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San Andreas movie review

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“San Andreas” is predictable fun that hits the disaster territory. It is a heaving mess of a tale with senses-shattering effects to keep many eyes glued to the screen. Its fault is in its storytelling choices, which lack convincing depth and plotting.

This disaster movie presents the classic case of scale and spectacle over story. Its crumbling down California and Nevada sequences showcase pretty competent effects, but its narrative elements render nothing but cracks and crevices throughout. With no emotional weight for the most part, this predictable flick is best watched for its special effects showcase more than anything else.

The story revolves around a heroic public servant whose hang-ups with his dysfunctional family let him feel like it’s the end of the world — until a real worldwide disaster of epic proportions strikes. Every bit of the tale is based on the long overused disaster flick formula. There’s this heroic guy who can’t save his marriage as his ex-wife moves in with her flashy new beau; there’s that haunting past about the loving father failing to save his daughter’s life; there’s that romantic spark between two teens who eventually struggle to survive like the rest of the people around them; there are these scientist partners who stumble into a discovery of the worst type of earthquake to ever hit the world; and there are some heroic and not so heroic casualties that clearly add to the high body count from the seemingly never-ending shaking of the tectonic plates.

This earthquake flick directed by Brad Peyton opens up with great promise. The helicopter-saving-the hanging car sequence works well in its creative build to really kick-start things, as if all the energy in the movie’s need for mood and atmosphere gets focused in it. But as soon as the earthquake issues begin to dominate the tale, the ground opens up to a sadly familiar wasteland that swallows whole the potential for a good film. In no time, this plot-driven picture quickly degenerates from blissfully promising to fatally frustrating.

The cinematic offering’s template is so familiar that characters and plot points can be easily replaced by those from older disaster movies, with the latest possibly being the Roland Emmerich behemoth “2012.” The formula is so clear that this motion picture seems like “2012” reincarnated — only with a different family on the spotlight, but same everything: a family with relationship problems; a sidekick dying but still saving someone during the process; the smartest scientist in the world alongside media people warning everyone about the impending doom; the stepfather being a jerk as soon as the earthquake happens; and the hero of the story getting all the luck in the world by getting all-access rides via a helicopter, a plane, a truck, and a motorboat, inclusive of each split-second maneuvering to escape just about every falling building and other structural debris behind him.

While it is true that there are some engrossing moments in between the chaos of digitally produced action set pieces, it really doesn’t matter how impressively the buildings collapse if the suspension of disbelief is lacking. With the narrative’s loopholes and the endless list of forced details in the script, the viewers passively take the survival and non-survival scenarios as overdone and anything-but-realistic, which shall eventually lead to the material’s old-school commercial values largely slipping away from their memory.

In impressively blending practical shots and CG techniques for such a decently budgeted disaster blockbuster, the relentlessly over-the-top fun works more like disaster porn. Outstanding action with heart-stopping stunts abound. But amidst the fair amount of individually working destruction scenes, the picture ironically offers minimal tension because the story completely drives away from the sentimentality, emotionality, and/or profundity of the proceedings. The money’s worth is clearly geared towards watching the thrilling audio-visual flair, but a fair amount of storytelling wit could have saved the narrative. The special effects look sturdy; the relationships look weak.

What saves this movie from getting buried into the planet’s core is the charisma of its lead character Chief Ray Gaines played by the impossibly charismatic former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Even with the weak dialogue plaguing the screenplay, he is still able to swing in to the rescue while delivering plenty of muscular thrills for the not so demanding audience. With a wry smile, a squint, or a jaw-dropped expression, he often owns the screen to present a Rock-buster picture where the rock-solid hero is always ready to save everyone he could. Overall, the woody characterizations in this movie, which also stars Carla Gugino as Ray’s estranged wife Emma, Alexandra Daddario as Ray’s daughter Blake, Paul Giamatti as the scientist Lawrence, Ioan Gruffudd as Emma’s new lover Daniel, Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Blake’s love interest Ben, and Art Parkinson as Ben’s brother Ollie, are generally able to carry their roles into either the conventionally likeable or acceptable route until each character falls right through the script holes.

This movie’s epicenter is found in the middle of action and mayhem. Its magnitude reaches the top of the scale of mainstream formula. Its intensity boasts digital destruction with characters and plot being less than structurally sound. It is disappointing to know how it is being marketed as an earnest human drama that offers some informative details about what to do during an earthquake — a worthwhile and timely endeavor indeed. However, it merely allows the viewers to spend two hours admiring the work of visual and sound effects artists and technicians.


‘San Andreas’ Film Review: Epicenter disaster
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2012 movie review, film poster

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“2012” doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it is still one hell of a fun ride. It is everything you could possibly expect from a blockbuster disaster movie: an irresistibly visual spectacle that is perversely entertaining. The people behind these films really seem to live up to the idea that: “You don’t get off a roller-coaster and complain about the lack of storytelling.”

This popcorn flick is totally not credible when it comes to its showcase of unequivocally cheesy, ridiculous story; yet, it is hugely engaging with its mind-boggling visual effects.

The story is your basic end-of-the-world chaos narrative. It’s your usual Hollywood cash cow with the doomsday premise offered for mere escapism. They sure do blow up things real good. In fact, its graceless mess may kind of insult the intelligence of the logic-demanding crowd, but for some reason, it still leaves most people thrilled.

It is everything you can expect from such an apocalyptic movie material. The special effects are topnotch in making the film an intensely gripping experience where the protagonists are expected to flee and escape the most horrific events happening around them every single time. The main premise offers the usual mix of a flawed relationship in a typical American family, a responsible and all-good scientist, and a devoted and principled U.S. president — all struggling to make it through the last days of Earth.

The narrative is a chock full of cliches. Everything is too predictable that it’s really just a matter of enjoying the movie’s audio-visual flair — and nothing more. Nevertheless, some philosophical and emotional elements of redemption and the concept of survival of the fittest at least become apparent in some scenes — for a bit of spark about people’s existentialist notions of the world.

Formulaic and frenzied, this flick is undoubtedly a spectacular but ultimately silly blast from Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”). In his tradition of catastrophic flicks, he offers another look at the end of the world in “2012.” This time around, it is the End of Days based on the idea that the Mayan calendar’s last day is said to be Dec 21, 2012. In the film, the earth’s crusts are shifting, causing earthquakes and volcano eruptions on a global scale, followed by inescapable tsunamis.

This motion picture follows the family’s journey towards their destination, en route to China, where the governments of the world have some sort of solution to the impending doom of the world through giant ships reminiscent of the bible’s Noah’s Ark, which convincingly shows the film as another Noah’s Ark story interpreted in a 21st Century setting.

“2012” heavily invests in cinematic time and popcorn. Its unrelenting pace, almighty effects, and sheer tongue-in-cheekiness make it consumingly enjoyable for its willing audience.

Emmerich provides rollickingly good visual thrills throughout. However, the movie lacks a strong script to support its massive scope and inflated length and turn it into a disaster classic in cinema history. It gets tad monotonous by the middle part and it further loses momentum by the last act. Things get too corny by the end that what keeps it really worth watching is indeed the fantastical, mind blowing visual feast it showcases from start to end.

This end-of-the-world story throws in bits and pieces from other disaster movies — with its familiar plot tapping into virtually every disaster flick ever produced.

Despite the consistently breathtaking sound and visual effects, the film’s acting performances are just a mixed bag. More often than not, actors including John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, and Woody Harrelson live up to the nonsensical script’s requirements, but there are instances that they really find themselves dwarfed by the demands for CGI flair. It gets clear that it is quite a job to act in front of chroma screens and other movie-making machines, while pretending to be already seeing the apocalyptic mess described in the script in detail. At least, most actors are still able to keep some humanistic touches in their scenes to deliver that incredible sense of urgency brought about by the world’s end and that emotional struggle of trying to survive annihilation. They strive to keep up with some inane and mostly cliched dialogue.

Watch this movie for its effects. Take them for what they are and leave logic behind.

‘2012’ Film Review: A spectacular disaster
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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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Sherlock Holmes movie review 2009

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“Sherlock Holmes” is a visually stylish rush of adrenaline. Irreverent yet true to the spirit of its source material, this movie is both fun and numb, enjoyable and exhausting.

With a modern slant, this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character personified on the big screen by Robert Downey Jr. should find favor with audiences eager for mere action and effects above everything else. While flawed, it is at least, overall, an entertaining romp. Thanks to the arresting sound and visuals, this new take on the classic story of the world-famous detective is such a popcorn flick.

This cinematic adaptation retains a number of significant details from its source; though the purists may cringe with some altered elements that keep up with director Guy Ritchie’s modern-style of reimagining the legendary sleuth’s adventures. Viewers willing to accept the cliches and predictability in exchange for the stylish and moody treatment may have some good time.

“Sherlock Holmes” is more adrenaline than brainpower. The story is simply another one in a long line of interpretations of the Detective Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) tales. This time, it is utilized as a swashbuckling romp with the tried-and-tested pop culture flourishes meant for those looking for action and thrill. The obvious millions pumped into the film’s CG effects, set design, star salaries, among other investments for the sake of production value, are very much apparent throughout.

Ritchie’s version of old London is moody and atmospheric. He brings the iconic character to a new generation of movie audience through the modernized makeover filled with slow- and fast-motion visuals, choppy editing, and ramping explosion scenes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. There are times that things just get way too much that there is no more breathing space on screen. There are moments of action, there are moments of frenzied and overlong smother.

Aside from its complete predictability, the mystery itself lacks intrigue and suspense that it merely relies on technical power and star wattage for a more palpable sense of excitement. So despite being overlong and losing much of its steam halfway through, the movie is still able to engage the audience between the cerebral character requirements and the spectacle of pop entertainment.

The acting performances of Downey and Law as the Holmes-and-Watson-duo help make up for the weak mystery. They seem to take much pleasure in portraying their roles. Downey’s inherent likeability is as quick-witted as the twists and opportunities that show off his character’s genius. His interpretation of the Holmes character does not completely deviate from the Doyle canon. With his uncanny skill at inventing his own spin to his role, he delivers a brainy and brawny detective with a slightly crazed superhero demeanor. He plays the brainiac detective like a steamed machine.

Law transforms Holmes’ stalwart partner Dr. Watson from the bumbling comic relief seen in most interpretations of the material into a cool, competent sidekick character for this adaptation. He is a rare Watson who manages to be as interesting and watchable as Holmes.

Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler manages to tweak Holmes’ classic adversary into a hot and feisty action heroine.

Cunning star power further uplifts this flick as supporting and minor characters including Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson, Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, and William Houston as Constable Clark make this movie offer the rollicking adventure that it is. a diverting enough night-out stint or DVD showcase, “Sherlock Holmes is a watchable and playable fare that entertainingly explores the cunning world of its lead character; however, it’s still forgettable. It’s actually a case of more adding up to less. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will be better.

“Sherlock Holmes” is a watchable fare that entertainingly showcases the cunning world of its lead character. However, its story is still forgettable, as the sequences often turn out as a case of more adding up to less.

‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009) Film Review: Sherlock takes a modern slant
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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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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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For “Ocean’s Thirteen,” watching the inventive and spontaneous bunch of professional men pulling off an impossible heist for the third time, is a guilty pleasure to watch.

The usual suspects known for delivering their witty lines in effective, nonchalant ways, as well as doing impossible tasks in various capacities, are back with sophisticated humor, peppered ironies, comedic suspense, and contagious energy that has marked the franchise since “Ocean’s Eleven.”

Centering the saga on male camaraderie, team loyalty, and cool professionalism, it has clear personal motivations: brotherhood in the middle of revenge. The clan is reunited again to avenge their mentor from the moral crime of his swindler x-partner.

This star-driven genre flick maintains the grace and manners the franchise is known for. The gentleman heistmeister Danny Ocean (George Clooney), along with his best dressed tactician and sidekick Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and the rest of his wild bunch, return to Las Vegas. They recapture much of the spirit of “Ocean’s Eleven” by pulling off another con to get even with the egomaniacal Vegas kingpin Willie Bank (Al Pacino) who double-crosses one of the original eleven Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). Without being exploitative of the original film’s reputation, this motion picture’s familiarity and interconnections become a confection of silly gags and great visuals adhering to a clear and simple premise — all spiced up with a complicatedly breezy plotting.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” looks fresh and sharp amidst the touches of that formulaic Hollywood style. Making up a true fun escapist heist movie, its smart one-liners and cool references to its previous chapters, and even to the stars’ off-screen personas, put the right chips on for a good deal.

“Ocean’s” helmer Steven Soderbergh proves his bravura wits as he engages the audience with grand visual and aural pleasure. The technical and scientific aspects of the heist are so complex that they may be hard to follow, but Soderbergh knows his way around. He has a firm grasp of technical devices to elevate the story with his splendidly staged scenes, fast tempo, and stunning framing. They all work together to keep up with the textual properties missing in the raw material. Indeed, his masterful direction and the lensing by Peter Andrews, along with the contributions by the rest of the equally-delivering staff, crew, and cast, make the film awesome to watch.

Credit is due to the clever script from writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien, also the ones behind the poker drama “Rounders.” The film consists of hundreds of brief scenes where the new heist is for the sake of friendship, not money. The cool and witty lines build a sleek narrative momentum throughout the film.

Each of the well-crafted characters deliver lines with relaxed wit, which makes the screenplay work for its best purpose. Danny and Rusty have the biggest parts in the screenplay, while the rest of the gang in smaller but still well-written parts often operate individually in their own fun times.

The physicality of “Ocean’s Thirteen” relies on elaborate play on light and color. The whole film boosts of a rich and diverse color palette. The stylistic flourishes and ostentatious interior design of Bank’s spanking new high-rise casino named appropriately as The Bank boasts bright and hot colors, mainly sumptuous golds and reds. Shot on a lavish set built on Warner Brothers’ biggest soundstage to date, the lurid colors, sterling sets, fabulous costumes, and illustrious props really keep up with the demands of an eye-catching Vegas. Add up The Bank’s impeccable CGI work, the absurd but nonetheless amazing twisting structure dominating the Vegas skyline yields to the film’s grand production demands.

The bright and warm colors of the casino spots render effectively opposite the blues and grays of the exterior scenes. The”Ocean’s” troupe aptly maintains that “cool men in cool clothes” look wherever they are. Production designer Philip Messina and costume designer Louise Frogley should be given due credit to their enormous contributions to the movie’s physicality. So goes with cinematographer Andrews, editor Stephen Mirrione, and composer David Holmes — all complementing each other’s work for the good of the final picture.

‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ Film Review: The odds of guilty pleasure
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Commercial Flair
Average

Provocative and absorbing but without any pronouncement, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is a thinking person’s demon possession film. This hybrid of horror and courtroom drama approaches its compelling subject matter with metaphysical horror within a courtroom procedure format. It presents both the scientific and religious sides of the controversial exorcism case of a 19-year old German girl battling a terribly neurotic or psychotic disorder or a dreadful possession of six demons. It discusses the intersection of faith and science and makes both a person’s mundane and spiritual foundations shake.

This relatively gore-free film is an intelligent inquiry about the limitations of belief and faith in defense to a more scientific interpretation of things. Though the marketing of the film obviously tried to ride on with the prominence of Linda Blaire’s “Exorcist” films, it is not exactly a rip-off. Its flashback style gives justification to the courtroom set, which paves way to a more solid ground of putting arguments in their own places. This validates the aim to make the audience think and really use their heads in coming up with their own judgments concerning faith and spirituality vs. objective truth and secularism.

This psychological thriller presents both the scientific and supernatural insights in the case of Emily Rose, which is based on the true-story of the life of Anneliese Michel. Overall, it is more psychological than the horror an audience expects for an exorcism movie. Unlike the usual demonic-possession movies wallowing in the gore of green vomit, 360 degrees head turn, and levitations, this film stays in the natural world with its own kind of realistic sense of gore and trauma. But still, the subtle but striking supernatural and horror elements presented here tend to give goosebumps of another level.

The story evolves around a negligent homicide case involving Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who has performed an exorcism to the late Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Ironically, the church chooses hotshot criminal attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), an agnostic and ambitious lawyer, to take on as the defense attorney. On the other side of the courtroom is the prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a devout Protestant.

Jennifer Carpenter’s incredible performance is the film’s major asset. Seeing Emily possessed as she shouts latin words in demonic voices, scratches walls with her nails, twitches robotically and falls to the ground so realistically, is absolutely terrifying. From her physical features to her acting chops, she turns out perfect for the role. Her twitching and snappy moves when possessed or when having unusual epileptic attacks, the way the doctor and the prosecutor see it, require great physical skills and are considerably stunts of great proportion — and they all turn out so creepy.

The subtle parallelism of Emily’s experiences to the physical manifestations of the dark forces on defense lawyer Linney as Bruner makes an effective ground on inquisitive prodding of objectivity, insanity, and spirituality. It adds cinematic dimension to the film without going too much. Her ending speech is commendable. Its content could have been a melodramatic monologue without Linney’s acting prowess. Wilkinson gives a dignified performance as the embattled priest. He plays the character well as he exudes his faith in God in battling the dark, powerful forces surrounding Emily Rose even until the court trial. However, Scott’s interpretation of his role as the prosecutor makes him more like an antagonist. He could have performed the role more objectively and not in a too antagonistic way. Emily’s family and close friend Jason effectively stays on the background, yielding to the story’s focus on the trial and the real reason for Emily’s death. The internal struggle of each character shakes the viewers’ own physical and supernatural struggles as human beings.

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is not for those who want gore “Linda Blaire-style.” The type of scare it brings doesn’t rely on horror stingers and music and physical gore. Its utilization of silence speaks much more. The devil’s presence is simply a shadowy figure in a robe. The scare factor includes simple movements of door, flickering lights, breaking glass, and animals going crazy over fear of the devilish presence. The most scenes that rely on some visual effects just include the slight morphing of images and human faces.

Playing around basic lighting and camerawork, the juxtaposition of shots of Emily during the build-up of the possession and exorcism scenes where the demons manifest themselves in Emily’s physical body and mention their names turn out very engaging both cinematically and spiritually — minimalist, yet striking.

As a cinematic presentation, it could have added some dramatic license to the storytelling, but the good thing about the film is that it presents the two opposing sides quite well. It makes the audience think about the possibility of a demon possession but leaves room for one’s own judgment, whether it’s really a spiritual or a physical battle. And yet, it doesn’t end there. This motion picture imparts an engaging issue about life and spirituality for the audience to think about.

‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ Film Review: Courtroom psychological horror
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 3    Average: 2.7/5]

Nasaan Ka Man movie review

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Average

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’s (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’s (Gloria Diaz) domineering old-maid stance covers up her sadness through her flair for make-up. Pilar’s (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’s (Jericho Rosales) kind, introvert bearing as the outcast adopted child ironically grows up filled with inspiration and thoughtfulness through his love for Pilar. Ito’s (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’t own Pilar’s 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’s 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’t 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
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