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Still rockin after 7 years… ūüôā If ever you’re flying AirAsia by this November, you may want to check out my film “Technophilia” at the Viddsee channel of the AirAsia free in-flight wifi service. Viddsee selected it for premiere for the program this November (which is my birthday month too) ūüėČ

Thanks, Viddsee!!!

Hi Rianne,

Great news! We’re partnering with AirAsia for the first time to market Viddsee short films to a wider audience across SE Asia. AirAsia has a free inflight wifi service roKKi and we will be having a Viddsee channel under the entertainment section for audience to watch Viddsee short films!

We programme 10 new shorts every month in the channel, and we’re excited to select your film “Technophilia” for the month of November!

Regards,
Nikki

“Technophilia” has been the last independent film i shot to date (i know, it’s been way too long), and i so miss shooting indie films really. Shooting commercial/corporate works for years now to pay the bills. But hopefully i can finally find time to shoot another indie film soon. It’s been so long overdue. Sigh…

And i so miss my production team too. From my staff to my cast, everything was so fun and memorable. It’s not only my shortest short to date, it’s also the shortest i shot — about 6 hours from grind to wrap. And i guess it would be the last i would ever shoot in celluloid (and most likely the last i would shoot without a video assist), unless budget and prod requirements lead me back to film in the future… But i sure do hope i can manage to shoot another international production like this again (my team here was composed of: Iraqi, Korean, American, Japanese, Indonesian, Taiwanese, and Filipino). Indeed, filmmaking can end up communicating beyond the confines of language and even cultural differences — where storytelling becomes a universal language to touch people’s lives.


My Film ‘Technophilia’ Now at AirAsia’s In-flight Wi-Fi Service Via the Viddsee Channel
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Average

Given its movie-epic flair, ‚ÄúQueen of the Desert‚ÄĚ is pretty enough to be watchable for its sweeping desert landscapes, picturesque British countryside, glorious 20th-century architecture, and classy period costumes. However, the story‚Äôs structure ultimately fails. Much of the problem comes from the acting, which is clearly a hit or miss, often the latter, and the episodic pacing that almost never engrosses the audience, even during the supposedly very emotional moments.

Based on the true story of the life of British explorer and adventurer Gertrude Bell, this underwhelming piece of cinema, surprisingly helmed by the respectable Werner Herzog, chronicles a journey through love, loss, and coping up in the eyes of a curious and adventurous woman way ahead of her time.

Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell doesn’t look desert-hardened despite the character she portrays. Her joys and pains remain quite difficult to understand even by the film’s end. There is barely any persuasive emotional depth invested on her character. While her maturity as an actress comes into place at certain times, the disappointing storytelling structure lacks both the sweep and psychological complexity the story desperately needs. The narrative remains passionless and devoid of layers that should have come from the trailblazing archaeologist and politician Bell’s many extraordinary adventures in the 1920s Middle East.

The conflicts of love and tragedy lets down as any death that comes in the story is not in any way impactful for the audience. Viewers are unable to get that crucial emotional attachment to root for the characters and their plight. All details that unfold come as they are without emotional investment of any kind for the audience to keep up with.

Robert Pattison as T.E. Lawrence is completely disappointing, rendering no depth to his persona to impose himself as Lawrence of Arabia. The emptiness in his character becomes the most dominant element in his role, especially whenever he utters his lines. Peter O’Toole could have probably cringed if he’s still alive and saw this unfortunate portrayal of his iconic character.

James Franco as Henry Cadogan adds a bit of spice to the bland sketches of male roles presented throughout the tale, but the film’s storytelling betrays his fate in the narrative that he is still unable to garner any form of convincing impact in the story.

‘Queen of the Desert’ Film Review: Beautifully Empty
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[Total: 1    Average: 4/5]

Inside Out movie review

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Average

‚ÄúInside Out‚ÄĚ is a powerfully moving animated piece about the importance of sadness in human life. Daring to explore the existential crises of the human mind and the emotions that affect one‚Äôs life, this formidably ingenious film works like a thesis or research project. With a material that strikes as a reflection on the power of emotions, it targets the family audience, particularly those with ages ranging from pre-teen to adult.

Packaged as a movie set inside someone’s head and how the mind and the emotions work together, the story presents a strikingly endearing take on a young girl‚Äôs growing pains as she encounters wave after wave of personal and familial problems. While traversing the bumpy road ahead of her, she also finds herself struggling to come to terms with puberty.

The narrative revolves around Riley, a sweet girl from Minnesota who gets uprooted from her Midwest life after her family‚Äôs financial struggle leads them to San Francisco. With the loss of the comfort of her childhood home, the company of her dearest friends, and the camaraderie of her hockey team, turmoil ensues inside her mind‚Äôs ‚ÄúHeadquarters,‚ÄĚ the control center where her emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger live and help her through her everyday life. When Joy, her main and most important emotion, accidentally gets lost with Sadness, the arduous journey to get back to the Headquarters coincides with Riley‚Äôs progressing depressive state while navigating her new city.

The tale begins a bit too verbose for the youngest viewers, but the gorgeous imagery and colors often help keep most people‚Äôs eyes glued to the screen. This poignant entry to the Pixar catalog hits an elusive sweet spot with its fiercely sweet approach to animated filmmaking. In portraying both the intelligence and the fragility of a child’s mind, it encourages viewers to talk more openly about their feelings — although its theme‚Äôs complexity may be lost on the younger viewers. It plays around the intricacies of human decisions, actions, and motivations and turns the unexplainable into a stuff of grand drama.

As an ambitious motion picture, its epic journey across a fantastic landscape delivers such an empathetic answer to the question “What is going on inside one‚Äôs head?” What remains consistent in the film is its impressive level of intellectual-emotional exploration. Ticking so many boxes without feeling contrived, the level of conceptual cleverness and visual design utilized in the story creates tender magic on the big screen. It challenges the viewers to dream, play around the profundity of the subconscious, and understand life‚Äôs highs and lows better. With its deeply thoughtful insights on how sadness is as much a part of life as joy, it suggests that true happiness doesn‚Äôt just involve the feeling of perpetual joy, but rather a balance of all emotions that make one human. It effectively hits the viewer by mapping the human mind to a much broader palette and putting the workings of the human psyche front and center.

This feature‚Äôs computer-generated pixels and keen attention to detail meet the challenge to surprise and delight. It offers thrilling audacity to its audience with how it dares to convert abstract elements into luminously beautiful and dynamic visuals. It handles its intricate material with striking balance through a satisfying presentation of the human psyche. Using its own madcap, non-preachy way, the dazzling wit of its storytelling becomes a means of answering the intangible aspects of human emotions and visiting one‚Äôs subconscious — without bordering on the too serious, goofy, or irreverent. The picture‚Äôs colorful imagery and inventive situations offer an emotional roller-coaster ride to connect to the viewers and keep their attention.

More than its clear technical achievement, this ambitious candy-colored adventure offers a brilliant piece of writing that takes the idea of emotions to a whole different level. Crafty, playful, thought-provoking, and mood-moving all at once, both its humor and pathos promote the exploration of some of the most basic human emotions and how they work together to make people who they are. With jokes that are as funny as they are imaginative, it approaches the happy and the meaningfully sad by entertainingly penetrating the mind with bursts of imagination. It packs an emotional punch through tender wisdom and emotional punches. It also provides a nuanced yet elegant depiction of depression, as well as how interactions and memories affect human behavior.

This existential picture is an emotionally mature yet genuinely funny cinematic treat. Coming from a material that is very difficult to pull off, it maintains a believable humanity, while being intellectually engrossing and heartwarming at the same time. Interestingly, it succeeds where a lot of heavy, serious, and thematically complex live-action movies have failed.

As a brisk and effortlessly charming affair, it doesn’t just connect human emotions to people’s manner of processing ideas, it also turns them into engaging characters that wrap lessons in behavioral science into an ambitious and visually dazzling head trip.

Bold, sweet, funny, and heartbreakingly sad in various scenes, this wonderful piece of family entertainment boasts a wealth of spectacular voice talents including Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear, and Lewis Black as Anger. As an ensemble, they are able to combine simplicity with the extraordinary, as well as the daring with the sophisticated. Its marvelous mounting of the human mind makes its patrons feel like visiting a laboratory that is crossed with a rainbow.

A worthwhile way to spend cash while consuming emotions in cinematic form, this significant contribution to pop culture by the people behind Pixar is another outstanding addition to the studio’s library. It offers a universality that makes it an instant classic. Its moving storytelling deeply touches through a fireworks display of fizzing ideas, as if it is designed to alternate on triggering the tear ducts and the facial muscles. It is easy to love this type of film when watching it for the first time, but it will prove even more enjoyable after repeated viewings.

‘Inside Out’ Film Review: Happy + Sad
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Video #2 documentation filmed during the “Inside Out” Press Conference in Manila, Philippines with director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie del Carmen.

Ronnie talks about his Filipino colleagues at Pixar and their advocacy projects, then Pete and Ronnie discusses their successful working relationship starting from the film “Up,” then all the way to “Inside Out.”

Unplanned handheld shots with my GoPro, and I guess the footage turned out fine nevertheless — thanks to the awesome responses from these two smart and creative guys from Pixar.

Video #2: ‘Inside Out’ Co-director Ronnie del Carmen Talks About Pixar and Pixnoys
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
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Video #1 documentation filmed during the “Inside Out” Press Conference in Manila, Philippines with director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie del Carmen.

From filmmakers’ introduction to the “Inside Out” story development to Pete and Ronnie’s working relationship at Pixar.

Unplanned handheld shots with my GoPro, and I guess the footage turned out fine nevertheless — thanks to the awesome responses from these two smart and creative guys from Pixar.

Video #1: How the Story Came About From the ‘Inside Out’ Directors
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
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Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-PixarInside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar
Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-PixarInside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

 

 


Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out Press Conference in Manila with director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie del Carmen, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel Isabela Function Room.

Inside Out Press Conference in Manila Photos

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out photos by Rianne Hill Soriano

Inside Out Photos Courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

Inside Out photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar

 

Photos: Inside Out Filmmakers Press Conference in Manila 2015
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Paper Towns movie review

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Average

‚ÄúPaper Towns‚ÄĚ offers a lukewarm teen dramedy that romanticizes a type of a geeky schoolboy‚Äôs lost-and-found teenage daydream tale. Packaged to appeal primarily to pre-teens, it maintains a consistently wholesome voice that greatly downplays the darker side of growing up. Although the paper-thin presentation doesn‚Äôt turn out as deeply moving as it intends to be, it occasionally manages to remain grounded with charming supporting details that can still warrant a slight recommendation.

Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel by author John Green, also the man behind the book ‚ÄúThe Fault in Our Stars,‚ÄĚ this coming-of-age tale looks at young, unrequited love, friendship, independence, adventure, breaking rules, seizing the day, and letting go through the eyes of a regular teenager who is in love with the mystery girl next door. The funny, frisky teen narrative centers on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo. After taking Quentin in a series of risk-taking tasks around their Orlando hometown for the whole night, Margo suddenly ends up gone the next day, only leaving behind some cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. This leads Quentin and his closest friends in an exhilarating adventure to track down the missing Margo, the popular girl who loves mysteries too much that she eventually ends up being one herself.

This formulaic teen romance and melodrama directed by Jake Schreier may not be the most poignant nor groundbreaking in the way it handles its light and noble intentions, but it makes the clear choice of presenting the messiness of ordinary life to make its target audience identify more with the story. It focuses on the more literal than the more existential views about growing up, and along the way, make the simple pleasures of understanding true friendship as profound as finding genuine love in unexpected ways.

As this motion picture gets manicured to primarily appeal to the book’s teen fans, it makes the storytelling slightly too romanticized that the progression of the tale comes across as a little too polished and scripted. Despite a few resonant moments, the material gets weighed down by the meandering exercise in artifice and gloss in favor of the often too clean lines of fantasy and romance, rendering more contrivances in its make-believe world as the story moves on. With such issues, the gauzy plot’s series of behavioral puzzles find it difficult to provide authentic beats of awakening to really strike serious emotional chords, especially come resolution time. These make the picture a glazed down and a serenely bland adaptation piece that practically works better on paper than on screen.

It is worth noting that the characters didn’t opt for the unreasonably glamorous looks that many actors tend to prioritize in their on-screen performances for such a gloss-filled movie. Generally, each cast member possesses that everyday appearance that adds a more identifiable charm to the proceedings. However, this doesn’t make the actors free from the paper-thin characterizations from the script. Amidst the charming young cast’s attempt to help compensate on the shortcomings of the storytelling through a good number of likeable performances, their cardboard characters are still often too mundane to merit significant personal and social impact.

Nat Wolff as Quentin Jacobsen keeps up with the stereotype geek-and-goody high schooler character frequently featured in this type of coming-of-age spin. Overall, he delivers the needs of the story as a passionate young adult in search for his childhood sweetheart. His co-star Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman lives up to the ‚ÄúManic Pixie Dream Girl‚ÄĚ archetype, but her monotone take on her role ultimately falls short in putting layers of depth to her character‚Äôs more mysterious demeanor. Interestingly, the supporting characters end up more charming than the two young leads in most scenes. The more compelling friendship between the three high school boys Quentin, Radar, the role played by Justice Smith, and Ben, the role played by Austin Abrams, offers more chemistry as screen buddies compared to the main characters Quentin and Margo.

‘Paper Towns’ Film Review: Paper-thin wholesome
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How does technology affect your life?

Shot December 2008, premiered June 2009… 6 years after premiere and 3 years after last award, Technophilia is still getting around. Check it out as “Film of the Day” for Viddsee, curated by Alem Ang.

technophilia 1
Shooting Format: 16mm

Screening Format: HD

Running Time: 7 minutes

Acknowledgments: Colorwheel Media Studios, Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), and Korea University (KU), Asian Film Professionals Training Program, Hit Productions

You can check out more about the film via its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Technophilia/178031655605594?fref=ts

Via its film blog: http://www.technophiliafilm.blogspot.com

Via IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1459060/

And Viddsee: https://www.viddsee.com/video/technophilia/ls76n

Technophilia Poster
Film poster by Joods Feliciano
Thank you to the KoBiz (Korean Film Council), Korean Academy of Film Arts, and Korea University for the support. Thank you to Seymour Sanchez for the opportunity to know about KOFIC. This is the unplanned, spur-of-the moment film that brought me to places. Thank you so much!
My Film ‘Technophilia’ is Film of the Day at Viddsee
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[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

The Voices movie review

Direction
Story & Screenplay
Cinematography
Production Design
Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Social/Moral Elements
Average

‚ÄúThe Voices‚ÄĚ is a disturbingly comedic piece that offers a risky mix of macabre madness, melancholy, and morbidity. Crossbreeding humor with horror in its own quirky manner, this genre mash-up exploring mental disorder and serial murder jumps between the fun and the unsettling.

This stylishly grisly feature presents a surreal portrait of an American psycho. The story revolves around the dark inner life of Jerry, a seemingly normal, hardworking factory worker who tries to impress his colleagues in his newfound work. Although seemingly living a typical bachelor’s life, his mental issues slowly manifest through his verbal discussions with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Recent company events lead him to pursue his attractive English co-worker Fiona, which triggers a killing spree done in insanely bizarre and idiosyncratic ways. As the body count increases, so do Jerry’s grotesque conversations with unlikely voices.

This thoroughly twisted motion picture provides a gripping look at mental illness without resorting to the typical elements found in many slasher materials. The production’s attention to details contributes much to the film’s zany stylization. Its demented sense of humor blends well with the bleak and disarming dread in Jerry’s life, which kind of helps align the audience with this weird murderer character’s sense of menace. Its wildly uneven tone maintains a creepy air while delivering severe shifts in moments of joy, sorrow, and gore in various scenes.

While reveling in its collision of moods and ideas, the film playfully dances around bright kitsch and pop sensibilities. The storytelling presents a dark comedy with a delightfully strange amalgam of flights of fancy and sheer madness. Its pink-hued small-town setting promotes fun scenerios where talking animals and fridge-bound heads offer wacky jaunts into lunacy, clearly providing a comparative look at Jerry’s visually dull reality. The visceral gore found in the tale works great with ghoulish humor, often mixing homicide moments with utter hilarity.

With Marjane Satrapi at helm, the presentation’s wildly uneven ability to go back and forth between comedic simplicity and ghastly absurdity clearly aims to disrupt the viewers’ sane minds. The dramatic sequences interestingly wander around how a mentally ill individual’s mind can possibly work in figurative ways.

This tonally wild indie picture has its odd share of laughs and shocks. No matter how subjective the impressions for the film gets — depending on people‚Äôs personal tastes and preferences — some may find this warped comedy nearly too horrifying to be funny. But even though the concept feels a bit strained at some point, the dynamics of the storytelling allows for a shift in gear as the tale progresses, or at least just before reaching absolute terror or annoyance in the affected scenes. These make the picture a workable psychological thriller and dark comedy that fittingly turns out comically offbeat come resolution time.

The director’s treatment yields a delicate balance to make the viewers care about a sick man trying to avoid the sinister’s path, and at the same time, make the same people worry about a serial killer’s descent into madness.

Ryan Reynolds in the lead role works as a deranged killer on the loose. His remarkable range in portraying a small-town worker suffering from schizophrenia promotes an uneasy balance between his character’s sense of bloody mayhem and his nice-guy demeanor. His comic chops combined with his cry-baby-to-butcher appeal creates an oddball performance that generally serves as an off-kilter treat, especially for black comedy fans. His voice performances both as his main character’s dog and cat are quite notable as well.

The supporting roles including those of Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, and Jacki Weaver effectively tie with Reynold’s sick sense of humor. They are able to hold together the needed vulnerability and awkwardness to maintain the story’s disturbing charm.

For the most part, the film remains unpredictable. However, some crucial scenes, especially those at the latter part of the story, turn out otherwise.

The film‚Äôs compassionate portrayal of a serial killer lingers around the thin line separating the silly and the stylistic. Without being absolutely profound in intersecting horror and comedy in the material‚Äôs loopy turn of events, some of its murderous impulses suffer from intermittent insensitivity. But one thing‚Äôs for sure — its tongue-in-cheek narrative makes it a point that its premise will stick to the viewers‚Äô heads even after the credits roll.

‘The Voices’ Film Review: Quirky morbidity
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Crossing Over movie review

Direction
Story & Screenplay
Cinematography
Production Design
Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Commercial Flair
Average

Forced, heavy-handed, and overdone, “Crossing Over” gets so wrapped up in its quest for topical resonance that it forgets some of the basics of telling a good narrative. From its paint-by-the-number quality to the banality of presenting its subject matter, this misconceived immigration drama turns out as¬†an incompetent way of mounting a multi-character piece.

Amidst the fact that this seemingly well-intentioned drama tackles realistic issues about U.S. immigration policies, the provocative points about the country’s attitude towards migrants, and the possible horrors of getting naturalized, it lacks the needed subtlety and eloquence for it to succeed. Too many of the hurdles in the story feel like a product of a writer’s imagination than being¬†real-life experiences. Its message gets undermined by its cardboard characters and clunky script.

While the film certainly offers¬†some viable stance for more¬†people to relate to it, its crisscrossing stories, heavy ironies, and even heavier moralizing just don’t work. It turns out¬†more¬†like a muddle of good liberal intentions that get¬†loosely anchored to a mass of pure Hollywood triteness.

“Crossing Over” is a blend of thriller and social drama utilized in a hokum kind of way. Being a politically-minded ensemble piece, its multi-character canvas about immigrants of varying nationalities¬†struggling¬†to achieve legal status in America really falters with the wobbly screenplay and loose direction. The storytelling¬†gets unbalanced with its competing storylines. Its lapses into sentimentality are overkill.

The story is improperly fleshed out through stereotypical characters and overly structured sub-stories that keep crossing and bumping into each other, primarily¬†dictating¬†a general air of dull preachiness.¬†It mainly strains with too many characters, too many story strands, and too much of an effort to cover all the bases.¬†The characters are stretched thin with only the most overstuffed dialogue to express themselves.¬†The focus on these immigrant dreamers runs into thematic banality because the film’s treatment is filled with much crass manipulation.

The camera work, editing, and the entire means of storytelling have that very amateurish feel to it. Scenes are¬†very choppy. It’s like entire reels have been cut for whatever weird reason. Tied together with endless, flattening shots of American homes, highways, and establishments, it may be sporadically provocative given its theme and subject matter, but it is also often convoluted and dull with random undercooked messages and ideas showcased every now and then.

As¬†a contrived saga with subplots showcasing immigration woes of all sorts, its markedly unimaginative sense of cinematic storytelling often offers boring moments with little new or insightful to add to the debate about¬†the underlying politics and promise of the relatively unlimited opportunities in the U.S.A. — as mentioned by the judge during the oath-taking ceremony for the newly naturalized Americans.

Even with¬†its unsuccessful mounting, director Wayne Kramer deserves credit for taking on the touchy subject. The presented issues don’t seem pretentious, just¬†the didactic but ineffective way of¬†telling the story. Somehow in some way, it is still an interesting failure as¬†a movie that at least strives to be about something thematically¬†relevant, even though it entangles itself too much that it fails to become a good cinematic offer.

The lack of subtlety in its multi-stranded storytelling makes the movie¬†an overwrought harangue about the gates of illegal immigration. It spoils the supposed empathy for its subject and theme. The surfeit of coincidences weaving the characters together tries to keep the action unified as an anthropological melodrama. However, its intensity doesn’t live up to its very intentions as the sledgehammer approach becomes mostly off-putting and risible on screen.

The film has a few moments of poignancy and engaging acting, especially with the outstanding performance of Summer¬†Bishil as Taslima Jahangir. Her acting moment is just bull’s-eye to the heart’s core — a very impressive scene that stands out from a movie filled with utter mediocrity.

This would have been a perfectly serviceable film. Yet, it merely provides hysterical little bits of what is already given. Viewers get what the filmmakers are trying to say about immigration and nationalism, but everything is laid down in an overly substantial form that seems mistreated to deliver more yawns than moral, political, and intellectual stimulation. And even with famed names as Harrison Ford as Max Brogan, Ashley Judd as Denise Frankel, Jim Sturgess as Gavin Kossef, Cliff Curtis as Hamid Baraheri, Ray Liotta as Cole Frankel, among other names, this issue-oriented movie remains a disappointment.

This illegal immigration drama is timely and well-intentioned; however, it is too contrived and schematic to generate good enough credibility for its subject matter. It is a serious film that offers some pretty good performances, but the sheer number of characters in the narrative dilutes their power. All these leave the movie in a bit of a mess in its own game of sex, violence, betrayal, and diminished nobility of the tradition of naturalized citizenship.¬†From a purely cinematic point of view, “Crossing Over” is a bit too interlocking and hampered by its wayward and overreaching direction and overstuffed script.

‘Crossing Over’ Film Review: Interlocking stories, struggles, and immigration
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Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs movie review

Direction
Story & Screenplay
Cinematography
Production Design
Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Commercial Flair
Average

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the first spin-off in¬†the “X-Men”¬†character flicks, is a considerably reliable, action-packed first attempt for an “X-Men”¬†origin story. It largely succeeds on having Hugh Jackman¬†back with his adamantium claws, with his charisma breathing the fire into ¬†this superhero movie. For its scale and ambition, this motioni picture¬†promotes heart and action through¬†its own Shakespearean-style tragedy. However, amidst the strength of its regenerative charm as¬†one of the “X-Men” pop culture favorites, the rather pedestrian and superficial parts of the script, the extravagantly loopy plotlines, and some by-the-number action spots weaken the film.

This film is not great. It is not bad neither. It still feels very much like every other mediocre comic-book adaptation. Some genuine archetypes and myths find their way into the mix, but the overflow of half-baked ideas adds to the clutter. It marries action and melodrama in a superficially cinematic way that half of it works while the other half becomes a major drawback for not having that much-needed deft for the material.

On the surface, director¬†Gavin Hood mounts an action-packed adventure featuring¬†Wolverine’s back story.¬†Wolverine’s appeal proves strong with his mystery and origins uncovered for the thrills.¬†The opening sequence looks¬†promising. The emotional exploration on the relationship between¬†Logan and his brother Victor is¬†surrounded with superb action set pieces and a few complex character interactions.

With Hugh Jackman back with his adamantium claws as Wolverine, he uplifts the weaker parts of the film into a pretty watchable fare. He captures the essence of the lead character. This origins story would collapse under the weight of its unpolished parts if not for his¬†considerable acting prowess, as well as his effective acting dynamics with Liev Schreiber. They know how to give good growls as Logan/Wolverine and Victor/Sabretooth. How Logan and Victor grew up as brothers provides¬†the essence to¬†the story. From there, things¬†pick up toward the inner conflicts of Logan’s character.

Taylor Kitsch as Remy LeBeau/Gambit turns out as a pretty good addition to the movie. Amidst being a secondary character with very short screen time, he makes a lasting impression without upstaging the main characters. Overall, the ensemble cast¬†uncompromisingly plays for keeps: Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox; Danny Huston as William Stryker; Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool; Kevin Durand as Frederick Dukes/The Blob; Will i Am as John Wraith; Dominic Monaghan as Chris Bradley/Bolt; Daniel Henney as David North/Agent Zero; Scott Adkins as Weapon XI; and Tim Pocock as Scott Summers. The script may be convoluted at times, but the characters generally deliver enough direction to the narrative’s¬†entertainment and emotional requirements.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is interesting enough to keep Fox and Marvel’s planned series of “X-Men” origin stories. For this offering, it is by no means perfect, but it is still an entertaining enough effort to please many of the “X-Men”¬†followers, It¬†condenses such a complicated origin story into a watchable fast-paced action flick; thus, leaving the door open for another “X-Men”¬†prequel in the future.

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Film Review: Adamantium thrill and tragedy
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The Hurt Locker list of Oscar wins

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The disclosing of the 2010 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture was without suspense as Tom Hanks opened the envelope and readily divulged “The Hurt Locker” as the film that garnered this year’s Oscar nod. Yet, it was full of surprises and intrigues as this relatively small film defeated the biggest contender for the award which was no less than the world’s highest-grossing film of all time to date — Avatar.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, writer Mark Boal, and producers Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro accepted the award.

This Iraq war drama walked away with five more awards including Best Original Screenplay for Mark Boal, Best Film Editing for Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, Best Sound Editing for Paul N.J. Ottosson, Best Sound Mixing for Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, and for the record, the Best Director for the first woman filmmaker to ever receive the coveted Oscar for film direction — Kathryn Bigelow.

“The Hurt Locker” also received nominations for Best Actor for Jeremy Renner, Best Cinematography for Barry Ackroyd, and Best Original Score for Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

The other nine nominees for the Best Picture Award were: “Avatar,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “A Serious Man,” “Up,” and “Up in the Air.”

Bigelow and the rest of her collaborators expressed how unreal and extremely humbling it was to receive the award and that they never imagined it in their wildest dreams. They also expressed their gratitude to their intrepid financier and fellow producer Nicolas Chartier who bet on the movie when no one else would. They also dedicated the award to the entire cast and crew. They reiterated their respect and honor to the people in uniform who dedicate their lives in service of the country. From the military to the firemen, they gave their utmost gratitude to them in their speeches.

As for the historical feat of Bigelow besting her award-winning compatriots including Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds,” Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air,” Lee Daniels for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” and her ex-husband James Cameron for “Avatar,” presenter Barbara Streisand made the historical announcement during the Oscar Night last March 7, 2010 with the words “Well, the time has come,” right before saying Bigelow’s name. Bigelow accepted the award with the words “There’s no other way to describe it. It’s the moment of a lifetime.”

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker,” Oscars.com

‘The Hurt Locker’ gets 2010 Oscar nods for Best Picture and Direction
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3D movies are actually older than most people think. Way before the latest 3D craze of our times, a number of 3D flicks during the 80’s were already hitting the box office. In fact, the 50’s and even decades earlier all became witnesses to a number of 3D movie offerings. The catch of these older movies (mainly using the anaglyph-style 3D via¬†those red and blue glasses) was how they tend to amaze the viewers with that so-called¬†“jump of the screen” effects.

Now, in the era of IMAX 3D, Real 3D, and Dolby Digital 3D, this best 3D movies list rekindles the long-gone hype of what 3D technology can offer to the big screen.

Since the resurgence of 3D movies from the mid-2000’s to March 2010, I have been¬†personally hoping to catch the¬†old 3D movies of yesteryears, then¬†have them compared with what the modern times¬†offer. But for now, these films from the new era of 3D filmmaking (using 3D stereoscopic technology) are my best picks for the Top 5 Best 3D Movies List¬†as of March 2010:

1. “Avatar”
Year: 2009
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Joel Moore, Giovanni Ribisi, and Michelle Rodriguez
Plot: After the sudden death of his twin brother, the paraplegic war veteran Jake takes his place in a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, a humanoid race from the distant world Pandora, through the use of an avatar. In exchange for the spinal surgery to fix his legs, he submits to the instructions of the military authorities and corporate executives, only to find himself torn between the greed of his own race and the need and value of an alien civilization that he begins to embrace.

This bold 3D eco-opus examining technological wonders and morality is totally jaw-dropping in stereoscopic 3D. Period.

2. “U2 3D”
Year: 2007
Director: Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington
Cast: U2 as themselves (Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge)
Plot: With everything entirely shot with more than a dozen 3D cameras, U2 3D offers a groundbreaking concert movie featuring the legendary band U2’s 2006 “Vertigo” tour.

This rock documentary provides a perfect marriage of surround sound and 3D visuals that it felt like attending a real concert. At the IMAX theater, I and the rest of the viewers were standing, singing, holding up concert stuff, and jumping from our places with an energy like that from a real concert.

3. “Deep Sea 3D”
Year: 2006
Director: John Hall
Voice Narration: Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp
Plot: As a 3D nature documentary exploring the awe-inspiring depths of the oceans around the world and their marvelous creatures, this film becomes a spectacular journey around the homes of the many aquatic wonders of the planet.

This visually enticing 40-minute film offers a worthwhile 3D experience. It is breathtaking, educational, and so full of life. From the stunning and colorful species to the grotesque and weird sea creatures, it allows the audience to really feel the valuable presence of all these life forms and how significant they are in a world that humans should fairly share with them. How engrossing this short but meaningful movie is? Many of us inside the theater ended up personally touching mid air for several times to feel those majestic fishes that were seemingly right in front of us.

4. “Coraline”
Year: 2009
Director: Henry Selick
Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David, and Ian McShane
Plot: Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, this 3D stop-motion animation project offer tells the¬†story of the little girl Coraline who moves to an old house and discovers an alternate version of her life there. Feeling bored and neglected by her parents, she finds solace on¬†the parallel reality of this other version of her world (where everybody has buttons instead of eyes). She initially finds it way much better than her real life. However, her adventure gradually turns into danger and she struggles to find her way home to¬†save her real family.

This animated offering¬†sets a significant template on how 3D films should be. It provides great storytelling, just enough “jump-out-at-you” moments, and a fantastical vision though its dark fantasy treatment. It effectively envelops the audience with an immersive adventure the way Coraline experiences it. The 3D imagery is utilized for the best of the film instead of becoming a mere 3D cash-cow gimmick.

5. “Beowulf”
Year: 2007
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn, Crispin Glover, and Angelina Jolie
Plot: The Danish king Hrothgar succumbs to the havoc initiated by the monstrous troll Grendel. He offers rewards for his death and the great warrior Beowulf lives up to the task. He soon becomes king. However, his darkest secret gets back at him decades after when Grendel’s evil mother, whom Beowulf had a life-enduring bargain with before, brings to his kingdom its worst nightmare.

Zemeckis’ foray into the world of actor-based computer animation turns¬†this classic literary tale into a different kind of¬†sensory experience in 3D¬†animation format. It blends CGI, motion capture, and 3D sterescopic technologies to bring a¬†level of 3D appeal that has become a pioneer for¬†its time.

Top 5 Best 3D Movies List 2010
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Adventureland movie review

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“Adventureland” is a sweet, insightful, and heartfelt coming-of-age tale¬†with loads of sensitivity and a genuine heart. It is a smart and perceptive tale about college kids in their so-called crappy jobs and how they struggle to learn more about life and love.

This motion picture¬†presents the hearts of teens and young adults with that fluttering up and down motion, which is kind of¬†similar¬†to¬†riding a¬†roller-coaster. This refreshing retro drama-comedy explores¬†the joyride of the young adults’ present angst and their preparations for their future.

The film’s strength lies in the power of its well-delivered performances, beautifully written script, and carefully crafted characters — each of whom is sincerely flawed yet¬†purely compelling. The characters are genuinely tarnished and appealing as they seize those uncertain feelings teens get¬†as 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 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 become¬†intensely charged with personal feelings, doubts, and dreams.

“Adventureland” is the sort of film that seems like a derivative of countless teen-oriented coming-of-age offerings. But what makes it stand out is its thorough exploration of the familiar territory with an effectively loose and scruffy appeal. Director Greg Mottola puts plenty of heart to this tale. The narrative¬†clearly puts that feeling of “already seen and heard before,” and¬†makes¬†it¬†genuinely integral to the story. This movie prove that rehashed¬†stories with predictable structure simply need¬†authentic touches to be mounted well.

The heart of the film lies on 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 graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a nowhere job at the nearby park Adventureland, where summer vacation leads to summer jobs, and possibly, summer love. Surprisingly, this very place becomes a perfect course to get the young adults prepared for the real world outside the realms of childhood and teenage life.

Filled with likable actors and 1980’s pop songs, this cinematic piece¬†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. It becomes a sweet and irreverent tale about characters with real hearts under goofy shirts.

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, to deliver¬†what makes the story come full circle — his sincerity, his high virtue and worst defect. 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 that bursts 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 the heartbreakingly genuine couple.

Mottola does quite a good job in weaving his characters to be unaffected by their already marked celebrity personalities — especially with the recent hype for Stewart’s Bella Swan role¬†in “Twilight” and Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson/Deadpool role in “Wolverine.” Reynolds here as Mike Connell turns out¬†very low key. He fits the tricky part he has to play, just like the rest of the cast members¬†that generally work well in¬†their specific roles — in a similar way the various jobs and people inside Adventureland work.

‘Adventureland’ Film Review: Roller-coastering towards adulthood
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Avatar movie review

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As a feat of fearless imagination and audacity, “Avatar” is a bold eco-opus examining the themes technological wonders and morality. It is a breathtaking flight of fancy using the typical Hollywood formula.

Engaging its audience with its titanic technical achievement, its technical brilliance, alongside its timely and significant concept, is truly worth more than a decade of risky, arduous, and passionate work.

Leading the future for its new format of big-screen entertainment, watch it in 3D to get the full experience it can offer on the big screen.

Director James Cameron impressively leads the viewers¬†to his Pandora’s box. Predictable story, cliched dialogue, and logical lapses aside, this motion picture¬†turns out thrilling and explosive in the right mix. It has enough soul to effectively escape into the new world of jaw-dropping spectacle. This film gets the closest any has to fulfilling the 3D format’s fundamental mission of creating a new, immersive way of looking at movies. If there’s a¬†chance, it is highly recommended to watch it in IMAX to¬†see it in its¬†full visual glory.

The most-hyped movie of the year just about merits the description. Cameron’s visionary bearing for his long-awaited pet project, his first film after the equally historical 1997 hit “Titanic,” is well worth the wait.

Its¬†awe-inspiring technical brilliance kind of overpowers the storytelling — but the said flaw doesn’t really matter with how Cameron¬†brings¬†to life Pandora and the Na’vi, which clearly is¬†a quantum leap in modern filmmaking technology.

The narrative explores the sub-stories of: a buffed ex-marine in a wheelchair who gets turned into an alien warrior through his avatar (his human mind in an alien body); a free spirited princess in an indigenous alien tribe getting into a love triangle; a military industrial complex with machinery and weaponry of the 22nd Century caliber; and a potential world filled with exotic life forms and million-dollar stones.

The tale about profit and progress vs. nature’s power and infinite variety promotes a fancifully detailed vision. However, the exploration of these societal issues gets quite compromised by the rather juvenile story exposition. In terms of the intense expectations for it, amidst the very promising concept, the film still falls short in putting enough dimension to its plot, as compared to its technical magnificence as a 3D epic.

Gorgeously rendered, this 3D offering sets a new bar in computer-generated animation. With the feast of technical details on display, the viewers can easily find themselves busy marveling at everything on screen. The photorealistic 3D imagery really transports the audience into an alien world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures, and characters; even at the middle of clunky lines, awkward scenes, cliched moments, and a script that plays things very, very safe.

The film’s concept is full of potential. Its¬†vision is full of challenge. Not everything makes sense; but in the best way possible, things are dealt with for the sake of pure Hollywood entertainment. Every time the movie runs out of credibility, especially when it comes to the plot, the eye-candy provides enough sugar rush.¬†The screen elements¬†break the CG barrier by combining elaborate lighting elements and complicated visual details with state-of-the-art motion-capture technology and tried-and-tested recreation of live-action parts. Meanwhile, James Horner delivers the 3D equivalent of a soundtrack. From start to end, the sound and music are in par with what the visuals offer.

Cameron and his legion of skilled craftspeople mounts¬†a convincingly realized artificial world created from scratch to¬†the big screen. They blur the line between reality and CGI by definitively blending animation and live-action elements. The breathtakingly beautiful CGI landscapes present a story that easily travels from the human world to the fantastical and back. Its sophisticated editing rhythms represent what one contemporary blockbuster cinema (a $400 million project) dictates. The filmmakers’ aim for sheer wonderment for this sci-fi epic with gamer-geek sensibility truly delivers for its intended purpose.

While its cinematic impact may not quite rise to the ultimate expectation of being “a master of all masterpieces,” this bold and imaginative vision gets to the level of such a descriptive phrase as a “stunning masterpiece of cinematic technology.”

The metaphorical aspects of the film, though not played out at their best, are still worth noting. When trying to go deeper than the jaw-dropping visuals, the narrative reveal issues and concerns on progress vs. environment. Value is also given to themes about: tribes and races; physicality and spirituality; love and survival; humanity and technology; pride and purpose; responsibility and morality; and war and greed.

The world of Pandora is very immersive and the Na’vi people seem to resemble the old culture of the world in the alter ego of American Indians. The marines and the scientists resemble the capitalist and fascist thinking in modern civilization.¬†The heroes of the tale show how it is to become truly human, while being torn in between two different worlds.

It is interesting to note that unlike the overall storytelling that gets¬†sort of overpowered by the film’s audio-visual grandeur, the well-realized culture of the Na’vi becomes¬†comparable to a fantasy novel getting the reader engrossed to the value of its world, resources, and people — to the point that the special effects don’t exactly become a barrier to let you feel for them as they struggle against the destruction of their home¬†by the so-called “sky people.”

This decade-in-the-making dream project of Cameron is like the “Star Wars” of this age. For all the technical virtuosity of its mythical 3D universe, the Na’vi characters seem much more expressive than most motion-capture technology creations of this generation — making it in par with the brilliance of the exemplary Gollum-Smeagel character in “Lord of The Rings.” The¬†invented world is also comparable to the technical and thematic milestones that George Lucas and Peter Jackson made in the realms of fantasy and special effects filmmaking.

The technical wizardry is at the service of a recycled plot that still rightfully pumps blood for the purpose of cinematic immersion. The film’s digital world effectively transports the audience¬†to a domain¬†that doesn’t exist — and it is just impossible not to get engaged¬†with the fantastic visuals of such painstakingly intricate details.

“Avatar” is a little hollow at the center as compared to great film concepts and scripts that have become masterpieces; but the sheer scale and ambition of its¬†production look as tactile and as tangible, as if they are¬†made of real materials and living tissues.

The creative epiphany in¬†“Avatar” is the¬†extraordinary experience that more than lives up to the hype. Despite its flaws, it¬†is a brilliant, visual extravaganza that is simultaneously thrilling, provocative, and surprisingly moving. It ma¬†be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling opus, but it proves to be a successful approach in¬†creating a good 3D film experience; thus, paving the way for it to become a 3D sci-fi classic in the history of world¬†cinema.

This motion picture¬†is essentially a movie that people¬†have seen before; but it is boldly made to look like nothing anyone has seen before. The inadequacies of the story become relatively¬†forgivable — thanks to¬†the undeniably beautiful, engrossing, and mind-bending audio-visual epic that it is.

‘Avatar’ Film Review: What jaw-dropping 3D can be
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Law Abiding Citizen is a phony social commentary that has an intriguing premise and a compromised execution. It is increasingly preposterous, but nonetheless mindlessly entertaining for its law-abiding, popcorn-consuming audience.

The narrative begins as a potboiler with a troubling character arc and some high-octane thriller moments, then it ends up as a goofy, lousy pulp with the action parts quickly tipping into lame campiness.

As a social statement, this film offers a flawed attempt in presenting high-minded brutality, while trying to hold the legal system accountable for its own shortcomings. As a slick cat and mouse picture, it seems too afraid to tackle the issues it brings up. There are plenty of loopholes in the script that further misleads its promising concept.

As a mainstream fare, it is pervasively absurd yet generally appealing for those who prefer high body count more than enduring its blatantly nonsensical plot. It abides by the rules of commercial filmmaking, and this becomes its major flaw.

This piece of crime drama and thriller has its action parts laced with shocks and twists that don’t aptly follow the laws of logic, making suspension of disbelief quite a chore. Its ludicrous plot has its moments; however, its fascinating undercurrents are much less than the off-putting parts in¬†its reactionary revenge theme. As the logic tumbles more and more until the tale’s¬†disappointing ending, it winds up feeling overwritten, yet underexplained.

In its exploration of¬†the flaws of law, of right and wrong, this picture¬†deflates the fun brought by its interesting tagline “How can you stop a man who’s already behind bars?” by making it a complicated, ragged movie lacking story¬†credibility. It seems more of a pretentious cash cow material¬†that tries to inject¬†something meaningful about America’s justice system — unfortunately with an awkward turnout.

This is the kind of movie that thrills as long as it doesn’t make one¬†think. With an implausible plot already given from¬†the very beginning, provisions for compelling arguments as¬†the¬†story progresses simply¬†lose their edge by the end of the movie.

From the script being backed up by the debate about the ethical challenges of practicing and upholding law to the poor plotting and pacing throughout, things get really trammeled by the endless bullets, deaths, explosions, and play safe ending. Things¬†don’t live up to the expectations from¬†Gerard Butler’s words “It’s gonna be biblical!”

This crime drama about outrage and vengeance has jerky narrative shifts with occasional splashes of gore and action courtesy of its brainiac turned psychopath character. From here, thrills just keep coming at a relentless pace that leaves little time to ponder on them. Nevertheless, it is still able to generate some considerable suspense and a sense of dread as an implausible thriller with a few horror elements in the guise as social criticism.

Director F. Gary Gray attempts to provide a visual look that creates the required cold, thrilling atmosphere. What keeps the story hanging on, aside from the movie’s basic atmosphere, are some strong performances, regardless of the need for more character depth.

Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton elevates the picture’s¬†ridiculous thriller appeal into something watchable. His sharp and invigorating performance as a psycho on a killing spree while behind bars is generally entertaining. He is able to hold some interest for the story¬†as he outwits the authorities — until he loses it by the contrived ending.

Jamie Foxx as the district attorney Nick Rice looks bored throughout. He delivers¬†some effective moments that provide the needed emotional investment for his character. However, he still lacks that needed bravura to really elevate his character.¬†Viola Davis as the frustrated Philadelphia mayor looks pretty¬†sharp on screen. Annie Corley as Judge Laura Burch also works fine. Leslie Bibb as Nick’s staff Sarah Lowell provides enough intensity.

‘Law Abiding Citizen’ Film Review: Law-abiding popcorn flick
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Pixar’s “Up” is a symphonic balance of touching silence, witty dialogue and cinematic flight of fancy.

This animated picture further strengthens its impressive track record of making noteworthy animated films. It provides a symphonic balance of touching silence and witty dialogue where the flight of fancy is carefully crafted through wildly creative fantasy, inner childhood, and rediscovery.

As an emotional and heartfelt story with various levels of relationships and sense of belongingness, this high-altitude exploration about love and loss and letting go makes a beautifully balanced effort, propelling the viewers up, up, and away with its colorful balloons of cinematic adventure.

This family film doesn’t pander. The audience’s suspension of disbelief, especially for some of its preposterous elements, never insists itself as a negative issue. In fact, the cleverness and originality the film exudes through it becomes considerably boundless. Highly supported by visual wonder and worthwhile story investment, the theme of this exquisitely cinematic work tweaks the common elements of a grownup tale and rejuvenates the storytelling with much spark and pop.

From belly-laugh humor to tear-in-the-eye despair, it never becomes anything less than incredibly touching and entertaining. Alternately funny and touching, and exciting often all at once, this tale about unfulfilled dreams and fulfilling promises is punctuated by gentle whimsy and tender human values. Through its intimate character study about rediscovering the soul, or surviving the worst and making the most of it, the film’s creative synergy of sharp, funny, and tear-jerking elements delivers both a thrillingly fantastic adventure and a devastatingly poignant piece of realism.

What makes “Up”¬†more special is how its animation¬†efforts are utilized for maximum value. It combines the basic filmmaking requirement of imaginative and sincere storytelling with dazzling and dreamlike visuals on a level that can work best on animated films. It creates an experience that is a special characteristic of animation: at once utterly convincing and completely impossible, but all in all, lovingly acceptable for its kind of medium.

This swashbuckling romp starts slow and classy. Then it picks up helium and soars into a continent-hopping adventure and an understated, nuanced psychodrama with an end as inspiring as its title. For children, it’s an adventure movie; for adults, it’s an adventure on a whole different level.

“Up”¬†is a breezy kid’s fun yarn embedded in a sentimental grownup tale with serious consideration on love, death, and lives left behind. The “visual wow factor” can resonate more powerfully to the kids while the amusing brilliance as a sweet, gentle, and imaginative tale about grief and regret, purposes lost and rediscovered can resound more to the adults.

The opening sequence sits in silence, telling the story of young Carl and Ellie filled with emotions and alleviated by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent music transporting the viewers to a make-believe place. Tears fall at the end of this beginning to cast a spell over the willing audience. It hits the right notes as the musical score becomes practically a character in the film itself. The contemplative montage taking Carl from childhood to widowhood truly makes imaginations take flight. Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, along with all the talented people from Pixar, create such a palpable story while maintaining itself as a piece of expertly-rendered and artful type of entertainment.

Colors match the emotions seen on screen. Shapes and sizes in every frame promote such valuable storytelling subtexts like: the character design of Carl being very edgy while the designs of Ellie and Russel being full of curves.

The various characters balance the thrills and tenderness to make a truly beautiful and compelling work. The gruffy old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) ties thousands of balloons to his home and sets out to fulfill the lifelong dream initiated by his already departed wife Ellie (with the young Ellie heard in the film voiced by Elie Docter) to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, becomes a stow away on the trip. As he finds himself reluctantly sharing his ride with the short-attention-spanned kid, he embraces the jungle adventure with more and more characters coming their way including the colorful, sweet-toothed bird Kevin, the talking dog Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson), and his childhood idol, the adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) with his pack of dogs led by Alpha (voiced by Bob Peterson).

“Up” has a genuine warmth of a true classic. It orchestrates itself into one truly unforgettable piece of animated film for all ages.

‘Up’ Film Review: Pixar goes up, up, and away
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District 9 movie review

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“District 9” is a hybrid of a film: it is a Hollywood material that looks like a successful anti-Hollywood venture and¬†a brilliant social commentary.

Produced by the people behind “LOTR” including its helmer Peter Jackson, this motion picture delivers its universal message about ethnic tolerance through the tale of a doomed extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, mainly in a South African ghetto, until these beings suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology.

This sharp-edged, down and dirty science-fiction work¬†incorporates a great deal of big-budget elements in a part-fake documentary, part-body horror, and part-robot flick. As a comparably smaller offer than the usual Hollywood sci-fi offering, it is still utterly reminiscent of the failed alien and mechanical warrior sequels of similar franchises like “Terminator,” “Aliens vs. Predator,” “Transformers,” and “G. I. Joe.”

Director Neill Blomkamp packs this gritty sci-fi tale with compellingly bold and imaginative pop elements. People have seen too many alien invasion flicks before, but nothing anything quite like “District 9” has come before it, especially in terms of its carefully merged dramatic story, biting satire, low-key CG inventiveness, tightness of editing, and carefully rendered set details. The special effects don’t overwhelm the harrowing story, which helps make the storytelling more emotional. The gross and the drama, together with the big guns, chases, and explosions, remain appropriate to the storyline. Thus, paving the way to a fresh franchise potential.

The good thing about “District 9” is that it’s both intelligent and entertaining. There is clearly no need to dumb out the audience just to be able to get that combination of funny, violently gross, and wildly enthralling speculative movie that exude¬†genuine emotional resonance.

This¬†motion picture is unlike any of those mostly seen in Hollywood’s¬†sci-fi canon. It is not targeted for those¬†who don’t¬†find¬†psychological and physical gore favorable as they would¬†probably feel a little uneasy in a couple of scenes. Some may find certain shots¬†kind of stressful to watch. But sitting through it has its price — a fresh and thought-provoking, if not groundbreaking story, making a good point about racial prejudice and posing a number of serious questions about the state of humanity.

“District 9” is a superb realization of a poignant satire, irony, humor, violence, and drama that is not afraid to examine the essence of what it actually means (and what it might cost) to be human. It is an edgy, provocative commentary on the human condition. It has a heart and soul to its piece. It keeps up with its own technical challenges. As a sci-fi actioner that entertains mercilessly, it opens up a certain compassion and humanity to its audience. It is a swift and subtle movie that trusts its viewers to do some of the work — and it’s quite effective at that. It serves as a pop allegory for the racial tension of apartheid, issues on mass immigration, and man’s inhumane ways to both humans and non-humans.

A modestly budgeted project with an actual idea in its head, this cinematic offering¬†aptly combines breathless action, political satire, and poignant drama that¬†can generally hold the viewers’ attention from start to finish.

This piece of cinema¬†proves that sci-fi flicks don’t always need¬†star-studded or mega-budgeted requirements to be visually intense, remarkably executed, and thoroughly entertaining. Its relatively unknown cast works very¬†well. Lead character Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe puts the right dose of pathos for the film through grit, charm, naivete, and humor.

People have seen many aliens coming to earth in movies. Many have seen the finest use of computer-generated imagery on the big screen; but it’s rare to see an intriguing, sci-fi fable that is consistently gripping. This makes “District 9” an original classic in its own right.

‘District 9’ Film Review: Thinking man’s sci-fi
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Watchmen movie review

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Average

“Watchmen” is visually brilliant but flawed in certain ways. Nevertheless, this eye-poppingly faithful adaptation is a carefully crafted as a lavish cult movie. It spins a comic deemed unfilmable into a blockbuster epic for the specific admirers of the superhero genre and the fan base of the groundbreaking book from writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. Grappling with the graphic novel’s multi-layered storyline, this dystopian film utilizes a deeply dark heart unmasking the world’s harsh realities.

“Watchmen” is no doubt a love letter to those who have been waiting for the film for the last two decades. The success of the acclaimed 1980’s graphic novel about moral relativity, the futility of life, the violent nature of man, and the deconstruction of the concepts of humanity and heroism have pushed this film into monumental anticipation. Director Zack Snyder brings the superhero-noir murder mystery to life through the aesthetic pleasure of reproducing the key scenes with storyboard-like fidelity. As a deconstructionist superhero flick, it generally works in making fans thrilled with its visual experimentation, radical mythology, psychologically rich idealism, and grand indulgence.

Overall, the mood and tone of the film is what most fans could hope for. As the cinematic version of one of the world’s most celebrated graphic novel, this sprawling motion picture¬†stays faithful to the book. It trims and reshapes it to its prime essentials. It may not include every nuance in the graphic novel, but it gets to capture the basic requirements of the filmmaking¬†medium. However, the overflowing technical energy leads¬†to a power lost in terms of characterization and emotional engagement to the story. The technical brilliance upstages the other aspects of the film a bit¬†too much.

The filmmakers lose sight of what could make a film effective more than just the faithful rendition and the audio-visual flair. The film lacks the emotional attachment for the audience to relate to the characters and the world they live in. While it is true that the fans who are clearly familiar with the characters and their alternate universe would find the film readily understood on screen, non-fans would find the non-superficial facets of the narrative a bit confusing. Indeed, this proves that a great source material, a respectful translation from graphic novel to film, a big budget, and an overflowing visual power are not enough to make a film live up to the greatest expectations for it.

Having such a complex narrative structure, it is quite understandable that this picture is weaved with less back stories and plotting compared to its book source. For cinematic purposes, significant changes are made in the script and what has actually worked out during the course of production. For some, especially to those who are not knowledgeable¬†with the crucial details from the original material may find it a little difficult to get that same appeal the excited fans get. It could be a slightly different experience for anyone who does not know the book, especially since the interaction between the characters and their multi-layered sub-stories remain integral points to understanding the story. So,¬†those who are not literally immersed in the 80’s era, the Cold War, and the book’s astonishing vision would find it a bit more difficult to get a full grasp of the story’s core.

Through impressive, computer-enhanced eye candy, the film’s¬†pop-art fusion features its blood-stained smiley face well. Though it¬†captures the look and feel of the novel, it still fails to totally engage its audience because its emotional center¬†gets buried deep under its self-gratifying visual style. For all of the ferocious flashes of spectacular physicality, there are substantially-challenged parts that sometimes feel misapplied, overcranked, or too ramped up. Unable to measure up to the technical competence of the material, there is never enough time spent with moments of emotion and suspense to make the audience relate more with the characters’ undertakings.

“Watchmen” has moments of wonder. Not all of them work, but parts of them do. At some point, this cinematic piece¬†feels artificially stylized — its soulless aspects hindering it from becoming great. It is bold and bloated, fascinating and flawed, stunning and scattered.

Amidst its flaws, the film is intense. It is backed up by the book’s fascinating and contemplative tale. Its philosophy and take on genre deconstruction keep up with its heavy, adult-themed plot. It has interesting social and political ideas in doing the ultimate sacrifice and making the world fall part, then putting things¬†back together again with the Machiavellian ideology in mind. Indeed, it depicts itself as a self-styled parody of the world’s “true face” and the “big jokes” of the society.

Visually, this flick is a lavish and exciting screen translation reverential to Moore and Gibbons’ work. Filled with visceral action and powerful special effects, its dark world boasts of keen attention to physical details. The production design, art direction, and cinematography are gratifying. The rich and gorgeous palette and campy costumes are a sight to see. The original comics shines through Snyder’s approach to satisfy fans with a densely-packed motion picture experience. He puts a grimy and gritty, yet glossed pop culture feel to the picture. He tries to preserve other information by including a short “historical” opening title sequence, then he readily fills the screen with¬†the visual treat he has become known for since he made the historical “300” in 2007. However, there is a disappointing part to it: he merely yields to his trademark shots in his Spartan opus without recreating his visionary style for an entirely new project — making them look like mere copies of his memorable “300” scenes. And so, the¬†crucial¬†scenes that merely feature¬†copycat shots and elements never fully satisfy.¬†But against considerable odds, the story’s dense and complex mythology remains.

Snyder’s direction clearly focuses on style and technique. The acting and thematic and emotional aspects of the storytelling suffer. The acting department is actually filled with talented performers. The billing for the “Watchmen” superheroes includes: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake/The Comedian; Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman; Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias; Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II; Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach; Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II; Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre; and Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason/Nite Owl. However, this¬†talented bunch ends up¬†rendering some wooden performances due to the story’s hollow and disjointed characterizations.

This visually striking “Watchmen” deserves credit for what a dozen of other directors have struggled to do — and never did — for the last¬†20 years.

‘Watchmen’ Film Review: Deconstructing the film in reference to the graphic novel
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The swoony supernatural romance and the neo-horror motif of “Twilight” can both amuse and bemuse — depending on the type of viewer.

From the initial fans of the book to the newly-recruited fans of the Edward-Bella love team, the teen bite of the tale clearly gets into their veins. The formula for this movie’s charm is very much apparent. It offers that dose of ordinary girl-meets-extraordinary boy who turns out as the prince charming to the damsel in distress. It has key elements for romantic spree backed up by both physical and occult-ish appeals, providing enough escapism for its target audience. All these float to the surface of what is supposedly “just another overused teen love story,” which often times would not offer a record-breaking pursuit for blockbuster appeal.

This adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling teen novel focuses on a rehashed plot that merely shows what happens to the characters in every second of screen time, leaving no much room to grow their interactions beyond the emo-romance fare. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that this type of movie doesn’t work. In fact, it is pure fantasy for girls who want to be princesses — while having their bad boys by their side. Regardless of how questionnable its values are, this is really what makes this particular movie a successful new franchise. It is able to establish the needed teen moodscape where the chemistry between the main characters offers enough smoldering desire that the teen crowd would typically love.

This kind of romance flick is clearly geared towards those who enjoy straight-up unforbidden love, angst-filled behavior, and underage rebellion on screen. With a distinctly young sense of tragedy and sparkle, the pop material turns out effective in making its willing viewers crazy over a tale centering on two star-crossed lovers trying to bridge the gap between humans and vampires.

This movie promotes a defiant human-vampire dating fantasy with some girly swirl of obsession for the main audience’s delight. Interestingly so, it doesn’t try hard to be hip for its intended crowd. It is one vampire love affair where sharp teeth, cold hands, and supernatural powers require the viewer to sit back and enjoy the camp. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t work.

The weak CGI isn’t much of an obstruction for this picture to hit big at the box office. Not even the dodgy dialogue nor the lack of a more developed storyline can hinder its success. It may be quite a chore to endure for the unwilling victims; but for its hard-core fans, it sure carries everything well.

The cool references put accessible fangs to its lucrative teen hook-ups. Watch some vampires play baseball, drive the coolest cars, live in a classy glass mansion, climb trees taller than the penthouse of a city skyscraper, and glitter under sunlight. Indeed, it is the kind of vampire flick that can get its pop culture-stricken patrons excited and addicted. It turns out as a blatant attempt to cash in to the devotion of its die-hard followers with a door naturally left open for the next installment..

Director Catherine Hardwicke, along with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, recreates a world where the heroine becomes obsessed with surrender and submission to a man who is constantly tempted to kill her. Now, that is one sucked-up subtext about culture and society that may be worth a psychological study.

This movie is like a vegetarian diet in the vampire movie canon. For those uninitiated and for those outsiders from the movie’s intended demographic, this kind of pop treat is plainly overused, dopey, and melodramatic. The jumble of cuts and pastes from the book, along with the music video bits, the often second-rate visual effects make the movie a hackneyed teenybopper show of synthetic affection.

As a vampire tale, the type of angst it plays around with remains too dull throughout its running tale that its own fangs turn out questionable, especially in the action side of things. There is a lot of build-ups but not much of resolution. The hokey dialogue may just be too much to bear. Unless one can get past the sloppiness and shallowness, there is no way to get really sucked in.

As a fantasy romance involving a self-loathing vampire and his sweet-blooded human beloved, its theme works well with the rising and falling teenage hormonal requirements. Focusing on the palpable chemistry of the main pair Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen to mesmerize the fans, they work well with playing around sidelong glances, twitchy rule-breaking escapades, and head-spinning rushes of the moment — which highlights their intangible yearning and romantic affection for each other. Amidst the overacting parts at times, their on-screen romantic charm really does it all for the movie.

The story best utilizes its principal tandem with such brooding romanticism. Stewart as the introvert Bella is somebody most teens could relate to as an average type with some fairly likeable attributes, a glum expression, and a risky attitude. Pattinson as the 100-ish pale guy with overly red lips and living on a deer blood diet is totally a hit for giggling fans who are completely fascinated with his furrowed eyebrows, crooked smiles, and cool hairstyles.

The members of the supporting cast, though at times looking too superficial for their pale vampire demeanor, generally deliver for the movie’s intentions: Bella’s father and mother Billy Burke as Charlie Swan and Sarah Clarke as Reneee Dwyer; the Cullen clan including Peter Facinelli as Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen, Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen, Kellan Lutz as Emmet Cullen, Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale, and Nikki Reed as Rosalie Hale; the vampire antagonists including Cam Gigandet as James, Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria, and Edi Gathegi as Laurent; and Bella’s new school pals and family friends: Christian Serratos as Angela, Anna Kendrick as Jessica Stanley, Michael Welch as Mike Newton, Justin Chon as Eric Yorkie, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, and Gil Birmingham as Billy Black.

This movie knows what it is meant for. Either one likes it or hates it. It has a sweetly idealistic charm on its own. It pleases its devoted fans, but does little for the uninitiated.

‘Twilight’ Film Review: That willing teen bite
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The Bucket List movie review

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A dramedy working on a very simple premise and favoring humor and poignant conversations over weepy developments, “The Bucket List” is a heartfelt, wickedly funny film about two dying men who travel the world to discover the joy in their lives.

Choosing to treat its serious theme on the lighter side may not inspire thorough philosophical introspection about mortality, but it can mildly make you re-examine your life priorities. And the film is undoubtedly elevated by the performances of two acting powerhouses: the angry and antic Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and the laid back and serene Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.

This motion picture fills its bucket with enormous skill and presence through its two leads. It generates both humor and drama about two terminally ill men who heads off outdoors to go for a trip around the world and explore a wish list of to-do’s before they die. They go on a round-the-world junket towards their dream places including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mount Everest and the Great Wall of China. They indulge and splurge with an Abercrombie and Kent luxury travel with “Hemingway-style” tents complete with lush carpets, flush toilets and lavish beds. They go sky diving in Perris Valley in Los Angeles. And they experience the best cars to ever drive including a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car in the California Speedway in Fontana.

Director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too sweet taste of sentimentality by allowing the two acting heavyweights to coast through their characters without having to do much heavy hitting. Their companionable roles transcend the typical material into a reasonably entertaining venture. Their gracefully charismatic portrayals celebrate an enthralling character study about the universal things that really matter in life. Their poignant exchanges elevate the film to the point that you would probably ignore the contrivances of the film and just go with the flow as the two actors squeeze the right emotions for the film. Indeed, their excellent chemistry, along with the dialogue that is hilarious even while it borders on the heartbreaking, goes a long way towards a decent and reasonable entertainment.

The film is treated very lightly, which is effectively carried out by the inimitable techniques of Nicholson and Freeman. Nicholson’s Edward Cole proudly wears a billionaire hospital owner character who is filled with sarcasm and cynicism. Freeman’s Carter Chambers accentuates his knack for worldly, wise, and good-natured characters offering homespun bits of wisdom at every turn. Sean Hayes as Thomas adds a dose of fun to the interactions of Edward and Carter. From the comedy parts to the strikingly dramatic moments (mainly the scenes of Edward and Carter, Carter and his wife Virginia played by Beverly Todd, and Edward and his estranged daughter and granddaughter), the film becomes meaningful and affecting.

“The Bucket List” flows naturally. It becomes a sort of an escapist movie minus the ultimate happy ending. Amidst the deaths, it does not exude itself as a tragic film. There are the expected mortality issues, and yet, what really fills the story is the human companionship that makes life worth living. Despite some emotional dips and loads of schmaltz especially by its end, this is an enthralling actor’s movie.

‘The Bucket List’ Film Review: Filling the Bucket
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Batanes movie review

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Average

‚ÄúBatanes‚ÄĚ is essentially a heartwarming study of a relationship between two cultures. With the tagline ‚ÄúLove knows no borders,‚ÄĚ this flawed but poignant love story explores life and love between different places and cultures. It explores the loss of one‚Äôs will to live because of a love lost, as well as the discovery of new love at an unexpected time. The storytelling may not always be consistent and the technical aspects may be a bit rough at times, but the slice-of-life take on the material allows the film to rise a bit on top of the tides.

‚ÄúBatanes‚ÄĚ establishes an intimate portrait of a woman’s relationship with the sea after her husband‚Äôs tragic passing. Set in the vast landscapes, rough seas, and ever-changing weather of Luzon‚Äôs northernmost paradise island of Batanes, this picturesque romantic story represents the struggle of emotions from the whirlwind romance between the city girl Pam (Iza Calzado) and the Ivatan Rico (Joem Bascon), the simple but happy life they started to embraced in the island, the loss of life and love from the hands of the angry sea, and a new love bestowed in the most unexpected times of mourning.

It is interesting to follow the story of romantic love struggling through the giant sea waves, then bumping into huge, dangerous rocks, if not travailing the serene waves of the waters in a sunny day. Like the relatively unpredictable weather in Batanes, things seem so unexpected, uncontrollable, and at some point, unfair. And as the story progresses, it effectively shows that above all, love is universal and emotions find no boundaries, no language, and no cultural borders in the midst of the most dangerous storms and currents.

‚ÄúBatanes‚ÄĚ is a joint venture of Ignite Media and GMA Films and written and co-directed by Adolf Alix Jr. and Dave Hukom. The story is pretty simple, but it works for the level it has chosen to take. The build up of the story passionately affects the audience for both the painful and happy moments of the main character Pam. This becomes the film‚Äôs main source of strength.

The story begins with Pam‚Äôs newfound love and her embracing of the Ivatan way of life. Like any other person used to urban living, she struggles to adjust to the slower pace of provincial life. She gets rewarded well — with a simple, rural family and a peaceful married life where the sea and weather conditions turn out as the only violent elements around. As Pam‚Äôs Ivatan husband Rico shares with her how the powerful and temperamental sea becomes a jealous lover demanding respect and attention, Pam later finds out what Rico initially meant when she goes head to head with the strength of the mighty waters after Rico‚Äôs death — in the hands of the sea he respects and admires. During her mourning, she sails off to an island and gets stranded in a storm. There, she finds a man lying on the sand. She saves the heartbroken Taiwanese fisherman Kao (Ken Zhu) and brings him to the village. In no time, without any intention of getting things complicated, she starts getting drawn to him, as how he gets drawn to her as well. And despite the language and cultural differences, a new love blooms in the harshest times and amidst their own losses.

Iza Calzado exceptionally plays the main character Pam. Taiwanese star and F4 member Ken Zhu effectively plays the Taiwanese fisherman Kao. Newcomer Joem Bascon renders a compelling performance as Pam’s husband Rico. The film boasts a powerhouse ensemble with Bembol Roco, Daria Ramirez, Julio Diaz, Sid Lucero, Coco Martin, Mike Tan, and Glaiza de Castro.

Love is indeed at the center of this moving and powerful film about the relationship between two cultures. It is a moving story of love crossing the boundaries of language and culture.

‘Batanes’ Film Review: Crossing borders
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A romantic drama set in the gambling world of Las Vegas, “Lucky You” tells the story of¬†Huck Cheever (Eric Bana), a happy-go-lucky bachelor whose life revolves around the green felt poker tables. In between his games, he¬†also confronts his personal conflicts including his problematic relationship with his father.

The film gives a gist of how poker works. It makes the game look generally interesting and less “sinful.” However, for somebody who is not knowledgeable in playing poker at all, it’s hard to catch up with the basic mechanics of the game while watching the film.¬†It¬†straightforwardly shows¬†the grueling world of gambling and betting as the various characters inside this realm create a whole new world of their own. While within the high-stakes back-drop of Las Vegas, they bring us a gist of stories about human relationships, inhabiting a number of snapshots of personal dramas that unfold in every laying out of the cards.

The front story is clear — Huck is a hotshot poker player whose emotions at the table often gets the better of him, amidst his really exceptional skills, especially when he goes heads up with his estranged father, a living legend in the poker world and a two-time world champion L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). While living a¬†life without clear direction, he meets the struggling singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). From then on, he finds himself¬†keeping up with something more than just poker.

The boy-meets-girl premise clearly features¬†a romantic story in the making. Within the film’s physicality lies a character-driven story based on¬†the usual formula for a Hollywood narrative.

Huck deals with life through his instincts. This enables him to take advantage of his opponents at the poker table. Meanwhile, Billie uses intuition to see the truth and sympathize with what she sees around. As they fall in love, the turn of events shows how their instincts play big parts in their lives. However, their biggest difference becomes more apparent: Huck is a very talented man who uses his instincts to win the games while expertly avoiding emotional connections and long-term commitments at the same time; while Billie lacks talent but she uses her instincts to open her heart while becoming emotionally connected for the sake of what is right and what is good. These two people who are clearly looking for better lives try to gamble for love in a narrative filled with drama, humor, and metaphors.

The characters inhabit certain personalities while following the tried and tested mainstream formula of the main character overcoming adversity and succeeding in the end for that feel good effect. At some point, the film tries to cut the predictable formula by turning a bit away from its predictable twists; however, the mere breaking of it turns out quite syrupy and formulaic still.

With “L.A. Confidential,” “Wonder Boys,” “8 Mile,” and “In Her Shoes” under his belt, director Curtis Hanson tries to¬†keep the story¬†character-driven. Working with scriptwriter Eric Roth (the man behind the Academy Award winning script of “Forrest Gump”), he¬†tends to make the general interior scenes within the poker tables and well-lit hotels and casinos interesting enough for both the big-time and real-life gamblers and those curious ones who are not that familiar with the gamblers’ domain.

‘Lucky You’ Film Review: A poker life
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Behind its eerie theme, Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” presents a morbid and romantic trip between the cold dwelling place of the living and the colorful nderground world of the dead. Fun, genial, expressive, and charming, this semi-musical stop-motion piece is set at death’s door, saluting the liberating power of true love and sacrifice.

The story revolves around a young groom-to-be who mistakenly weds a girl from the grave and complicates his upcoming marriate to the womaan he loves.

The directors paint death as a more colorful plane of existence compared to life, as literally shown on the visuals — a bitterly cold presentation of the world of the living as compared to the colorful and musically vivid world of the rotting flesh. It turns out there is more life at the dead’s company.

The engaging story, the expressionistic visuals, and the heart for the very statement it wants to insinuate make an overall witty animated tale. It is whimsical yet eerie, funny but melancholic. On a light, side-splitting note, it promotes a necrophiliac entertainment which can find a good place at the hearts of people who like watching a pile of bones set in an ironic and animated space, whether or not it is the Halloween season.

Tim Burton, along with co-director Mike Johnson, ventures into the world of stop-motion animation for this motion picture, rendering that tedious job of hand-manipulating characters that move incrementally to be shot frame by frame.

So how tedious can this work be? A film is a moving picture. Each frame is shot. Each shot becomes 1 frame. From 1 frame to another, the movements are incrementally shown over a certain period of time. For a TV show, there are generally 30 fps (frames per second). In film, the standard is 24fps. Taking it from here, one can just imagine the challenge of shooting each frame of “Corpse Bride” with 24 shots to be done for a 1-second clip of the film, 48 shots for a 2-second clip, and so on. Each frame is carefully shot with human hands, rightfully moving the different parts of the body of each character for 1 frame, then move all the body parts very incrementally to shoot the next frame and make sure everything complements the previous movement of one particular character. Each frame requires very dexterous hands moving the subject creatively and effectively. According to IMDB.com, instead of film cameras, tthe filmmakers used 31 commercial digital still photography cameras, particularly the Canon EOS-1D MARK 2 SLR, interestingly with Nikon lenses.

The musical score by Danny Elfman, just like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter who are Burton’s frequent collaborators, makes a delightful mix of flight of fancy for the film. A stylistic and touching moment to create a more human tone on the love story is shown in many ways as the accurately presented piano scene of Victor and the Corpse Bride. Overall, the musical parts are very flourishing. As usual, Burton’s team makes up a new world out of the dark and expressionistic style Burton is known for.

The story is not as refined as the usual art-house works. But this film makes a poetic form out of what it has. Its minor flaws are easily overlooked as the eyes roll over its Burtonesque-style of storytelling. Its imaginatively done puppetry promotes a dark and grand fairy tale brimming with quirky characters and gothic sets.

“Corpse Bride” is a darkly enchanting tale about the celebration of love that is told in a quirky, gothic, and ironic style. It has the courage to address issues about love and sacrifice and life and death in a shadowy, poetic, and creatively bizarre way.

‘Corpse Bride’ Film Review: A charming grave fairy tale
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Nasaan Ka Man movie review

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Set in the fog-covered, cold, and mysterious Baguio which reflects¬†the story’s mood and atmosphere, “Nasaan Ka Man” explores¬†the tale of tragic love and passion, undying memories, unfulfilled promises, and lost dreams.

The film¬†opens with a horror feel crawling into its slowly¬†unfolding love story — musing into a suspense-filled route¬†that somehow extends to the issues of the paranormal. A touch of horror gets injected every now and then.

The plot¬†takes on different hues and dimensions for¬†the usual love-triangle fare. Filled with metaphors, finely orchestrated camera movements, and breathtaking visuals, the film’s¬†heaviness works well with its cinematographical style and acting¬†performances. Many visual elements absorb deep-rooted emotions, which are often troubling, secretive, mysterious, violent, or¬†painful.

The narrative revolves around the three adoptive children of two spinster sisters. An epitome of a happy, religious, and conservative family from the outside, this unique family set-up is filled with repression and tragic memories from the inside. Family complications, jealousy, and revenge try to tear them apart. The composite world the two sisters created for their three adoptive children becomes a contrived space of fragility and emotional disturbance of varying magnitudes.

The screenplay by Ricky Lee and Rafael Hidalgo, as well as the direction by Cholo Laurel, offer convincing justification on what happens in the story. This cinematic offering’s direction¬†provides rich characterization for the ensemble cast. Each major character is well-crafted both inside and out. On the physical, emotional, and psychological planes, the viewers¬†can see through each¬†of the characters’ persona.¬†The¬†gray characters aptly contribute to the story structure’s suspense and complications.

The quirkiness of Trining‚Äôs (Hilda Coronel) slightly deaf character and her¬†passive¬†bearing to her sister’s authority inside their prison-like home becomes a source of comic relief for the serious tale. Lilia‚Äôs (Gloria Diaz) domineering old-maid stance covers up her sadness through her flair for make-up. Pilar‚Äôs (Claudine Baretto) initially loving and innocent nature transforms¬†into a confounded, fear-stricken temperament. Her opened third eye and her being a product of sin and violence are later revealed as part¬†of the family’s deep secrets. Joven‚Äôs (Jericho Rosales) kind, introvert bearing as the outcast adopted child ironically¬†grows up filled with inspiration and thoughtfulness through¬†his love for¬†Pilar. Ito‚Äôs (Diether Ocampo) overprotected adolescent son¬†leads to jealousy and trouble as his¬†repression from his silent obedience to the rules of the house gets the better of him.

Pilar and Joven fight for their love until they are finally granted the family’s blessing. Ito, totally-wrecked by this, gets his revenge by violating Pilar. Trining is sympathetic to Pilar’s plight, but Lilia is more concerned with his favorite son Ito. The deliberation among them becomes a realistic reflection of how it goes within a typically conservative Filipino family in such turmoil. As the story progresses, Ito rages further as he knows he really can‚Äôt own¬†Pilar‚Äôs heart. Soon, violence causes a tragic death in the family.

There is parallelism between the fate of the spinsters and their adopted children. Though there are some questions on the believability of the storyline, the suspension of disbelief in the turn of events works beyond the issues of realism and paranormal insights.

Baretto delivers a¬†complicated and delicate portrayal as Pilar.¬†Her¬†rape scene is truly gripping. The tight and distorted shots greatly contribute to the story’s heavily emotional moments.¬†The¬†said scene¬†deliberately gives the¬†worst feeling for the viewer. There is enough room for steady development with¬†the dynamics between the sibling characters¬†of Rosales¬†and Ocampo.¬†The chemistry between¬†the spinster sibling roles of Diaz and Koronel¬†effectively utilizes silence and shock to push the material¬†further. Irma Adlawan‚Äôs character as a blind helper with¬†an opened third eye and Katherine Luna as her daughter who turns out as¬†a willing victim at a certain point in¬†the story both become the weaving factors in¬†the narrative.

The film is filled with a number of intense scenes of romance, argumentation, and fighting. The love scenes are passionate and gentle. The dramatic scenes are subtle and sincere. The violent scenes are painful and suggestive.

The scene where Pilar is asked to check the fuse after a blackout while suspense on Ito’s revenge is at its peak seems quite forced into the story just to get her into a dark spot alone. This becomes more unbelievable as a sane person in danger won’t choose to check the fuse at¬†such time¬†and would¬†rather choose to save his or her¬†life, or at least prioritize being on the safe side, especially during a clearly compromised situation.

Although most of its twists resemble the twists of thriving Hollywood offerings, the storytelling maintains a well-handled exposition for the most part.

“Nasaan Ka Man” is emotionally tying and it won‚Äôt give that feel-good mood after watching it. Yet, even with¬†a considerably depressing ending, this motion picture is a must-see for those who can take a certain form of heaviness in a film. Amidst its story loopholes, it¬†can still work well for those who prefer pondering on what life has to offer and how people should¬†value things¬†and situations given to them or are still with them.

‘Nasaan Ka Man’ Film Review: A bittersweet tale
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 1    Average: 3/5]


Direction
Story & Screenplay
Cinematography
Production Design
Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Average

I made this article two days after watching the film, just to make sure I’ll be more on the critical side. I need to avoid the too emotional insights after having to sit through the very tiring chore of watching a very disappointing film. This is pretty challenging to do for me as a production person who is from the same circle because I am aware that people who would most likely be part of the film, those who are somehow related to it, or those who may actually like it may end up seriously reacting against my review.

These are my opinions — insights and convictions from somebody who watched the film. Whether they’re in line with another person’s point of view or not, the point of the matter is: “Everyone is entitled to her or his own opinion.”

This movie is just but awful and I don’t exactly know how and where to start this review.

Saying it with a heavy heart due to my frustration — this is certainly one of the worst commercial films I have ever seen in my entire life.

I’m taking the route of discussing more of the technical and thematic aspects of the presentation.

It is entirely frustrating that nobody from the production, or perhaps it’s just utterly tolerated, that Jodi Sta. Maria who plays a single mother making a documentary about miracles doesn’t even know how to use a video camera and record with it. A number of shots with her shooting a priest, a lady, and a few others are shot with the camera turned off — and clearly with the red notification light off. While this isn’t that much of a big deal since viewers not familiar with camera operation wouldn’t notice anyway, what becomes more annoying is how she points the camera lens to the neck, chin, or chest of her subjects. Actually, it is not entirely the actress’ fault, since even the edited cuts that establish her shooting her subject from nearby would show up on the next shot from the camera’s LCD screen as a long shot. In short, the way she handles the camera in her scenes doesn’t match the edited shots that show the supposed camera footage on screen.

Such simple things to work on for such a commercial film production with big on-screen and off-screen names, so why tolerate?

The cinematography is completely disappointing. The colorgrading doesn’t provide visual continuity in certain scenes. There are a number of seriously overexposed and underexposed shots. It is quite noticeable that constantly, the upper right part of the screen, especially the shots with considerably bright light sources, are all overexposed and far from the exposure of the other parts of the frame. Whether it’s a technical problem on the camera or the lenses, the lab processing of the films, or whatever caused these issues, there is really no excuse for such a very problematic theatrical presentation — the moviegoers are paying for their tickets! At some point while watching, I tried to contemplate if it’s a problem with the projector, but I really don’t think so. Besides, the trailers shown were all good.

Apart from the overexposed shots almost seen in the entire film’s upper right side, it is such a dismay to see almost all the establishing shots — including those at the hospital scene, school and CAT scenes, Spanish era scenes, and a number of others — are underexposed. They are too dark and grainy with less details and really poor lighting in ways that are obviously not intentional. Moreover, some shots including those in the procession of the “poon” (saint) and a shot at the church showing some lit candles have too much glare that are way too disturbing.

The camerawork from the framing of shots to the choice of angles, as well as the editing, are equally disappointing. In one¬†scene where Joyce Jimenez smokes inside her room upon learning she would soon die of leukemia, the shots clearly disobey the concept of perspectives. The juxtaposition of shots is very confusing. So there’s this long shot of Jimenez alone on her bed with the camera positioned on the left side of the room. Then, the next shot turns out as a medium close-up of her, but this time, the camera is situated somewhere on the right side of the room — without respect to the established scene’s framing and line of sight. This makes the already poorly chopped edit even more confusing, especially in terms of applying film¬†language and providing a clear geographical reference and continuity to the scenes.

Shots don’t convey conviction on what the story is trying to say and most don’t look seamless in the edit. Some shots even look like rough cuts. For one, a school scene suffers from akwardly handled camerawork. The headroom and framing are problematic at times, especially by the middle and latter parts of the movie. For instance, Jean Garcia’s framing starts from her eyebrows or even her eye or nose already, which may be due to the production’s non-conformity to the cinema crop requirement for the film’s theatrical release version. Again, a problem with the projector may be considered, but since the said issue dosn’t always show up in the presentation, it is not due to the projector.

The movie’s ADR work is completely bothersome. It is often distracting, especially every time an actor or actress utters his or her lines out of sync — when post recording should have ideally corrected such issues already. This problem gets worse when watching the part of the picture where the last word heard from the dialogue would only show the immobile lips of the actor or actress.

The scene of Joyce walking by her knees at the aisle of the church is intended as a great acting moment for her, but poor dubbing ruins it. Her cries are totally out of sync.

The voice used to dub the part of the male doctor sounds more like Aga Muhlach. There’s actually no problem with the fact that he sounds like the renowned actor, but the problem arises when his line delivery turns out very unconvincing for a doctor character.

The production design for the Spanish era is convincing. The tribal people wearing G-strings deliver commendable portrayals. They contribute to the realism, as well as the mood and feel of being part of both the Spanish and tribal periods, in the story.

This motion picture’s story has potential, but unfortunately, its storytelling turns out as a complete disgrace to mainstream cinema — every single aspect of the production is poorly executed. Everything is wasted. The idea of miracles unfolding in the tale and the mystery behind the so-called miracles are quite interesting. Even building up the mysticism and mysterious elements in the material could have been a fine track to explore in the narrative. The emotionality involved in life and death may offer a lot of opportunities for effective storytelling. The “Birhen ng Manaoag” alone, through its rich spiritualist notions on the Filipinos with strong faith or the Filipinos’ fascination with supernatural phenomena and myth-making, can open up many possibilities for a compelling script. Further development of the story could have led to an intense or thought-provoking cinematic piece. Indeed, this movie is a complete waste of potential.

‘Birhen ng Manaoag’ Film Review: Just awful
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