at helm, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” becomes a classy film with old school treatment while employing modern technology to keep up with its grandiose treatment. It is masterful enough in combining the many aspects of production including directing, pacing, editing, acting, make-up, set design, and special effects. The make-up and prosthetics are exceptionally good. Other than some artificiality seen in a few effects, mainly the scenes involving bodies of water, the visual effects are not overdone and are generally convincing and working well for the story. The elegant visual delight and the nostalgic mood are deeply felt on the New Orleans’ lovely old neighborhoods. And along with the haunting and mythical musical score, it exudes a romantic ambiance forming an ideal locale for a gently fantastical tale of a man living his life resoundingly in reverse. And so, despite its length and expansive pace, the film does not go the dull route.
”The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is elegant, well structured, and well acted. The characters in the film are distinct, memorable, and wonderfully conceived. They draw the right energy from the smallest gestures and the simplest moments. The film shows how much life offers such a short time and how people should make the most out of it. And even though this is a clear work of fiction, its very message rings very true in real life. Pitt as Benjamin Button delivers an effectively underplayed performance – a ride that is gentle and whimsical, passive and pathetic, loving and affecting. And along with the rest of the characters from their youth to their old ages, he is able to transcend a challenging role through his ability to make you believe he is an old man and a young boy in the same film. It is such a tough, complicated, and ambitious endeavor. And letting it work and evoke such an intensity is a true achievement.
Pitt and Blanchett definitely prove their acting talents here. Overall, they work as a good tandem for the film. But in seeking for perfection, their on-screen chemistry seem to lack a deeper emotional core as the most passionate lovers on a cinematic masterpiece. And this is not a question of acting performances but more on that unexplainably subjective spark of chemistry that can be seen in some perfect on screen romantic partnerships. The rest of the performances are very notable as well as this lovable band of lovers, eccentrics, and misfits open life’s many facets to Benjamin. To mention a few of the many commendable acting stints would include Taraji Henson as Benjamin’s surrogate Queenie, Tilda Swinton as Benjamin’s first lover Elizabeth Abbott, Jason Flemyng as Benjamin’s biological father Thomas Button, and Julia Ormond as Daisy’s daughter Caroline.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” makes some powerful points about the precious commodities of love, happiness, and time by mounting a grand tale full of melancholy and romance. It brings exquisite weight to the human experience with a beguiling measure of the mysteries of aging and death. Being an epic story revolving around mortality, it makes the audience think on how to live life in the past, future, and especially the present. Overall, amidst some of the film’s excessive parts, Fincher mainly succeeds in making the film a charming, touching, and timeless classic.January 9th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
On War and History
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Mark Meily
Starring: Jericho Rosales, Anne Curtis
The 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry “Baler” is a wartime love story based on the siege of Baler, Quezon way back the end of the Spanish occupation in the Philippines. The story spans such a Filipino epic scope; thus, making it an ideal material for a cinematic offer. The film has a promise. However, amidst its understandable limitations, it really falls short in a couple of aspects. Nevertheless, the effort to come up with a more quality film entry for the overly commercialized MMFF is still something to look forward to.
Under the direction of Mark Meily, “Baler” translates a film version of the historical event that occurred towards the end of the Philippine-Spanish War during the last part of the nineteenth century – where a small contingent of Spanish soldiers took refuge in the church for almost one year to withstand the already stronger force of the Filipino army in Baler. It centers on the Romeo and Juliet love story between Celso Resureccion (Jericho Rosales), a half-Spanish, half-Filipino soldier serving the Spanish military and Feliza Reyes (Anne Curtis), a young Baler native.
Casting vs. bankability/star power seems to be a big issue in this film. In meeting this halfway, they should have, at the least, made Anne Curtis darker in order to make her a believable Filipina native of Baler. On a funny note, with her Tagalog twang and Caucasian features, she can actually pass as a Spanish than Jericho Rosales who can better pass as a Filipino native. And more than the inconsistencies in the Spanish accent of the supposed Spanish characters, a number of those playing the roles don’t really look Spanish. There are a few who keep up with the role, but most are really badly cast.
Another disappointing aspect of the film is how such a history-inspired offer fails to suspend the disbelief on the many elements of this period film. The costumes and set designs may be commendable and believable enough, but these are not the only parts that should rise to the challenge in transporting the viewers to the 19th century Baler. To begin with, they should have considered the social norms of the Spanish era provincial life. Feliza’s character is in no way having a touch of a “Maria Clara…” And though she dresses with a “baro at saya,” she wears it like a vintage tanktop (wearing it such during the giving birth scene is fine, but the rest are just way too much). Celso’s character doesn’t give much for his being half-Filipino, half-Spanish, particularly with how he deals with Feliza – with whom he shares too much kisses by the seashore when a “dalagang Pilipina” back those days would mean seeing her toe or touching the tip of her finger is a big deal already. Indeed, what could be seen outright with their words, actions, and movements is still their dominantly modern bearing as people of the 21st century.
There are nice shots of the Baler town in its rural glory – the green landscapes, the mountains, the bodies of water, among others. The construction of a mock-up church where the siege took place becomes a convincing fort for the Spanish soldiers in the story. However, all these still don’t get to capture the era effectively because of the many other elements’ bigger shortcomings. At times, the audience tends to feel more that it’s a love story set during these modern times probably just in a remote province that maintained the 19th century get-up. A keener attention to detail and keeping up to that cultural correctness needed in the story could have helped viewers in suspending their disbelief.
The film seems to works on an intelligently compromising treatment and pacing. And yet, the clear time constraints and budget limitations for a short-term epic film production really affected its quality. From a number of discontinuities to the story’s pacing, establishing relationships, and building up characters and plotpoints, the film still shows much drawbacks. Nevertheless, Meily is still able to elevate the film into a decent film with some values to keep up with in such a short period of production time.
“Baler” utilizes the clashes between father and son, mother and daughter, duty to family and country, and sacrifice and self-preservation. The film’s intention is commendable. The compromise on quality and commercial value is understandable. And hopefully, future Filipino epic/historical films could be inspired by the efforts of films like this and even surpass further all such pressures and challenges in film production in the current Philippine film industry setting.
The Mummified Third
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh
“The Mummy” series has been dead for a long time, but like the mummies it depicts, it’s not going to stay buried for all time… Though there’s an undeniably tired air to it, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” pushes itself to more archaeological flights of fancy primarily by utilizing the currently popular Asian themes and martial arts sequences to restore the franchise. The charm seems to be evaporating already, but the combination of its bandwagon appeal and some visual tricks up its level of entertainment and goofiness into a considerably watchable stint, particularly for those people who are into such kind of movies.
“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is clearly made to seek box office gold with its special effects – amidst the third-rate writing, stale plotting, overkill voiceovers, and some cheesy CGI moments. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it takes the special effects seriously enough. It seems to exist to simply cash in on the success of the earlier “Mummy” films: digging up a series of merchandising items for the franchise and anticipating the future DVD and cable TV sales to complete “The Mummy Trilogy.” With these, the movie serves its purpose in its chosen track amidst the topsy-turvy of its overused cinematic elements about the East and West, myth and history, loyalty and betrayal, swords and guns, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters. Generally, things become a little bearable with some visually rich action staged in a huge scale, but some parts of the effects, including the evil warlord shape-shifting into a three-headed dragon and the aid of the Yeti tribe of the Himalayas, don’t blend well enough to make them relatively touching or striking for the film’s entirety.
Brendan Fraser (Rick O’Connell) continues to lead the enterprise with his goofy appeal for the action-adventure genre. However, the film makes a bland use of kung-fu cinema greats Michelle Yeoh (Zi Juan) and Jet Li (Emperor Han). Maria Bello (Evelyn O’Connell) who takes the place of Rachel Weisz is considerably okay. And Luke Ford (Alex O’Connell) and Isabella Leong (Lin) are good enough in what their cliché roles require.
“Mummy 3” is overly familiar and pretty unoriginal. With the quality of this third entry in the series, it certainly feels like the direct-to-dvd kind of film… with its own idea of a mummy being a cruel Chinese emperor and his army cursed into stone figures for centuries (there is not a single actual mummy, as how Egyptians have it, in the entire movie).
Tiresome and messy with its rip-off one-liners and pows and bangs from the likes of “Indiana Jones” and various martial arts and eastern epic films, it falls flat with its half-hearted portions as a slipshod spectacle. But looking on the brighter side of things, as it is already a given that the movie would be nearly swamped by distracting lapses in logic, “The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” keeps up with its idea of a movie that makes everything to be just plain dumb fun. It may be absurd and preposterous, but this adventure-fantasy product unwraps itself for its own fan base who usually dig into such kind of themes and stories. Actually, the movie could have been a lot worse; and yet, it should have been much better. At the least, it can be a movie a viewer can watch once and be entertained in one way or another, but it could probably never sustain multiple viewings like the best adventure films people never get tired of.
For those willing to accept the movie’s leaps of logic and have time and money to spare, it could be a pleasant enough ride. But after this third offer, if there wouldn’t really be a great, great idea to revive the franchise for a fourth installment, then it’s about time for it to be truly mummified once and for all.September 2nd, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Action, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Comedy, Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Period/Historical, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
The Cinematic Magnet of Good Old Indy
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
After around two decades, director Steven Spielberg returns to form with a mysteriously sparkling crystal skull for his legendary franchise in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It is entertaining, inventive, new, and yet old-fashioned – in a good and fun way. This fourth incarnation of the Indy adventure series is a great piece of studio-produced escapist entertainment filled with both fictional and factual archaeology, the Cold War, pseudo-science, and film history.
I have felt a real comeback not just for the legendary Indiana Jones but for Spielberg as well. The first sequence of the film has readily reminded me of his film entitled “Duel” (1971) while the extraterrestrial aspect of the story has quite reminded me of “E. T.” (1982). From the looks and shots of the mad races of dueling jeeps to the passion for the supernatural and alien things, I have felt such a leap of sincerity with Spielberg doing something really close to his heart – as if paying homage to his earlier works. And that’s always one key to open up the film into something more touching and worthwhile. Moreover, these earlier works are actually my favorites and I find them as the best in his filmography – prime, pure, and positively personal while conveying valuable subject matters, entertaining elements, and gratifying compassion for the audience.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” recovers my belief in Spielberg as a great director after a series of works he has done for quite a while now being all sell out and superficial – where the idea of “you’re as good as your last film” becomes apparent. Nevertheless, leaving a space for the so-called “benefit of the doubt” is reasonable enough since most of these works from him that I’ve been really disappointed for all these times are with him being an executive producer and not director. He seems to have lost his prime, or perhaps, he is just stuck inside the system and unable to put much effort in doing something about it… But now, this film really gets back the Spielberg I have once known. Spielbergian moments that have gone before are now back – to the point that I would really want to become a Steven Spielberg apprentice if the rare opportunity comes. That may just stay as a dream, but I would have the luxury to say that again and again, the way I have dreamt of meeting up and becoming students of the expressionist Tim Burton and the late Stanley Kubrick.
Both producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg have definitely earned back a lot of goodwill in this film. These two Hollywood living legends doing something more than the usual tricks of these days really become something to look forward to. They, along with the acting legend in Indiana Jones, actor Harrison Ford, manage to recapture the tone, spirit, and magic of the adventure series that has caught the hearts of two generations over the last twenty-seven years. This time, they have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the franchise so perennially popular and fun. It becomes an enjoyable romp that does no harm to the character’s legacy. And it is interesting to acknowledge the fact that the young fans who have now reached adulthood with careers in filmmaking become part of the filmmaking process of this comeback film. Perhaps, this adds more heart to the overall package – considering the fact that every filmmaking endeavor is always collaborative – the director leads and guides the vision, and yet, the effort and performances of the entire team are always the foundation of how the film would really turn out. And as a faithful addition to the intrepid Professor Henry Jones Jr.’s archaeological adventures, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” definitely weaves the excitement while keeping up with the lightning-paced return to form of all those greatly involved with the franchise and even those who are new to it.
This fourth film in the Indy series becomes a good example of mainstream working at its best. Many people may just keep humming the theme song while being thrown back to the fun of serials and adventure movies of yesteryears. It is a feat because some efforts actually turn out annoying; but this one has the wit and good-old races/escapes delivering the goods. All the necessary ingredients are seen: swashbuckling swings, ancient riddles, rumbling stone technology, a precious artifact with supernatural powers, impossible stunts, and tongue-in-cheek humor that made the series such a phenomenon of its time. Moreover, the audience is offered all the familiar elements without trying too hard: fedora, ancient texts, hidden clues, obscure maps, high-style thrills, and cliffhanging moments for that rollicking ride with a popcorn. Indeed, this film shows a Spielberg at his most pop and most amazing: mixing conventions of the good old-fashioned genre in a mass spectacle package of fun, excitement, familiar things, and roller coaster adventure. With his penchant for schmaltz and the supernatural, Spielberg knows how to dazzle the audience with the preposterous, the familiar, and the predictable – it’s fun while not requiring too much thought. And this is quite hard to deliver as there is a thin line between dumb, brainless fun and light fuss of fun that does not make the audience feel and look stupid with it and still having a certain form of wit and aesthetics hanging around.
As an efficient, consummately competent director, Spielberg provides the film with top-notch production values and artfully choreographed action scenes and death-defying stunts. The entire filmmaking team provides cool signature moments wave after wave – hand in hand with the awesome production design, cinematography, sound, music, among its other film aspects. The richness given to the characters, whether big or small, highly regards the film in the same way as the shots are carefully handled at their best.
An entertaining and inventive ride tailor-made for its iconic characters, the acting performances play within the needs of the production. Spielberg proves he still knows how to generate that dash of filmmaking flair and Ford affirms that he can still deliver both a punch and a wry punchline. Basing it from the commercial doctrine of film production, it is true that casting the aging Ford as the titular hero one more time – in his considerably aging years – becomes a sort of gamble. However, dispelling all fears about age and ability, Ford puts on that legendary fedora and becomes Indiana Jones once again, exactly as he is remembered in his prime years. He still looks dashing in an adventurer jacket and even in a professorial tweed. The role still belongs to him and his dry comic delivery, intrepid air, and death-defying acrobatics. The story chosen for this fourth installment fits him well and the very idea of doing a comeback movie for such a successful and historical film franchise. Here, the film prepares us for a new chapter through the introduction of the young man to gracefully take over the titular role without shading away the value of the original. The transition is carefully crafted as this fourth installment smartly showcases the younger version in Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams, a 50′s motorcycling hair comber with Jones’ superior intelligence and ability in his own way. Amidst his inexperience is his resourcefulness and his slowly uncovering sense of adventure as if he were Jones’ son or his soon apprentice. In this film, he works side-by-side with Indiana Jones (after years of Indy becoming inactive in his thrilling journeys to uncover secrets and mysteries) who is now a tenured professor in a university.
The metaphorical aspects of the film make a solid bearing for the theme and story. The crystal skulls represent some intellectually superior race, be it from outer space or another dimension, for which knowledge is the leading commodity; while acclaimed adventurer and archaeologist Henry Jones Jr., better known as Indiana Jones, is now in valuable service to an educational institution as a professor in his senior years. And he starts imposing on Williams that education is of prime importance – nagging and berating him for not finishing school like how the usual father figure would do for his son or a professor would say to his student. Furthermore, the familiar Cold War and competition on knowledge and technology between the Americans and the Russians is very much apparent as well. And being a pure entertainment venture as it is, such a subject matter is considerably fine for the cinematic reasons.
The film also brings back some familiar faces in the Indiana Jones franchise. Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood makes up for the romance and some eye-popping news for Indy. Ray Winstone’s Mac as Indy’s Brit triple-dealing spy-adventurer friend supplying intrigue and surprise further marks the mainstream requirements for character support. Outfitted in a black pageboy hair and Soviet pants suit, the new character in the person of Cate Blanchett’s Cold War bridging role as the Russian troublemaker Irina Spalko adds a certain image to the franchise. However, I personally find something lacking in her sense of making her character deeper than it should be And it’s more than just the problem with the Russian accent. I’m not sure if I just have too much expectation on her because of the way she effectively delivers in many of her films. I’m torn between her falling short of living up to the character or the character itself just makes her act that way – with the unfortunate result of lacking that solid blend of characterization to fill up the hole in question on her being like that. And if I compare it with John Hurt’s role as the jaded lunatic Professor Oxley who actually has a quite animated/exaggerated character as well, Hurt’s performance renders a yielding sense of character compared to Blanchett’s amidst her clear character of being a strong, determined, and self-serving leader and knowledge-seeker.
On a personal note, I totally loved LaBeouf’s character being into knives and blades, primarily because I share the same passion as him. Seeing those knife stints, fencing stances, and sword fighting just puts up all the energy into me. The bias is definitely there, and as a human being, I just can’t help it. So I really look forward to his future Indiana movies with it then.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” plays heavily on the fondness of the audience for the first three films. As part of that, I can’t exactly tell how the overall effect can be for those completely new to the franchise – those without much knowledge and hype about its successful past. Perhaps, the overall effect can either be exhilarating or exhausting, depending on the emotional and cinematic investments of a spectator towards it. But above all, this film is set out to make one for the fans and deliver for them especially for those with fondly held childhood/teenage/adult memories along the way. And as a newly revived action-adventure franchise, I would have to say that this is much better than what the recently made sequel for “National Treasure,” another successful franchise within the same sphere and adventure requirements, provides.
As a two-hour thrill-ride with stuntman extravaganzas of yore, “Crystal Skull” delivers smart, robust, and familiar entertainment. It promotes bravura filmmaking and just enough wit to bring it on. Far-fetched, fast-paced fun with a lot of frantic energy, the journey is worth the price of admission.May 26th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Action, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Period/Historical, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
Hidden emotions and glowing recollections
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Dante Nico Garcia
Starring: Judy Ann Santos, Gina Pareño, Mylene Dizon, Meryll Soriano, Ces Quesada
Showcasing the immense beauty of the Palawan island paradise of Cuyo, “Ploning” is a simple story executed well by providing a heart. It transforms a dedicated story into a touching representation of a people’s way of life through the simple joys, heartbreaks, and fulfillment in the society where the people’s lives revolve – providing the personal recollections of love, longing, heartaches, memories, and friendships.
What makes “Ploning” shine is how it bares its soul while its heart remains intact. It has a measure of taste, intellect, and sincerity of bringing something intangible and yet vital to its audience.
Stirring hidden emotions here and there, “Ploning” effectively transports viewers into the era it promotes and injects its thoughts about life and love without sounding too corny and lecturing. The film gives away much beyond the mere saying of the lines. This ensemble piece evokes the needed sincerity coming from the insights and convictions of the filmmaker translating his life, his hometown, and his people into a quality film work.
Set in 1982 and shot entirely in Cuyo, Palawan, the film is based on a popular Cuyonon folk song of the same title. “Ploning,” the mysterious town belle everyone admires, is said to have a special place in the hearts of the Cuyonons. It sings of a native woman’s promise of patiently waiting and holding on to the promise of her beloved’s return. Portrayed by Judy Ann Santos, Ploning becomes an enigma of a citizen who talks with much reservation amidst the risk of becoming misunderstood. Interestingly so, the townspeople turn to her whenever they want to make sense of life’s confronting questions. And she socializes to open up others’ hearts amidst keeping her own closed. Her subtle grace and quiet strength makes her a barrio lass who is filled with unfathomable mystery.
A new Judy Ann Santos is seen on this film. Primarily, she had to learn the Cuyonon dialect as the film is shot 60 percent in Filipino and 40 percent in Cuyonon. And more than just being one of the most bankable stars doing commercial projects in her era – turning the lamest mainstream movies into box office hits with her charm, stature, and popularity – this film requires her to communicate her emotions through her eyes and actions only as compared to the usual predictable run of the cash cow plots of her mainstream projects (where the major selling point is having the most crying and shouting scenes as possible). For “Ploning,” instead of seeing the famous drama star bawl her eyes out, she doesn’t smile or talk too much. With this, the film strikes a minimal physical breakdown to become the most tearjerking moment. And this time, Santos generally gets a hand in the characterization of her role without the usual requirement for a leading man who is ultimately present in her commercial films. This film draws attention to her character as she moves, talks, and laughs reservedly, yet she captivates everyone around her. She becomes a tie that binds all of the individual stories together by becoming the barrios’s ‘Nay Ploning amidst her infinite waiting for the love of her life, Tomas.
The rest of the characters completing the ensemble depict the personalities of real Cuyonons. And the non-Cuyonon actors had to learn the dialect by heart not just to merely reflect it, but to give soul to the way of life of the people using it. And the impeccable acting of the rest of the cast helps bring Ploning’s tale come full circle. The actors and actresses are so natural, both the veterans and the starting performers alike. As a whole, they promote glowing emotions while saying their lines and tackling issues and struggling through the nuances of their everyday lives. Coming in par with the pros, the local actors Cedric Amit as the child Digo, Boodge Fernandez as Muo Sei/adult Digo, Lucas Agustin as the young Siloy, and Ogoy Agustin as the young Veling promote a sense of completeness to such a significant story about their town. Cedric Amit’s Digo, Ploning’s “anak-anakan”/foster child, becomes an adorable character carrying many of the pivotal scenes. His affinity towards his ‘Nay Ploning is truly endearing. His freshness, innocence, and natural moves work well with the story. Boodge Fernandez as Muo Sei/adult Digo also makes a realistic performance considering most of his scenes are with veterans. Lucas Agustin as the young Siloy depicts the needed youthful feelings of longing and anguish in his struggling life. Ogoy Agustin as the young Veling, Digo’s protective older brother, exudes such an intensity by owning his character with meaningful fondness and responsibility.
We see the pros working greatly for the film as well: Spanky Manikan as the Taiwanese nomadic merchant Tsuy, the surrogate father to Digo; Tony Mabesa as the patriarch Susing, Ploning’s father; Ces Quesada and Crispin Pineda as the strongly bound couple Nieves and Toting; Eugene Domingo as Digo’s bedridden mother Juaning; Gina Pareno as the grieving mother Intang, Tomas’ mother; Mylene Dizon as the feisty young nurse Celeste; Meryll Soriano as the lonely and struggling naiveté Alma; Ketchup Eusebio as the comic tricycle driver Badocdoc; and Tessie Tomas as the high-spirited old Celeste, better known as Seling. Just like the delicately rendered scene of the esposada (the traditional bridal shower of the Cuyonons), the very emotional father-daughter dancing scene, and the kasuy scenes with Santos, Dizon, Quesada, and Soriano create the right amount of tension and emotions to build up the story further. And the film proves that it’s not the mere screen time that matters most but the spark provided by the characters even with the least number of screen exposure. Joel Torre exudes such a positive energy as town mayor and old Siloy who has now clearly moved on to fulfill his youthful dreams. Ronnie Lazaro as the old Veling makes such a gripping statement in his very touching scene with the adult Digo. Beth Tamayo shares a sweet-natured demeanor as an adopted native of Cuyo and daughter of the spunky Seling. Jojit Lorenzo as one of the barrio lads evokes the comic indulgence of youth while keeping a reference to the rest of the young people of Cuyo. These pros only have a few minutes on screen, but they touch the audiences’ hearts through their meaningful looks, natural moves, deep sighs, silent tears, faraway gazes, and simple laughs.
Shot with live sound and in 35mm film, this brave independent film venture of young producers comprising Panoramanila Pictures marries the spirit of independent filmmaking with the business structure of commercial filmmaking – infusing the independent cinema spirit with commercial filmmaking sensibilities. This new film outfit believes in the genius and creativity of Filipino artists. And they know that such craft should succeed commercially as well in order to make filmmaking a sustainable endeavor – continuously bringing such wonderful stories for the Filipinos to the big screen. The young producers who gambled their money, time, and effort for this film include Guia Gonzales, Jourdan Sebastian, and BJ Lingan. These people combine their experiences in independent and commercial cinema industries while heeding to the vision of Dante Nico Garcia, a production designer-turned-writer-director. This collaboration boasts of valuable people doing behind the scene work. From Judy Ann Santos also taking the role of a co-producer, the roster includes veterans and promising young talents alike: cinematographer Charlie Peralta, underwater cinematographer Marissa Florendo, co-writer Benjamin Lingan, sound engineer Albert Michael Idioma, production designer Raymund George Fernandez, musical scorer Vincent de Jesus, and the list goes on.
Without trying too hard, the sincerity of this story about loving and waiting, healing and forgiving, becomes a light amidst the dying “Cuyonon breed.” It may not be perfect in terms of technical and thematic execution, but it has definitely mounted itself as a glowing recollection of valuable forces. It becomes a powerful collaboration taking its affinity into a wonderful representation of life, love, and the society. May such kind of project continue to flourish in our midst. May it start the trend of quality Pinoy feature films that are value-laden and culturally rich while being well-marketed and commercially viable at the same time.May 18th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Independent Films, Love Story, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Pinoy Films | no comments
A Neo-Western Mind Game
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
You may never look at a coin toss, or an air gun, or the way to fix a bullet wound in the leg, or a hunt in a motel, or the aftermath of a car crash… the same way again. You might also find a new way to utilize an oxygen tank or robbing a store without getting noticed.
Here’s a film about how easy you can enter the world of bad men and how hard it is to escape it. Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen make a dark and bleakly comic vision of a violent culture in this film, the Academy Awards Best Picture for 2007 “No Country for Old Men.”
This intense and provocative chase thriller set in the dusty southwest of America is both perplexing and engrossing as it explores man’s animal instincts and brutal senses. With a visual lyricism matching Cormac McCarthy’s cold and bleak view of humanity, it is a masterful interpretation of McCarthy’s novel into an enigmatic, metaphysical mind game with solid alternations of comedy and violence. Braced with a sensibility strongly matching the original material, this neo-western tale leaves you with your own perceptions whether such elements are real, a byproduct of cinematic minds, or a combination of them. Its sense of place and its poetic voice is both tight and organic. It has a great sense of style; and yet, it doesn’t overcome the film’s very substance.
“No Country for Old Men” exudes rich visual imagery. There is so much depth to the perception of the characters through its mise-en-scéne. It boasts of well-crafted shots, class A acting, astounding sound design, tight pacing, and masterful editing. The careful use of dead silence and sparse dialogue to produce nearly unbearable tension and a signature atmosphere of dissolution makes it an adrift zeitgeist that is shockingly effective and incomprehensibly great. It is ironic, contemplative, acerbic, metaphorical, epic, intimate, terrifying, humane, darkly funny, and deadly serious. With the Coen brothers’ evocative and ingenious writing, directing, and editing, Roger Deakins’ exquisite cinematography, Jess Gonchor’s sensitive production design, and Craig Berkey’s topnotch sound design, all the technical requirements consolidate with the thematic aspects of the film – making it an eerily quiet and bracingly violent genre classic.
The film creates an insinuation into a person’s consciousnesses and sensibilities. As it presents the essential problem of being human and the stark and grimly place one can get into with an uncontrollable force suddenly appearing, this morality tale of existential proportion allows you to absorb the details and takes you to places you don’t anticipate going to. Its haunting implications and thrilling incarnations of evil infused with touches of signature humor don’t seem like flashes of style – it makes a measured and yet excitingly tense, violent, and maturely sorrowful story of philosophical and metaphysical scales. The film is thematically consistent and it delivers something far more delicate and contemplative. It is full of unexpected twists and switchbacks, and opportunities for the audience to breathe and ponder about their own ramblings and musings. And as the story progresses, it becomes gradually more nerve-wracking as each plot point makes itself known.
“No Country For Old Men” marks the Coen brothers’ unique stamp of auteurism in faithfully adapting McCarthy’s work to their own specifications and considerable strengths. They understand the stark immediacy of this tale as they load it with realistic touches and dead calm irony. At times, the film deliberately leaves you grasping to understand what you have just seen. Their supreme command of their craft is very much apparent that the film, in one way or another, sweeps up the audience with the vision for this singular mythic masterwork.
There isn’t a performance in this film that isn’t exquisitely in key. Just like every shot and moment in the film, not a word or a gesture is wasted. The Coens’ creepy direction and deadpan humor creates such an unexpected nature on the characters and what happens to them. Javier Bardem’s unnerving performance as the chilling psychopath-hitman Anton Chigurh works so brilliantly with his realistically monstrous character. A true embodiment of a ferocious fiend, he creates a ghoulish homicidal maniac with a firm conviction on flipping a coin to determine who lives and who dies. He ups his ante by using an oxygen tank as his best friend to open locks and holding a cattle gun to kill his victims. Scary-smart and horrifyingly appealing, by now, Bardem can be considered as one of the greatest film villains in the memory of cinema. Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss is often seen in the midst of a chase and save-your-life moments. And he portrays the role right on with such effective movements, actions, and lines without being a cliché for such a traditional role. Tommy Lee Jones as the weathered sheriff Ed Tom Bell interacts with a stolid demeanor in a land of desperate men struggling beyond law and order. From his voice and eyes, there is a sorrow that is held back by his own personal and work struggles. Kelly Macdonald as Llewelyn’s wife Carla Jean Moss is also excellent when called upon. And the rest of the characters, no matter how long or short their screen appearances are, all contribute to the success of this film.
“No Country for Old Men” is a modern thriller masterpiece. As an expertly laid-out adaptation of the McCarthy novel, this is a film of unbridled power and purpose. It is indeed a stunning achievement in cinematic storytelling.April 7th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Crime/Gangster/punk, Film Review, Films I Like, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Suspense/Thriller | 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
A prehistoric approach to cinematic storytelling
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Affif Ben Badra
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
‘10,000 B. C.’ takes a prehistoric approach to storytelling with its cliché of ancient myths put together in an outrageous and outlandish fashion. Its contrived plot gimmick predates the present cinematic language in the way it has treated its simple love story. In the age of parodies, satires, flicks, spoofs, and fiction, ’10,000 B. C.’ has nothing to boast for other than some cutting-edge special effects pasted into the movie’s stone-age storytelling.
‘10,000 B. C.’ becomes a mishmash of dim-witted CG extravaganza to cover up its fuzzy script and gibberish plotting. This crackpot blend of action and adventure merely attends to a particular visual sweeping through its digital imagery without any form of concern as to how the story should evolve. With attention strictly paid to style than substance, the most effective moments actually come from the CGI-born woolly mammoths and man-eating ostriches. The human actors/actresses aren’t that bad themselves, but the direction has made them look so dull and flimsy.
Another very disappointing aspect of the film is that there is no historical accuracy to back it up at all. It may be a validated work of fiction, but giving the very title of ‘10,000 B.C.,’ at the least, accounts for some good research to make the fictional story viable. The license to recreate doesn’t mean having no responsibility to make the fictional story grounded with cinematic beauty, creativity, and realism. The main problem of the movie is calling it ’10,000 B.C.’ which implies some semblance of historical accuracy. From the high expectations for the movie given such an exciting epic-scale trailer, the appeal of the title exudes the promise to see a prehistoric world recreated in an epic scale. Sadly, it turns out to be nothing more than a missed opportunity to present an imaginative vision of a prehistoric story. For the most part, its barren landscapes, snowy mountains, hot rain forests, endless deserts, and people in animal skins traveling around the globe as fast as viewing a hi res video via normal speed internet coincide with having a script greatly suffering from poor evolution. And there is a major loss of cohesive plotting and sensible dialogue.
While the movie is completely ridiculous and admittedly formulaic and banal, the only probable guilty pleasure for a few would be watching stampeding herds of woolly mammoths and squealing killer ostriches. About the dreaded saber-toothed tiger, its sheer spectacle on believable enough CGI doesn’t save it from its merely silly moments. ‘10,000 B. C.’ works best for a viewer with a short attention span and no knowledge of history and can take the lamest dialogues from its clichéd script.
As another derivative of the latest period epic/adventure films as ‘Pathfinder’ and ‘Apocalypto,’ too much of ’10,000 B. C.’ really seems sampled from other movies before it. Worse, it merely makes the mix an incomprehensible mess and a dull compendium of recycled epic/adventure clichés. Even as a fantasy spectacle with pretty background vistas and savaged prehistoric animals, ‘10,000 B. C.’ is sorely in need of a worthy script and an intelligent design. Director Roland Emmerich may know how to fill the screen with spectacle, but he fails to marshal its technical capacity with storytelling power.
Other than having nice to hear prehistoric names such as D’Leh and Evolet (on the lighter side of things), the grubby characters are left with nothing but poor direction. They keep muttering in a variety of badly chosen accents and languages, play over the top characterizations, and follow such preposterous plotting.
’10,000 B. C.’ promises epic spectacle and adventure but it fails to deliver on either. It is one forgettable flick with a prehistoric saga that becomes an atrocious waste of a good CGI budget. With its prehistoric goofiness, it is too dumb to take seriously, and just senseless to be sort of fun.March 27th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Period/Historical, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | 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
Stanley Kubrick Revisited
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Good news to film buffs and DVD fanatics, now, you can include Stanley Kubrick’s opus ‘Full Metal Jacket’ to your collections.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
This film is a moving commentary on the dehumanizing process that occurs when soldiers prepare and engage in battle. It shows Kubrick’s notion of how the military changes ordinary people into killing machines.
Bleak but darkly funny at times, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is a cinematic critique of how war affects the lives of many. Kubrick seems to direct his vision beyond the reality of the Vietnam War to issues far more universal and timeless. Set in the point of view of U. S. Marines from their brutal basic training to the bloody street fighting set in 1968 Vietnam, the film provides a riveting look at military life. Adapted from Gustav Hasford’s novel ‘The Short Timers,’ this 1987 Kubrick film is told through the eyes of Private Joker played by Matthew Modine, a cynical aspiring photojournalist who is forced to fight for his life and the lives of his fellow recruits.
The first half of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ focuses on the training of a squad of Marine grunts and the troubled relationship between their brutal drill sergeant Gny. Sgt. Hartman played by real-life drill instructor Lee Ermey and an oafish, flabby misfit and demented sharpshooter Leonard ‘Private Pyle’ Pratt played by Vincent D’Onofrio. This first half is jaw-droppingly good in its entirety – from the presence of the ensemble to the audio-visual splendor of its technicality to the simple and yet precise elements that infuses a dream-like, fatalistic quality on its theme and story.
The second half takes the grunts to Hue City during the turning point of the Vietnam War. And just like Kubrick’s powerful antiwar classics ‘Paths of Glory’ (set during WWI) and Dr. Strangelove (set during the Cold War), ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ once again explores the behavior of men in battle through a solid depiction of combat and the process by which the soldiers come to realize that they are, like it says on Private Joker’s helmet, ‘born to kill.’
What is even more fascinating with Kubrick’s films as this one is how they get to effectively manage universal themes while being specifically set in particular periods –never getting in any way obsolete until now. At this time and age, wars are still fought. The U. S. A. waging war to Iraq and Afghanistan can be interestingly compared to what has transpired in ‘Full Metal Jacket’s’ sixties Vietnam War setting. The comparison is edifying. And apparently, nothing has really changed much. Just like in the film, the soldiers trained to become killing machines are obliged to follow orders from their superiors, and in one way or another, they don’t acquire much knowledge about the people they come to defend. The morality issues are also explored. Private Joker wearing both a peace sign and a helmet with ‘born to kill’ writing maintains such irony the way the soldiers sing the Mickey Mouse Club hymn after fighting. Such similarities abound and they testify for the film’s take in the imposition of democracy through gruesome violence and destruction.
Personally, Stanley Kubrick, along with Tim Burton, is one my favorite directors of all time. And with many of Kubrick’s films now immortalized in DVD, he and his films can become treasure pieces for you too, the way they are to a hard-core fan like me.March 1st, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Film Review, Films, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Horror, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Personal/Expression, Sci Fi/Cyberspace, Surreal, Suspense/Thriller, War/Spy | no comments
The Moody Epic About Mr. James
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Brooklynn Proulx, Dustin Bollinger, Casey Affleck
‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ is like a cinematic folk song singing with the poetry of rural America circa 1880′s. With a running time similar to the length of its title, its brave, almost 3 hours of striking audio-visual essay about celebrity culture is a haunting retelling of one of the enduring outlaw sagas in American culture.
A moody epic directed by Andrew Dominik and based on the 1983 novel by Ron Hansen, this stylish, intelligent retelling of a western myth generates the chasm between idealized outlaw legend and the unglamorous realities of frontier thievery. Within its classic Western feel, Dominik takes the familiar story, reconstructs it in such an abstract manner, and scales it big visually. ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ embraces and celebrates the mixture of admiration and envy in a story about the nature of celebrity and the superstitious need of thwarted little fans to smash their idols. With the Jesse James legend saying many things about today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, this film becomes a good study of the violence inherent in fame, power, and the celebrity status and its fan base.
Capricious, meditative, and absorbing, this visually arresting film is confident with its high quality production. It has a script that takes incredibly rewarding risks. Filmed and acted with beauty and skill, it becomes a majestic biopic that digs deeply into the character of Jesse James. After all the many films made about the subject for all these years, this film is an ambitious, mesmerizing evocation of the mystique of celebrity and the meditative deconstruction of culture’s most persistent issues: crime and fame, myths of heroism and obsession with celebrity. This take on the last days of an iconic western figure who committed dozens of robberies and murdered at least 17 people around two centuries ago seamlessly melds a probing character essay with a lyrical Western tone.
This seminal Western is a poetic saga backed up by genre elements including the meandering passage of time, wide sweeping atmospheric locations, grim and imposing landscapes, abiding loneliness, casual violence, and sense of foreboding. The haunting interior and exterior conflicts, the meticulous attention to period detail, and the subtly modulated mood shifts all combine to make a modern masterpiece of an old legend. From the direction and writing of Andrew Dominik, to the cinematography of Roger Deakins, to the production design of Patricia Norris, to the editing of Curtiss Clayton and Dylan Tichenor, to the music of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the film delivers on the various levels of filmmaking.
The slow pace makes a minor annoyance, and sometimes, it requires patience when watching. Slightly burdened by unnecessary narration parts and minimal dullness mainly in its prelude, the running time and pacing may be a turn-off to some, but to those who are accustomed to strong writing, powerful acting, and deep storytelling, it is a productive cinematic experience with a good appeal for an art-house offer.February 28th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Action, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Crime/Gangster/punk, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Melodrama, Period/Historical | no comments
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