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[Total: 1    Average: 4/5]

Inside Out movie review

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“Inside Out” 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’s 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’s 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’s 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’s “Headquarters,” 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’s 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’s 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’s 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’s 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’s 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’t 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’s 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’s subconscious — without bordering on the too serious, goofy, or irreverent. The picture’s 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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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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
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Magic Mike XXL movie review

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Average

For the most part, “Magic Mike XXL” keeps its commitment to entertain. As a sequel that capitalizes on beefy charm and well-oiled performances, the franchise delivers another movie that is all too eager to please its target market. This raunchy road flick dives into some quick thrills that are not quite as psychologically curious as the original stripper opus “Magic Mike.” Shapeless but generally enjoyable, it renders an easy-going experience throughout, courtesy of its goofily gleeful male comrades who are clearly oozing with sex appeal, especially whenever they are on the limelight. Viewers are supposed to come for the stripping galore, stay for the laughs and giggles, but leave the demanding storytelling expectations behind.

The narrative picks up three years after the legendary headliner Mike bowed out of the stripper life, while still at the top of his game. Something rekindles his passion for it that he joins the rest of what’s left of the Kings of Tampa on the road for one last blowout performance at the male-stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. While on their way, the guys learn some new moves, as well as shake off the past and build new relationships in between unlikely turn of events. They meet new acquaintances and old friends, specifically during their whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah, allowing the viewers to take a tour of the best stripping venues around the southern states.

This follow-up to the 2012 hit utilizes the road-trip template to promote an amusement park-ride sort of experience for its intended demographic. Although it delivers the fantasy goods of formidable male bodies moving in provocative ways, the mediocre, a bit too cautious script, which puts irony to the fact that the movie explores the idea of taking risks, really pulls down the story. The already contrived tale gets stretched even thinner that the narrative really lacks much storytelling weight. The barebones plot barely bothers to scratch beneath the skin that there is a dire need for improved narrative thrust, especially by the time the bland and ultimately lame resolution gets revealed. The all-tease, no release type of ending doesn’t really arrive anywhere that it makes the mindless worship of male bodies in motion eventually nose-dive towards tedium.

For its strengths, this Gregory Jacobs-helmed buddy road comedy, which is undeniably tossed out for public consumption, proves how carnal pleasures can be served hot so the audience can enjoy some quick thrills and squeals. With admirable testosterone frequently on display, the rowdy picture deviates from the conventional movie masculinity where male characters are expected to rip out the big screen with stereotypical machismo. It has its own gung-ho way of celebrating masculinity, as well as celebrating female sexual desire, in flashy ways. The fun dance moves of barely dressed men simulating sexual acts are filled with an energetic dose of movie lust. They rightfully blend giddy aesthetics with gratuitous man-candy sexuality. Through the years, Hollywood has clearly spent much time objectifying women. So perhaps, in this film, it’s about time to return the favor to the ladies in such dazzling fashion.

Mike and his posse consistently sizzle throughout the movie’s running time. As usual, Channing Tatum’s dancing charm seems second nature in his role as Magic Mike. The rest of the virile boys including Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, Matt Bomer as Ken, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, and Adam Rodriguez as Tito successfully coast through their own outrageously fun dance moves, which are often highlighted by pelvic thrusts and sticky looks. They are able to carry the need for a light, playful, and fun-filled presentation meant to tickle and titillate without having to border towards the seriously offensive. However, taking the characterization a couple of steps deeper would have placed more value to their campy roles.

‘Magic Mike XXL’ Film Review: Beefy magic
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[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

The Voices movie review

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Average

“The Voices” 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’s 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’s 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’s loopy turn of events, some of its murderous impulses suffer from intermittent insensitivity. But one thing’s for sure — its tongue-in-cheek narrative makes it a point that its premise will stick to the viewers’ heads even after the credits roll.

‘The Voices’ Film Review: Quirky morbidity
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[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

Spy movie review

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Average

“Spy” takes a deliriously funny girl-power angle to its espionage movie package. Exceeding expectations, it charms with its no-holds-barred spoofs that are finely crafted into its action and comic elements. Its physical comedy turns out robust and intense without resorting to typically overused farcical treats. Its greatest strength comes from its rightful dose of empowering action and embarrassing incidents rendered in equal measure. All these turn out quite likeable through its potently funny lead actress who finally lands a role very much worthy of her talent.

This spoof sub-genre offering tells the tale of the deskbound CIA analyst Susan Cooper. After a tragic loss, she finds herself working undercover to avenge her partner who falls off the grid while trying to prevent an impending global terrorist act by a deadly arms dealer. So from being the insecure unsung hero on a dead-end desk job, she suddenly undertakes one of the agency’s most dangerous missions and eventually transforms herself into the most reliable spies ever to grace the CIA. Putting herself more and more at risk in every appearance of an annoying top agent whose compromised status prevents him from taking the mission, Susan further proves she is more than just a desperate choice and an unlikely replacement. She shows how much of a top-notch agent she can be through her quick-witted decisions and natural fighting skills.

This entertaining parody tastefully dismantles the genre it belongs to. The smart script utilizes neat plot twists while doing some wonderfully seditious feminist undertakings in its own comic ways. There are enough twists to make its spy-spoof parts engaging.

Working as a clear takedown of Hollywood’s “007” franchise right from its opening credits, this action-comedy flick puts a feminist twist to the story and makes the details work on a ridiculously straightforward level. It instinctively promotes its spy thriller side by not skimping on the action. Lighting, camerawork, and set pieces complement the acting performances. What makes the tale more interesting is how it succeeds in presenting its kick-ass lead female character beyond the Hollywood female stereotype. Its off-the-wall humor also becomes a breather as it consistently shows the women in awesome action and comedy, while the presence of males in various mission-oriented scenes always makes things worse on screen.

Writer-director Paul Feig has a full grasp of a material that could have possibly ended up in the dumb-movie route in the wrong hands. He is able to draw the best out of his characters in a narrative that bathes in many ridiculous plot points. His storytelling remains committed to the flavor he wants for the film and ends up delivering scores of laughs throughout.

The cast members help elevate this motion picture above the average comedy level. They seem pretty game for anything that they commit themselves to the ridiculous material and they end up owning most scenes, if not all scenes, they are in.

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper anchors the material with empowering charisma and talent that she may just have worked in her first starring franchise. This motion picture is likely to end up as a box office hit with the usually supporting or co-headlining actress McCarthy now getting the main role she deserves in this full-throttle star vehicle. Her versatile take on her character sustains the comic showcase the story needs. In this movie, the viewers are asked to laugh with her, not at her.

Rose Byrne consistently works as a hilariously scene-stealing villain. Jude Law offers a campy-style acting that fits the bill. Jason Statham delights with his tough-man persona, which is clearly utilized for comic effects. The rest of the supporting performances turns out as acting gems that make the story even more deliriously fun from beginning to end.

‘Spy’ Film Review: Delirious spy fun
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[Total: 2    Average: 3.5/5]

San Andreas movie review

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Average

“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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Crossing Over movie review

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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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2012 movie review, film poster

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Average

“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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Film: A Collaborative Art

Most of the time, the only person who seems to easily get that ultimate right to be called a filmmaker is the director. But come to think of it — film is a collaborative art, an audio-visual medium created out of moving pictures. This means to make a film requires the director to work with producers, artists, artisans, and technicians from varying fields in order to translate the script and the director’s vision into a moving picture. Each has his/her own expertise that becomes an asset for the film project.

The Filmmakers

On a personal note, any person involved in a film production are filmmakers, regardless of the specific work s/he does in the production. Since “filmmakers” are the people behind making films, this supports my conviction that everybody involved in the filmmaking process earns the right to be called a filmmaker: whether the utilityman, the members of the art department, the lighting crew, the production manager, the actors and actresses, the producer, just to name a few. All of them are filmmakers, just like the director.

With advocating the conviction of calling film workers as filmmakers, it’s a matter of perspective and respect. This is not to say that I am making an absolute statement of what’s right or wrong in this culture- and art-driven industry. This particular concern simply means living up to a particular stand in an industry I am part of.

The Profession

Unlike professions requiring professional examinations and getting licenses prior to practicing, the filmmaking profession primarily depends on the outcome of one’s work in order for the person to have the “guts” to say that “filmmaking is my profession — that I’m a filmmaker.” Yet, at this time and age, anybody who has a video camera or even a mobile phone camera can come up with a film and put it up in Youtube… Ergo, “I’m a filmmaker.”

Claiming oneself as a filmmaker is really a matter of perspective and paying respect to the work. Like the issue that anybody who can play the guitar who can easily call himself/herself a guitarist or a musician, there is often that issue of some people branding themselves as a filmmaker in a manner that is more appropriately utilized by serious film students, amateurs, and professionals. Actually, being called a filmmaker is not about being an amateur or a professional. Either way, one can be a filmmaker. It all boils down to paying respect to the craft, being sincere about the profession, and being confident of one’s work.

Film Workers as Filmmakers
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“Clash of the Titans” is a story of the ultimate struggle for power as men fight against kings and kings fight against gods. This cinematic piece centers on the perilous journey of Perseus (Sam Worthington), the mortal son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), King of the Gods. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus leads a dangerous mission to defeat Hades (Ralph Fiennes), God of the Underworld, before he can seize the power from Zeus.

Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2” and “Incredible Hulk”) directs this motion picture based on the 1981 film of the same title. This time, the epic Greek story gets packaged to propel to new heights through a 3D presentation of the mythological worlds of gods and men. Enhancing the looks of larger-than-life mythical beasts and breathtaking vistas spanning from the depths of hell to the heights of Olympus, as well as the battles of men, monsters, and immortals, “Clash of the Titans” brings a more immersive 3D adventure through ancient Greece and beyond.

According to visual effects supervisor Nick Davis, “We were dealing with Olympus and with Hades, so we had heaven and hell, and we had gods and monsters; there were aspects of the fantastical inherent in the story. But at the same time, we wanted it to be photo-realistic. We want people to believe a horse is flying and that harpies are real within the realistic grounding we’ve given the movie.”

The team used a combination of CGI and motion-capture equipment to bring to life the the Kraken, Medusa, Pegasus, the harpies, and a number of other characters. For the scorpiochs fight, they began by blocking out what characters would be involved in the massive battle. Determining the scale of each scorpioch which measured around 25 to 30 feet (from claw-to-tail), the special effects team led by special effects and animatronics supervisor Neil Corbould built a full-scale rig to act as a makeshift scorpioch. This was to give the actors something to interact with during the shoot. Interestingly, Corbould as a teenager worked on the original “Clash of the Titans” directed by Desmond Davis, adding feathers onto Bubo the Owl.

Another critical creature in the story was the majestic flying horse Pegasus. Leterrier said, “Pegasus is a winged horse, he’s the companion of the gods, and no human has ever ridden one. He initially fights Perseus, which is yet another obstacle for our hero to overcome.”

The challenge for Davis and his team was how they should overcome the aerodynamic problems to make a supposedly non-flying horse, given its physique, to look natural when flying. The visual effects team developed a complex system of putting tracking markers and using special cameras to track every motion very carefully. After completing the flying movements, wings were placed via digital imaging.

According to Letterier, the design for the Kraken, the most feared beast in Argos, took approximately five months to finish. The water was a huge element in coming up with a cinematic design as the Kraken would rise from the sea, so it had water cascading off of it within a very massive scale.

Most of the shooting locations were done in vast canvases in Tenerife, Wales, and Ethiopia.

Rounding out the primary cast members were Gemma Arterton as Io, Perseus’ mysterious spiritual guide throughout his journey; Mads Mikkelsen as Draco who would take up his sword to join Perseus’ quest; Jason Flemyng as Acrisius, a one-time king-turned-hideous beast; Danny Huston as Poseidon, God of the Seas; and Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, a princess doomed to lose her life if Perseus would not succeed from his mission.

Warner Bros. Pictures, Clash of the Titans Official Press Kit and Bios. 2010.

Warner Bros. Pictures, “Clash of the Titans.”

Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans: Behind the Scenes
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Alice in Wonderland movie review

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Average

“Alice” falls down a deep hole and is unable to get out.

In this 2010 cinematic rendition of the Lewis Carroll classic, Tim Burton’s individual stamp of masterful storytelling doesn’t register. With its wavering tone that is as uncertain as Alice’s decision-making in the narrative, Burton and company should really dig a lot deeper if they eventually decide to make a sequel out of it.

Stylish but dispirited, style over substance, “Alice in Wonderland” is a pretty disappointment. It has great visuals but lacks storytelling value. Clearly a feast for the eyes but not for the heart, it is teeming with marvelous sights but hollow at its core. Overwhelming visuals but underwhelming storytelling. Great canvas but not a great film.

This Disney movie is not the masterpiece people hoped for. It looks more like a coffeetable book showcasing CGI grandeur. It is definitely not within the caliber of Burton opuses such as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Big Fish.”

A Burton interpretation of this tale is quite intriguing and exciting. But shockingly, things just don’t work. The movie lacks the energy and emotional power to breathe life beyond the vision inside the filmmaker’s head. This director who apparently takes the producer role as well loses his authentic knack for effective storytelling. His expressionist signature turns out to be the only aspect he keeps in this motion-picture project.

With its visual splendor, this movie is still a technical feat, mainly for its visual effects, production design, and art direction.

Ken Ralston’s visual effects are pleasantly surreal. Character designs showcase such creative wizardry. Robert Stromberg’s production design is fun and dazzling. The amazing offbeat aesthetics as individual pieces are whimsically great in their own dark and bizarre fashion. Danny Elfman’s musical score offers some magical parts, but the elements don’t transcend to wonderful heights. Chris Lebenzon’s cutting is considerably fine, but it doesn’t reflect the supposed marriage of a Burton vision and a Carroll story. Dariusz Wolski’s photography is wonderfully magical. However, all these still fail to cover up the screenplay’s loopholes. Although the script has its moments, things don’t fall into one coherent piece. Empty, atmospheric, and lacking soul, some individual pieces actually work at times, but things never really work as a whole. The dialogue can’t live up to the film’s superficial narrative flow.

The film falls short in driving the character arcs. The acting is sometimes spot on, but sometimes out of range. Overall, the characters don’t have that firm grip to let the audience relate to and sympathize with them. From frequent Burton collaborators Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, to first-time Burton collaborators Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, the acting performances provide characters that work more on solo flights.

For its 3D version, unlike in the 3D epic “Avatar,” this motion picture doesn’t offer an immersive 3D experience. Instead of rendering awe-inspiring 3D images, the movie’s shallow visual feast looks lame. The three-dimensional depth looks fake, perhaps because of the post-3D conversion process employed in the picture. Clearly, the technical requirements for filming in 3D are not entirely the same as the conventional filmmaking process done in 2D. The 3D here doesn’t look absorbing enough to recreate a new mythmaking factor for the film. Moreover, the movie lacks that captivating 3D spirit, perhaps because the envisioned film came out from ideas pegged in 2D format. 3D requires a specific sub-culture when it comes to utilizing the immersive qualities of the format, which means its own set of storytelling standards that may or may not entirely work with a 2D-envisioned film.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010) Film Review: Overwhelming visuals, underwhelming storytelling
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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie review

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Catch colorful candies and marshmallows from the sky. Play around ice cream snowballs. Hop around nacho cheese fountains. Slide onto a giant gumball hill. Go gaga with a palace of Jell-O. Get endless supply of jellybeans. After which, there comes the massive pancakes, tornadoes of pasta, pools of nacho cheese, hailstorm of jellybeans, ice cream blizzard, pizza flurries, and deadly gummy bears… Then suddenly, it’s raining steak and gumballs! It’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

This eye-popping and mouth-watering piece of motion picture cooks up a veritable buffet of the bland and the bizarre, the sweet and the sour, and all other possible tastes that can be generously offered on screen. It serves up a riot of glee, color, and absurdity.

The story is engagingly ridiculous. It’s fun… and it works.

With a solid gag ratio and an entertainingly colorful animated visuals, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” serves as a commentary on the potential perils of genetically engineered food and the downside of “overabundance.” Using its light and fun approach, it makes a social point about how people today have too much of what they need. In its subtext it questions the contemporary world’s a culture of excess where wastefulness seems next to coolness.

This impressive cinematic offering from Sony Pictures is a downright odd family flick featuring exuberant animation, quirky humor, and plucky characters. It aptly utilizes slick and solid slapstick, while maintaining technical sophistication and engaging storytelling throughout. This animated venture from writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller gives justice to their source material, the popular children’s book of the same title by Judi and Ron Barrett. They amusingly expand the book for the big screen.

The filmmakers know how to play with their food. They capitalize well on the universal compulsion for stomach-filling delight. As a computer-animated 3D extravaganza, this film provides awesome food fights and pleasurable food trips. It also provides whimsical details through increasingly surreal weather activities that would suggest some call to action and a hunger for more even when everything is too much already — just like how capitalism and consumerism in the real world become an alarming concern for every nation.

From the gloriously surreal buffet of predatory giant chickens to the psychopathic gummy bears fighting to death, things turn out weirdly wonderful on screen. While contemplating, it seems like “mutated food” in the real world isn’t very far anymore from the already existing reality of junk food and fast food stuff.

This movie works fine in 3D. Technically, this 3D food adventure makes good use of the format. But in any case, a conventional 2D counterpart is of good value as well. In fact, for its veritable feast of audio-visual splendor and its relevant social messages, this picture turns out as a good DVD collectible for the family.

The sophisticated presentation doesn’t overwhelm the storytelling. Scenes don’t look pretentious and they don’t sweat the message. As a computer-animated flick, it is bright, cheery, and at times flat-out hilarious in providing winsome sight gags involving giant food, references to disaster film cliches (including “Independence Day” and “Twilight Zone”), and endearing characters that vividly come to life. The running gags are pretty neat cliches as well. The storytelling promotes a pretty charming kind of slapstick that works well for the tale’s intended commercial value.

As a family-friendly movie, it provides a frenetically tasty offer. Indeed, it is insanely funny and at times wonderfully weird. Things work well with the gastronomically hilarious pace and tone of the comedy. It is visually inventive and can be swallowed very easily while serving some serious food for the thought on the side.

Unlike most children’s flicks that are often insipid and lowbrow, this quick-witted film doesn’t insult its audiences intellect. It is light on its feet, silly, and surprisingly enjoyable — not to mention, a little trippy. It bursts with random sight gags that boast intricate design and goofy humor. It has some grown-up gags to keep the adults amused as well.

The characters are likable amidst the fact that in terms of character development, they don’t render something of the caliber of Pixar’s “Up.” But still, this movie really assures the audience of a tasty adventure treat.

As a hyperbolic expose of human greed, abusive behavior, and environmental destruction, this food revolting spin of the 30-page children’s book into a 90-minute bountiful big-screen buffet is something that the general viewer won’t regret sinking his or her teeth onto. Its delicious and imaginative concept takes flight as a family delight. While it rains big food, it also rains big laughs and sheer fun.

‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ Film Review: Slick and solid family slapstick
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The Hurt Locker list of Oscar wins

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Average

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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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus movie review

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Average

“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” is primarily a visual spectacle. While the film is not entirely successful, it certainly qualifies as a glorious mess of exploring an imaginative world. It has a vaudevillian spirit. It flirts with acid-laced visuals and spins circles around the viewers’ heads. The dizzy spell of visual fantasy and the rickety plotting both impresses and bores.

This send-off film for the late Heath Ledger (technically speaking, though personally, I think it’s his Joker in “The Dark Knight” that is his real great send-off) is a highly imaginative mess shot with boldness and extravagance. It works more like a cobbled collection of ideas rather than being a precious stand-alone story.

Though the visual flair is there, things don’t really hold together well for the most part. This issue already gives consideration to the fact that Ledger only finished half of his work before his passing — and this is not to say that the other three guys who finished the work for him are of no good value. It is just that this motion picture, as a whole, clutters with a lot of artsy stuff more than than focusing on putting value to the characterizations. This cinematic offering is visually packed with grandeur, but the story mishmash makes it quite tiring to watch. There is that feeling of being overdone. At some point, it’s like eating too much of a well-garnished meal that’s out of nutritional value. The storytelling can’t keep up with the too many trippy elements that are packed together as a full-length piece. It fits more like a series of eye-popping music videos spliced together into a single movie.

When looking at the film separately as scenes of fantastical spins, things work generally fine. The anachronistic artistry of director Terry Gilliam makes visually splendid slices of brilliant madness in the presentation. Rife with hyperbolic displays, the movie grounds in a fantasy world rendered through an enigmatic odyssey of graphic invention. But amidst these separate scenes working together individually, the point of the matter is that a film should put its various elements as a whole body of work. So in this case, “Parnassus” meanders around confused rhythms that make the narrative  more like rambling chunks of effects-filled magic that are often self-indulgent and gambling. Though it promises something fanciful every now and then, this doesn’t really quite add up to one grand showcase of cinematic consistency. It teases with magnificently tantalizing moments, but the resulting offering looks more like an outlandish juggling act that both dazzles and bums.

As a big-budget pageantry of shifting CGI canvas and frenetic elements, the big-deal effects overpowers the story instead of just serving to spice up and back up the storytelling. It looks overburdened with ideas, visions, and concepts, while becoming disappointingly moody at times. Things are insisted with too brute force and sense of urgency that they are more off-putting than entrancing, more exhausting than exhilarating.

“Parnassus” is like a crammed artist’s mind traversing a shaky framework. Sometimes, the magic works and it is blissful in its own right. But most of the time, it piles on glitter, grunge, and some mumbo-jumbo puffs. It really needs a more coherent storytelling to pack every idea about art and imagination as insinuated in its theme. It seems to have passionate intentions about the contradictions of good and evil as played out in the hearts and minds of its characters. It is an ardent morality tale about the consequences of making deals with the devil. It provides a thematically potent sympathy moving freely around the people’s subconscious. It feels through the artist’s life journey of pleasure and pain.

Heath Ledger’s Tony boosts the film’s value in his fine performance. It is a chance to see him acting one last time before resting for good. On a lighter note, he will always be remembered with the great characters in his filmography. The film is appropriately labeled as coming from Heath Ledger and friends.

Talented as he is, evidently with the number of good films under his belt, Christopher Plummer as Doctor Parnassus unfortunately lacks the intensity to make his character work. His Imaginarium overpowers the film’s crucial element of characterization, although this issue is more a concern with the direction than what the actor can really deliver for what he is told to do. In fact, Lily Cole as Valentina, Andrew Garfield as Anton, and Verne Troyer as Percy have better characterizations than him. Despite the very tricky material, these three, along with Tom Waits who provides a fine enough performance as Mr. Nick, put some good values to the story to let the audience willingly ride along further the Imaginarium path.

The retrofitting of Ledger’s generally role works well on its own. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law as the Imaginarium Tony guys even make more sense than what the clunks of the story make for the film’s entirety.

Abandoning oneself to the occasionally uneven but visually stimulating images is the best way to enjoy this motion picture. For those willing, it is a hollow, shambling, lovable mess of a movie to watch with popcorn and soda.

‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ Film Review: Trippy imaginarium
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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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Sherlock Holmes movie review 2009

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Average

“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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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Average

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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[Total: 1    Average: 2/5]

Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs movie review

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Average

Looks like the “Ice Age” series is not yet too close to extinction. Since the trailers of this third franchise offer, there is no doubt that “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” still provides that appealing energy based on the material’s already established charm.

As an adventure-packed ride, this animation provides an astoundingly eye-catching animation built on the fun foundation given by the old characters. Some scenes may feel repetitive, but for the needed surface-level fluff, this kiddie flick generally works. For the most part, this movie utilizes well-paced comic moments.

The story revolves around the discovery of a crack in the ice which grants the characters access to a more primitive age that features tropical weather, green grass, extensive foliage, and dangerous giants. This takes the central characters away from their wintry, ice-packed habitat to the cavernous underground world of danger where carnivorous dinosaurs roam. On a mission to rescue Sid, the old gang travels into a mysterious underground realm where they encounter a whole new world of flora and fauna.

This third  “Ice Age” installment doesn’t overdo its stereoscopic 3D part. The DVD version may not have the same flair as its 3D counterpart, but judging from what the theatrical version shows, this motion picture really keeps up with the franchise’s signature fun and colorful visuals.

A lot of entertaining elements can induce laughter to the willing audience. The novelty in its extra dimension and eye-candy visuals, as well as the overall comic fun rendered by its characters enhance its storytelling spectacle.

Director Carlos Saldanha and co-director Mike Thurmeier envision nifty camera tricks, funny character antics, and charmingly mounted moments to keep up with the film’s box office requirements. Scenes like the laughing gas adventure and even the overly familiar trailers of Scrat’s initial meeting with Scratte, as well as Sid’s milking of a bull, all provide good laughs for the general audience. Scrat’s dialogue-free scenes are punctuated by music and all things heart-shaped work as usual. His pursuit of the elusive acorn is as fervent as his quest to win the eye-fluttering Scratte, which alters his nut hunting priority.

Amidst the sureshot enjoyment, it is still clearly not of top-caliber level when compared to the best Pixar animated classics. This animated feature merely relies on formulaic elements to make it a fun family ride. Moreover, the playful bantering between the characters could have been more creatively done. There are some forced dialogues and some phoned-in voice acting around. Nevertheless, this sequel from the popular animated movie is clearly targeted at the kiddie crowd. It still works as an entertainment pastime for the family.

As expected, “Ice Age 3” promotes a cutesy end to both the old and new characters’ sub-stories. Aside from the old gang, it features some snappy new characters including Buck and the loads of dinosaurs around.

Parenthood becomes the hot topic for Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) as they await the birth of their mini-mammoth. There is something lacking on their side of the story in terms of characterization; but when their baby comes out, things just become totally adorable with the cute little mammoth out.

The goofy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) turns out as a pretty convincing friend who feels abandoned, then adopts three baby dinosaurs like a new surrogate mother.

The flurry and scurry squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge) is still awesome with his wanderings, which are motivated by the iconic acorn as usual. But this time, he gets company in trying to nab that ever-elusive nut through his newfound hottie frenemy who is conveniently named Scratte (Karen Disher).

The saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) doesn’t quite render enough emotional attachment here. His issues of growing too soft when hanging with his tamed pals and his goal to leave the herd to prove himself don’t quite get that much message across.

The twin opossums Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck) generally work with their pratfalls and fart jokes amidst their stereotypical antics.

The relentless, vine-swinging, and dino-hunting weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) is a comical and lively one-eyed warrior who guides the “Ice Age” friends through the underground prehistoric habitat of the hungry dinosaurs — in order to save Sid. With his conventional but steadily working jokes, he puts fun in the adventure of the characters as they traverse the Chasm of Death, the Plates of Woe, and the treacherous Lava Falls.

Overall, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” brings visual cuteness, action, and frivolity for the audience to enjoy. It puts the usual requirements on moral elements for the typical family movie getaway, with the story centering around the importance of family and friends. The movie is a surefire hit with the kids. The 3D version in the theaters definitely has an additional appeal, but even a DVD version can still work as a great addition to your family-friendly movie collection.

‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ Film Review: Dino-ice adventure
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Average

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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[Total: 1    Average: 1/5]

Deep Sea 3D movie review

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Average

If you have that fancy for scuba diving and underwater magic without getting wet, then the jaw-dropping experience of submerging into the coolest underground deserts and forests in “Deep Sea 3D” should be worth your while. Clocking in at around 40 minutes, this 3D offering showcases how the sights and sounds of the “real deep sea” becomes “cinematic magic.”

“Deep Sea 3D” is a real marvel in 3D filmmaking. The IMAX experience lets you sink way down for that amazing acquaintance with the grandeur of the deep seas and the spectacular IMAX 3D underwater cinematography. Indeed, with 3D images so crisp and engrossing, this movie takes you to another world that is filled with an array of both familiar and unfamiliar sea creatures. IMAX provides this privilege by transporting exotic sea creatures literally to your noses, ready to be touched by your own hands through the magic of cinema. Young and adults alike tend to share awe and delight in trying to feel those luminous moon jellyfish and shimmering glassy minnows upfront.

The fascinating tour of the oceans and the bizarre-looking life forms around the globe allows you to spend every moment “oohing” and “aahing” at the amazing life under the sea. You may find yourself gasping for air as the scenes keep enveloping you with that fascinating up-close-and-personal experience with some of the ocean’s irreplaceable treasures — both gently and wildly swaying down the deep blue seas.

This film may not provide the conventional thrills of a full-length narrative, but it is surprising how this documentary makes the ocean seem so intimately real that you really feel like swimming alongside the splendid coral reefs, friendly sharks, colorful school of fishes, deadly squids, thinking starfish, comic shrimps, character crabs, and monstrous octopus — all drifting to and from the currents of sheer underwater beauty.

“Deep Sea 3D” magically goes down the ocean floor with its gorgeous cinematography that in some ways, you can actually overlook the loose ends in the film’s structure. You start flowing in harmony with the underwater life forms. You start agreeing with the importance of symbiotic relationships among various species. You get more concerned about the violence humans do against nature. You become more conscious of the sad state in which humans leave the oceans and why humans should not upset nature’s delicate balance. This short film creates a vision of nature that many humans, at some point, would get to appreciate and would soon want to conserve and save the ocean’s natural resources.

More than its documentary thread, this motion picture’s beautiful underwater footage become its ultimate source of artistic leap. The visuals wrap themselves around a magical treat that entertains the eyes and touches the heart.

IMAX films like this may be expensive to produce, but this particular one is well worth it. With the charming and magical appeal of this short documentary in the company of the voices of Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, and most especially, the company of the many wonderful creatures of the sea world, this project shows the great potential of the relatively young IMAX 3D technology in the movie industry. The technology is clearly evolving and getting better. Although there are some minor annoyances and occasional drifts in the storytelling, this film is still one of the more solidly entertaining documentaries filmed in IMAX to date.

‘Deep Sea 3’ Film Review: Underwater magic at the movie theater
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

The Bucket List movie review

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Average

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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[Total: 1    Average: 2/5]

Batanes movie review

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Average

“Batanes” is essentially a heartwarming study of a relationship between two cultures. With the tagline “Love knows no borders,” this flawed but poignant love story explores life and love between different places and cultures. It explores the loss of one’s 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.

“Batanes” establishes an intimate portrait of a woman’s relationship with the sea after her husband’s tragic passing. Set in the vast landscapes, rough seas, and ever-changing weather of Luzon’s 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.

“Batanes” 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’s main source of strength.

The story begins with Pam’s 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’s 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’s 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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Average

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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The Pacifier movie review

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Average

“The Pacifier” utilizes that same old story of a tough guy tasked to take care of a bunch of rebellious kids. Flawed as it is, this feel-good movie still delivers an easy, goodwill charm for its target audience.

This comedy offering tries to capitalize on Vin Diesel’s action-star appeal for its first part. After some serious action scenes, the plot readily shifts to a comedy as Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel) fails on a mission to protect a key government scientist. In his attempt to redeem himself by taking care of the scientist’s children, the turn of events reveals that the scientist’s wife (Faith Ford) tries to discover the secret plans of her late husband in a foreign land, which would further complicate things for the family. Meanwhile, Shane uses his military experiences and skills for his newfound assignment — babysit the Plummer kids, and at the same time work as a family driver and body guard. In no time, he realizes that what has become his greatest challenge turns out to be caring for the rebel teen Zoe (Brittany Snow), the insightful dreamer Seth (Max Thieriot), the Ninja wannabe Lulu (Morgan York), the weirdo toddler Peter and the cute baby Tyler.

The movie’s main source of comedy is how Shane applies his military persona into the domestic battlefield and the irony of him physically losing over the typical gags on changing a baby’s diaper, dealing with a girl’s rebel side, yielding to a little boy’s bizzare ways, and trying to fit in the needs of the rest of the little Plummer brats. He extends his unlikely tasks to even teaching a lesson to a bullying high school vice principal and directing the musical play “The Sound of Music.”

The narative requires extreme characterizations without putting a heavy load on the plot.

Most characters, though igniting audience laughs and chuckles every once in a while, turn out overacting and unrealistic.

The predictable script relies pretty much on corny gags. The subplot involving the search for the dead scientist’s secret experiment, which, in the wrong hands, could spell great disaster, is not given much attention. This could have been a good source for suspense and creativity in the storytelling. Nevertheless, this movie’s mainstream formula actually works for its generic family fare requirement. Its insights on family dynamics still bring some effective weight to the presentation. Its escapist feel makes it a considerably effective material for the not so demanding viewers who simply want to kill some time inside the moviehouse.

He may not be the pioneer in this career shift from action to comedy by “big men,” but Vin Diesel pulls off a decent comedic performance in this family flick. Interestingly, he doesn’t need a lot of effort to get that needed charm for the narrative’s comic side. Humanizing his action skills from bloated action blockbusters to the movie’s flipside requirements becomes easily acceptable — in the funny side of things.

Alhough this light and glossy picture is a completely recycled piece, it promotes more than a couple of laughs, most of which are reminiscent of the “Home Alone” stints.

‘The Pacifier’ Film Review: Pacifying the action into comedy
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Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith movie review

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Average

“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” provides closure to finally weave the two “Star War” trilogies.

This film serves as the final chapter to the culturally historical galactic empire saga from the real master behind the force George Lucas, along with his dedicated behind-the-scene heroes from the “Star Wars” of the 1970s and 1980s (“Star Wars Episode IV: A new Hope” in 1977, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983) to the prequels made two decades after (“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” in 1999, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” in 2002, and finally, “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005).

As the classic franchise’s concluding motion picture offer, “Revenge of the Sith” features a lot of foreshadowing and connections to keep in touch with what the trilogy from the past has become known for. George Lucas also plays a cameo role as the blue-skinned Baron Papanoida, which is shown at the opera scene.

From the use of the 1980s-style transition effects to the standard opening credits about “the galaxy far, far away,” its original appeal is well-kept. Loose ends get tied up with modern imagery without losing the original “Star Wars” look and feel.

The opening sequence is a jaw-dropping collage of moving ships in battle, starting off with a long shot filled with lightsabers and machines. The sound elements in weapons, moving aircrafts, and holograms are never left out by the powerful visual effects. Even the scoring further validates how John Williams really imprinted his signature in the “Star Wars” music.

The political intrigues exposed in this epic motion picture exudes some satirical tones.

The problem with a hard-core effects-filled film is that at some point, it becomes a victim of losing its own touch on the true dramatic display of human emotions. The good, kind-hearted, and well-brought up Anakin lacks the hesitation and moving and striking moments as he struggles and consumes himself into the Dark Side. The film relies too much on visual and physical cues on Anakin more than giving valuable acting moments that can better manifest his real emotions on screen. A much better characterization and acting performance could have justified his slaughtering of the young and old Jedis alike, and all his other abrupt change of actions after embracing the Dark Side.

Even the great love between him and Padmé does not render enough motivation. It is not thoroughly expressed. There are no tear-jerking moments amidst the gravity of the tragedies that happen to the main characters. Even with the death of Padmé or the pain of Obi-Wan losing a brother and apprentice are just mere visual feasts: splendid costumes; cool lightsaber fight scenes; impressive CGIs; opulent production design; and impressively challenging cinematography. Personally, I like how C3PO’s entirely metallic body looks like a walking golden mirror on screen without reflection issues out of all those present lights, cameras, and other production equipment.

“Revenge of the Sith” lacks the deeper and more consistent motivation for Anakin to take the fall into the Dark Side. While there is that need to validate his undying love for Padmé, the treatment offers no much heart to capture the very emotions of love, fear, and confusion. R2D2’s fun role actually provides a more effective characterization compared to the supposed heaviness and emotional struggle Anakin offers.

In this installment, it is quite disappointing to see the warrior-type Padmé of “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” suddenly belittled into an almost useless character. Other than her pregnancy, her characterization mostly leaves her a damsel in distress that is way out of her character from the previous installments. She may be pregnant, but this doesn’t mean she can’t be a much more interesting female character the way Anakin or Obi-Wan can face a hell of Droids with their lightsabers no matter how impossible their stunts would get. Padmé is full of grief with what happens to Anakin, but this doesn’t mean she can no longer kill even a single Droid or escape a simple danger the way she used to in the former “Star Wars” episodes. At the very least, she can simply make a stand at the Senate or say any striking word as a Senator witnessing an intergalactic chaos. Frustratingly, she has been turned into a weakling of a character throughout the story — a supposedly strong woman unable to fight for her love and for her world. In terms of gender sensitivity, a bit more redemption for her character could have meant a lot in the story.

As expected, the fight scenes offer the best highlights in the film, primarily the lightsaber battles between the various evil Darths. The final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin in a volcanic planet is choreographed well. This, along with a couple of other action scenes, makes this “Star Wars” movie something worth checking out.

‘Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’ Film Review: The real force behind the ‘Star Wars’
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The film Aninag by Rianne Hill Soriano

To the staff and cast of Aninag:

Aninag is showing in two film fests this June 🙂 Thank you so much to all of you!!

The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival – Aninag is showing on June 26, 2005.
http://www.nyfilmvideo.com/cgi/schedule.cgi

The New York Filipino Film Festival - Aninag is showing along with The Memories of a Forgotten War on June 12, 2005, in celebration of the Independence Day
 http://www.theimaginasian.com/events/index.php#433
This is an article from Yehey.com:
 http://www.yehey.com/entertainment/movies/article.aspx?i=8170
 Date: 6/27/2005 8:20:49 AM

“Aninag” (“Light’s Play”)
a film by Rianne Hill Soriano

15 mins., 35mm Fantasy/Children New York International Independent Film and Video Festival 2005; Cinema Purgatoryo 2005; New York Filipino Film Festival 2005 Indiemand: The 1st Pi Omicron Independent Film Festival; Pelikula at Lipunan Film and Video Festival 2005

Isabel journeys in a dream world with her new mystical friends “Saya” (Happiness) and “Pag-asa” (Hope) in an attempt to overcome her isolation due to her blindness.

“Aninag” (“Light’s Play”) is a 15-minute narrative shost in 35mm film. Isabel, a blind girl who journeys in a dream world formed through the emotions she feels, plays with her new mystical friends “Saya” (Happiness) and “Pag-asa” (Hope). As they leave, Isabel succumbs to her negative thoughts. Her life becomes endangered. The question is: “How would she overcome her fear, helplessness, and depression in this struggling situation?”

“Aninag” (“Light’s Play”) is a film grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Most of the film stocks used in the film came from Kodak Philippines through the filmmaker’s prize as Kodak Film Awardee 2003 of the UP Film Institute through her thesis film “Karsel” (“Prison”). With the help from production houses Filmex (through a number of short ends and lending of equipment) and Production Village (through a number of short ends), the film was greatly blessed with a good number of generous institutions and artists willing to help out with this kind of independent film production.

The film’s dream sequence was inspired by the storybook “Ang Ika-Sampung Taong Kaarawan ni Prinsesa Mayumi” (“Princess Mayumi’s 10th Birthday”), which the filmmaker originally wrote for the film.

The child actors were from the Advocacy Program of the Museo Pambata (an institution helping deprived, underprivileged, and street children and a museum for kids). The staff was proud of these three kids who each did a great job as first time actress/actor for a 35mm film.

Through the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, Province of Rizal, Philippines), the City Hall of Antipolo and the Municipal Hall of Rodriguez, Rizal, the bulk of the film (dream sequence) was shot at the historical site of the Wawa Gorge, more familiarly known as the Wawa Dam, in San Rafael, Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal — where the legend of Bernardo Carpio’s “Dalawang Nag-uupugang Bato”(The Two Clashing Boulders) originated.

The Cast

Patricia de Silva – Isabel

Karla Pambid – Mom

Joel Torre – Dad

David Trinidad Jr. – Pag-asa

Rency Van Dorpe – Saya

Charisse Mara Luluquisin – Fairy dancer

Iroy Abesamis – Fear-fed shadowman

The Production Team

Rianne Hill Soriano – Screenplay and Direction

Wowie Hao – Director of Photography

Chrisel Galeno – Production Designer (Day 1 to 3)

Joy Puntawe – Production Designer (Day 1)

French Lacuesta and Joy Puntawe – Asst. Directors

Ron Dale – Editor

Philip Arvin Jarilla – Musical Scorer

Jason Galindez and Noel Bruan – Audio Engineers

Alda David, Rianne Hill Soriano and Mayleen Enorme-Menez – Production Managers

Iroy Abesamis – Choreographer

AG Sano, Rianne Hill Soriano and Philip Arvin Jarilla – Storyboard Artists

Rianne Hill Soriano – Original children’s storybook made for the film

Al Rio and Ojay Desuasido – Storybook Artists

The filmmaker would like to thank the NCCA, Filmex, LVN, Provill, Optima, Museo Pambata, Kodak Phils., Kontragapi, UP Film Institute, First Call, Sun for All Children, GiantSponge, City Hall of Antipolo, DENR (Rizal), Municipality of Rodriguez, the people of Wawa Gorge, and all those who helped us in the production.

My film ‘Aninag’ screens in the U.S.
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Bikini Open movie review

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Average

“Bikini Open” puts a number of serious issues into the limelight by twisting them into comic fun — the murky side of pageantry, TV, advertising, and media as a whole, in between the struggle for ratings, mileage, and fame. Using HD camera blown up to 35mm film, this tightly budgeted cinematic offering turns out as a good watch.

This commercial fare works with a satirical vibe. Its premise remains culturally correct and aptly representing the larger scale of realism.

The film’s non-linear format provides a fitting treatment and motivation for the characters. The narrative flow makes a valuable distinction in presenting the visuals from each segment, which includes the documentary-style part, the bikini pageant part, and the main story part. The presentation showcases stylistic and dynamic shots and angles with apt colors, grain, and overall look in all the right places. It effectively sets a clear difference in its storytelling flair compared to the overused formula utilized in most mainstream flicks with similar concept, theme, or story.

Cherry Pie Picache plays the role of a shrewd broadcast journalist pressured by ratings. Working as a typical media personality with that familiarly local female anchor tone, she is determined to maintain her industry position by covering a bikini contest in the most sensationalized manner possible. She runs through the most petty fights from backstage and even reveals the contestants’ lives in the most private parts of their homes.

This motion picture explores the ambition, exploitation, and cruelty of the media and the powerful and influential people controlling it. The rich ones get things done their way. They are the perpetrators of the so-called “glitz and glamour” driving the craziest dreamers to do anything, at times even the most risky things. Meanwhile, people in the lower financial demographics find their own escape from oppression through media feeding their ego with false hopes.

With a well-written script coupled by fine direction and decent editing, the film provides a good tone for the narrative. It successfully showcases the various reasons for joining the bikini contest, as well as the various reasons for watching bikini contests.

The cinematic material parades a bikini contest situated in a comedy bar. The exposition of how the gay hosts enliven the bar with witty words and antics, plus the diversity of their audience, sets a culture of its own while inside this “gimik spot.” Although the place is quite small, the film actually shows an entire Philippines inside the said comedy bar. Whether in front of the stage or at the backstage, those involved in the comedy bar, those involved in the bikini contest, and those spectators enjoying the sight of flesh offer a slice-of-life look at the different types of people in the country.

The story depicts how media manipulates and exploits. It denotes the truth behind what really happens inside a comedy bar as each host enjoys the opportunity to hold the powerful mic and have some fun for themselves and their customers. Within that smoke-filled room of nicotine inhalers and alcohol gulpers, the bright and colorful lights suggest how the music can get the audience into the “beat” and “heat” as the almost skyclad young hopefuls ramp their way in front of them.

Some acting performances deliver well for their characters, while others don’t live up to the best expectations. Some scenes, including that of Ricky Davao while trying to spoof a computer school sponsorship for the contest, suffer from out-of-sync audio. Yet as a whole, amidst some acting and technical flaws, the film still stands as a watchable satiric fare.

In deviating from the overused storytelling style within the sphere of Philippine filmmaking, which was especially rampant in local movies that proliferated during the 1990s, “Bikini Open” lives up to the risk of somewhat trying to break free from the long recycled and often exploitative system in the country’s commercially available sexy movies.

‘Bikini Open’ Film Review: On spoofs and bikinis
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Average

Comic, satirical, and mocking in its style, “La Visa Loca” offers a dose of laughs and slaps for the Filipino viewers, whether they are on the nationalistic or pragmatic side of things.

This film explores the decision-making process in cases that involve one’s mind, heart, pride, idealism, and most of all, economic stability. Crafted in a light and subtle way, the story works on a simple premise, which clearly promotes a social commentary on how a number of Filipinos become fanatics of the relatively elusive U.S. visa. It has a distinct statement over the madness for that “greener pasture” in the land of Uncle John.

The film has an interesting opening credits, which tastefully depicts how Filipino hopefuls pray for the precious stamp of approval at the U.S. embassy.

The cinematography, music, and editing generally complement one another. Metaphors here and there present the film’s satirical side. These include the scenes of a hardworking carnival mermaid and the parodied rituals and various types of fanaticism in the Philippines — the myths during the Holy Week and other religious and cultural beliefs, the Filipinos’ colonial mentality, among others. The irony in banning the eating of pork in opened beerhouses during the Holy Week says a lot about the narrative. Many speaking lines hit on small unresolved issues such as the banning of the use of the Filipino translations of penis and vagina in broadcast media. All these clearly give a social commentary on the Filipino mentality.

Filled with gray characters that are finely stitched into an ensemble, the story unfolds in a light and entertaining way amidst the heavy issues inside it. Meily turns the characters’ flaws into comic fun without losing focus. Most of the major roles casually deliver the needed narrative punches. The father-and-son relationship between actors Johnny Delgado and Robin Padilla gets carefully molded along the way to validate the film’s end. At some point, the emotions become overwhelming; the situation renders its own kind of redemption. Meanwhile, even with nothing much to say, the short but poignant mother-and-son look between Evangeline Pascual and Padilla gives enough connection without becoming too melodramatic and overacting.

Paul Holme delivers substantial flair as the “Planet Strange” host Nigel Adams. With the things that happened to him in the tale, he gives enough credibility to his lines, particularly the wake up call to the Filipinos’ bad habits and colonial mentality, as well as certain citizens’ opportunistic attitude towards tourists.

Johnny Delgado as a DOM type justifies his very character. The story says he is neither good nor bad, as he falls into the errs of being human — a victim of sacrifices getting left with even more sacrifices to come.

Robin’s acting is mostly commendable. He serves as a personification of an ordinary Filipino trying to live up to the American Dream, while suffering from disillusionment in his own country. Yet, he offers an attempt to live up to a certain redemption of the Filipinos’ image and pride. He makes his own sacrifice for his country, and at the same time, just like his father, he makes a sacrifice to attain his dream.

Ruffa Mae Quinto’s charisma adds to her character, but the so-so acting doesn’t add much to the story.

The passion chorus adds a venue for style — in par with the Filipino elements such as the Kristos and the faith healers. Collectively, these serve as a counterpart for voiceover by singing out loud the comments for Padilla’s character. Although the film can stand without such, they add heart to the presentation.

The cameo roles seem to extend the fun the production had during the shoot. Some of them are seen in the credits. The audience see actors and actresses Earl Ignacio, Bearwin Meily, Raymart Santiago, Eddie Gutierrez, Ricky Davao, and Evangeline Pascual, directors Andoy Ranay, Khryss Adalia, Quark Henares, and even Mark Meily himself, cinematographers Jorg Schifferer and Lee Meily, and even Unitel producer Tony Gloria. With all these cameos, the film lives up to the mood and mockery its theme clearly suggests.

In terms of gender sensitivity, it is quite disappointing to know that Padilla’s character as the personification of a Filipino trying to redeem his race remains the typical womanizer without any good change by the end — as if saying that all Filipinos play around the women in their lives. Further validating this concern are the portrayals of major female roles in the film — Pascual as an irresponsible mother and Quinto as a pathetic single mother who gets some help from an ex-boyfriend. So goes with that woman quarreling with Mark Meily (in cameo) involving that Las Piñas-Caloocan issue inside a cab. As a film trying to make a statement for a hopeful change in the country’s questionable mindset and attitude, it seriously lacks storytelling sensitivity to gender concerns.

The ending is quite predictable. Nevertheless, it remains valid for the story’s needs. The film’s style, look, and temperament are often times appealing. As a comedy carrying a load of heavy issues with it, it is expressively fun, witty, and meaty. In between its imperfect moments, it provides some carefully orchestrated elements meant to strike the emotions of the general audience.

‘La Visa Loca’ Film Review: Visa fanaticism
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Ong-bak movie review

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Average

“Ong-Bak” amazes and defies the Hollywood cheats of stunt doubles, using CGI and animation, and working on strings while shooting on chroma to let the characters’ actions fly and soar high. This action fare shows the real deal — what a martial arts expert can really do without resorting to any of cinema’s magic tricks.

The film presents the art of Muay Thai in a contemporary scene. Yet, it carries on the Thai people’s culture and traditions, as inspired by their ancient fighting spirit. Muay Thai transforms the human body into a multifaceted weapon for close-combat fighting. The way it is presented on screen allows it to work as a newbie’s primer on techniques to hit people with the elbows, arms, knees, and feet through conceivably defensive stances. Moreover, this motion picture exposes the deep spiritual training involved in the serious practice of Muay Thai.

More than anything else, what strikes most in this movie is not the story, script, or acting — it is clearly the symphony of flying bodies, breaking bones, and elaborately staged chasing scenes. Ting (Tony Jaa) defies gravity and challenges physics with his authentic Muay Thai moves. He leaps over cars, two intersecting bicycles, market stalls, and he even jumps on top of people’s heads. He slides under a moving truck and runs and escapes through a large coil of barbed wire.

Ting keeps the hype strong throughout the film’s running time. All his fight scenes are simply jawdropping. They are all spectacular enough that viewers would probably ignore any possible flaw in the film. His very impressive stunts put life to a considerably lifeless or less of a life story, which unimpressively utilizes the overused plot of a hero finishing a mission. Things could have been really dragging early on, but seeing Ting outrunning gangs in strictly designed obstacle courses placed in everyday Bangkok’s busy streets is really quite a treat.

The story is very simple. There are no much complications on the storyline and the ultimate goal to finish the main character’s mission is very clear. There is no time for romance or any fuss about the material world — just bring back the statue using the art of Muay Thai.

The opening sequence of the tree-climbing contest sets the pace of this Asian action flick. It fills every frame with impressive camera movements that take advantage of all those kick-ass stunts.

The take-off of the story happens when the ancient Buddhist statue Ong-Bak gets stolen. The town’s hero Ting is bound to bring back Ong-Bak’s head. He maintains a clear heart and mind to not fight for the reason of vengeance, money, or personal gain, but only to retrieve the sacred statue. He vows to become a monk upon the statue’s return to his town.

The attempt to promote the metaphor of being a god and stealing the head of a town’s god through the local crime and drug lord generally works for the story. The idea that he has the money and power to control and dictate who he wants dead and who he wants alive validates his dialogue of being the true evil of a god himself.

The reddish colorgrading works for the film’s overall visual requirements. The dynamic camerawork remains raw in the final presentation with the exception of the use of basic slow-motion and fast-motion effects. Car mounts are used for the elaborate chasing scenes.

There is clearly no budget alloted for hard-core visual effects, but a big portion of the budget gets into the burning of cars, falling three-wheeled Thai vehicles, destroying market stalls, pounding bottles, chairs, and tables, and even lamps and appliances. A huge chunk of the budget may have also been used in making a number of giant statue heads, which are mostly shot underwater and in a cave.

The rawness of what’s captured during the principal photography fits the action-packed sequences. However, some scenes suffer from too choppy editing that if not for the extraordinarily striking moves of the main character, audience engagement would readily spiral down the drain.

The question of using guns against Ting, like in the cave sequence, remains a bit of a pitfall in the story’s realistic treatment. This is obviously incorporated into the plot to control and contain the action scenes in favor of hand-to-hand combat.

One interesting fight scene that is definitely worth mentioning features Ting catching fire on his legs, then he attacks his opponents with his blazing legs.

Martial arts enthusiasts can get a lot from Jaa’s moves. With the greatly impressive action amidst the not so compelling story, the authentic fight scenes really make this movie worth the price of admission.

“Ong-Bak” is a breath of fresh air from the usual Hollywood action flicks, which are merely reliant on quick editing, stunt doubles, and special effects. Watch it for the action. It’s worth it.

‘Ong-Bak’ Film Review: No doubles, no strings, no CGIs
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 1    Average: 2/5]

Ring of Nibelungs movie review

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Average

Benefiting from the epic success of the “Lord of the Rings” in terms of theme and source material, “Ring of Nibelungs” offers a dose of swords, kingdom, ice, magic, and dragon amidst the conflicts of love and greed.

The film’s tone combines that of “LOTR” and “Asterix and Obelix,” primarily rendering a mythical and historical look that settles in the vastness of the cold countries of the north.

With the sight of the film’s poster, which quotes the movie as Tolkien’s inspiration for LOTR, it suggests that the story revolves around the character of Brunhild. However, in the film, Siegfried clearly has the most exposure.

In “LOTR,” the plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world towards destruction. In “Ring of the Nibelungs,” the plot revolves around the greed that blinds humans and leads them to their own destruction. Clearly capitalizing on the tested market of the former, this film’s narrative is still able to capture its market. Amidst the bulky material, the story’s focus remains strong. Amidst its huge scale and scope, it is able to turn the story into a generally entertaining mainstream fare.

The tale begins with a brief background about the Norse gods including Odin, the god of wisdom and war and the chief of the gods. After which, the narrative focuses more on the human characters from the legend. From here, the plot moves on to the story of Siegfried (Benno Furmann), a conquered kingdom’s heir who grew up with the blacksmith Eyvind (Max von Sydow). When a meteor crashes into the Earth, he goes his way for it. There, he falls in love with the Norse warrior queen Brunhild (Kristanna Loken). With the gods, they become destined to be reunited through their love. Siegfried uses the metal on the meteor site to forge his great sword. As he journeys his way towards Iceland to reunite with his Valkyrie love, he slays the dragon Fafnir for the Burgunds. Since then, he has been revered as the dragon slayer who is now invincible through the dragon’s blood (but similar to Achilles having a certain weak spot on his back).

Siegfried ignores the curse that lies on the treasure and the Ring of the Nibelungs, which was initially stolen from the Nibelungs by Fafnir. This later costs his life and his love for Brunhild. The treasure brought by Siegfried to Burgund leads to betrayal, deception, and greed: King Gunther (Samuel West) of Burgund envies the strength and heroic stance of Siegfried and he agrees to have him killed; Kriemhild (Alicia Witt), King Gunther’s sister, agrees to use magic to steal Siegfried’s heart for her own; Hagen (Julian Sands), King Gunther’s trusted advisor, kills Siegfried to get the treasure and its power solely for himself; and the other people of Burgund blind themselves to the lust for gold when Hagen promises them part of the treasure if they would go by his side. Upon avenging the death of Siegfried by Odin’s estranged daughter Brunhild, she reunites with Siegfried by killing herself beside his cold body.

For a film, it is not the happy ending people usually prefer to see — but it is a rather good and faithful ending for such a tragic-stricken material.

Looking into a broader perspective of how a woman in the character of Brunhild gets portrayed here, there is that irony on her great strength and warrior stance vis-a-vis her femininity, faith, intelligence, and love. The honeymoon scene of Brunhild and Gunther is such a comic scene, one of the rarest type of honeymoon that can probably be seen on screen: the seemingly unbeatable wife pinning down the husband like a mortal enemy ready to be killed.

Furmann’s facial features show great resemblance to Jennifer Lopez. On a more serious note, he is effective enough for the character of Siegfried. Only that, the young Siegfried child actor during the first few scenes of the movie leaves no much resemblance to the adult Siegfried. Loken looks great as the warrior queen of Iceland. West’s face looks too bulky at certain angles, but his acting for the King Gunther role generally works. Sands’ dark and gothic features offer a fine conviction for his dark and evil character.

Brunhild’s crown, braids, and fur coat and cape seem inspired by Freya, the goddess of love and war and the wife of Odin. The production design, especially with the jewels and costumes, promotes a visual feast of Nordic grandeur. However, the dragon Fafnir’s design looks unimpressive.

Although it becomes a bit of an issue that the epic musical score sounds very similar to that of “LOTR,” overall, the “Ring of the Nibelungs” soundtrack turns out effectively haunting and compliments most parts of the story well — except for the music at the end part that is not enthralling enough for the movie’s ending.

‘Ring of Nibelungs’ Film Review: Another ring tale
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
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Kingdom of Heaven movie review

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Average

Ridley Scott makes another epic — this time, streamlined in the middle of the conflicting religious beliefs of the Christians and the Muslims. A fiction inspired by historical accounts, “Kingdom of Heaven” renders a cinematic vision of the Crusades of the 12th Century.

Balian (Orlando Bloom), the young, grieving blacksmith from a small village in France, finally yields to the invitation of his estranged father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), to go to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. With the hope of relieving his and his dead wife’s sins, he finally convinces himself to lead the way towards salvation there so that his wife may go to heaven after committing suicide. As his father’s heir, Balian rises to protect his people from the Muslim invaders. From a blacksmith on a soul-searching journey, he becomes the defender of Jerusalem — carrying with him his father’s guiding legacy and ideals of promoting peace and getting hold of the kingdom of heaven.

This motion picture starts with vast coldness. But as Balian reaches Jerusalem, lives a new life as a knight, and becomes the dedicated leader of his people, the film’s richness in color and texture starts complementing the film’s change in mood, the exposition of the characters, and the progress of the story. Scott’s directorial treatment often features playful shots utilized in effective places. He primarily combines panoramic and close-ups shots, jarring camera movements, blades and arrows flying in mid air and meeting blood or snow, and smoke effects in this religious epic fare. Though situated in an epoch of staged battles and slow-motion movements, the storytelling doesn’t turn out as remote and distant as the exotic locales the story depicts.

Characterizations are given some emotional investment through tight shots. The confrontation scenes allow the audience to get nearer the characters and see their reactions through effective close-ups. The intimacy on the shots gets further amplified with the fight scenes seizing moments for each dying man. The overall visual treatment promotes not just the opportunity for sheer grandeur and lush cinematography for a period epic, it also opens up the storytelling to the more human side of the tale. The many lingering shots help the audience digest the emotions involved in the scenes.

This motion picture’s musical score seems pegged from its epic film counterparts such as “Alexander,” “Troy,” and even “Lord of the Rings” (“LOTR”). But its distinct combination of Christian- and Muslim-inspired tunes renders good timing and personality to the material, which is in par with the story’s visual and emotional requirements. This also gives its space of separation from its epic pegs. The orchestral soundtrack particularly puts atmospheric grandeur to the many battle scenes.

“Sometimes, you should choose to do the lesser evil to do the greater good.” This is the idea behind a striking dialogue between Sibylla (Eva Green) and Balian during a time of crucial decision-making — whether he marries her or not — after he kills her wicked and arrogant husband Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) who happens to be the heir to the throne after the leprosy-stricken King Baldwin (Edward Norton) dies. The idea of doing one evil for the sake of the greater good opens up some conflicting ideas to rattle the minds of the audience, especially in a Christian world were murder is absolutely a sin.

The relationship between Balian and Sybilla is one of the movie’s weaker points. It gets developed in an uneven manner. It is as if it starts out as a given aspect in the main storyline, but during the latter part of the story, the issue becomes precariously injected without concern by putting cutaway shots of Sybilla in between the battle scenes without any useful sway.

He may be wearing a mask the entire time, but Edward Norton shines in his sensitive portrayal of the leprosy-stricken King of Jerusalem. Neeson, Green, and other supporting cast members render fine acting performances. However, for the main actor Bloom, his portrayal turns out mostly two-dimensional, and as if he has not left his Legolas role in “LOTR.” His performance lacks dramatic breadth. More often than not, he tends to recite his dialogue like in an acting class — while practicing for a monologue.

The story never loses its focus. It clearly concentrates on Balian, and Scott never completely fails the audience with his main character, even though Bloom is not able to deliver very well on the acting department. It’s quite a disappointment though that Sybilla gets forced with such a presence by the latter part of the picture, as if she is a useless or an unfitting garnishing on a delectable plate.

The issue between the conflicting religious beliefs of the Christians and the Muslims, which are carefully presented in the story with respect and in good faith, make their own marks in the story. Even if this tale is set centuries ago, modern viewers can easily relate to it.

Even with its flaws, “Kingdom of Heaven” remains as an entertaining mainstream offering with its grand cinematography, production design, and sound design. Its confrontational parts, intimate moments, and battle scenes are directed with engaging style. This motion picture runs nearly 2.5 hours, but the pacing doesn’t drag. Those who prefer consuming cinematic luxury on screen should find this film most enjoyable.

‘Kingdom of Heaven’ Film Review: War and religion
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Can This Be Love movie review

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Average

“Can This Be Love” is a simple love story captalizing on the charm of one of the most popular love teams in the country — Hero Angeles and Sandara Park. In this movie, they are two very different people who prove that love can bloom amidst cultural differences. In a larger scope, it offers a gist of the economic issues that push the young Filipinos to find the greener pasture elsewhere in the globe.

This film has a very traditional love story featuring a foreigner who finds it hard to adjust life in another country and gets branded as a weirdo along the way and a Filipino working student who struggles to finish school.

The story exposes the lives of the University Belt (U-belt) students. Ryan (Hero Angeles) is a Nursing student who does part-time work as a term paper typist. Like the mentality of most people today, he has a clear goal to leave the country to work abroad and become financially stable. Meanwhile, Daisy (Sandara Park) is a Korean exchange student who comes to the Philippines to study English. One day, Ryan gets to work on the worst term paper ever written entitled “What is Wrong With Filipinos?” Ryan gets pissed with both the countless grammatical errors and the nasty words used against Filipinos by an annoying Korean stranger. It turns out that the Korean he hates so much is the same girl he starts texting quite dearly after a cellphone-buying negotiation.

The ironic thing for the two is that their sweet friendship starts blossoming while they are textmates, then the aggravation for the term paper issue increases further — until he discovers that the girl who has become his dear textmate and the owner of the rude term paper is the Korean girl Daisy. From here, their cultural differences and the language barrier they have to contend with pave way to their bonding, their realizations, and their more open and mature minds.

The romantic scenes clearly feed the fans with the “kilig moments” they often seek for. The song-and-dance numbers rendered as comic relief to the story reflect the vibe of 1980s movies.

The many close-up shots give ample facial expressions on screen, which helps carry a more intimate feel to the scenes. However, the editing is not always seamless. At times, the scenes drag, especially when the characters’ lines become too verbose.

Supporting actor Roderick Paulate is worth mentioning, as he keeps the momentum in the story through his powerful delivery of comic lines.

At times, the make-up of actresses’ Park and Roxanne Guinoo get too heavy and quite distracting on screen. Even the make-up of actor Angeles end up too heavy for a guy’s make-up on screen. There’s too much lipstick and foundation, which at times are not even on his face and neck.

A number of sponsors have very noticeable appearances throughout the movie. Most are Park’s various endorsements, followed by those from Angeles, Guinoo, and Joross Gamboa. Amidst adding such elaborate advertising details, the production ignores the flaws in simple plot details such as Daisy’s really bulky pieces of luggage being easily transported to the cab, as if they don’t have anything inside.

The idea of coming up with scrapbooks for the time lapse of the future years in the lives of Ryan and Daisy turns out appealing to its target market. However, this doesn’t visually empower the main conflict of the narrative. There is also no clear climax in the story, amidst being a movie set up with a very mainstream structure. The ending feeds the viewers with the finished product right away with no hurdles or struggles to spice up the storytelling for a sweeter, more fulfilling end.

‘Can This Be Love’ Film Review: The U-belt flick
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Cinematography
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Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Average

Following the footsteps of a number of successful Asian horror flicks, Regal Films revives “Bahay ni Lola” with the attempt to further break into the horror genre trend. This sequel is targeted for those who prefer getting the creepy chills inside the dark and cold moviehouse. Unfortunately, it isn’t very scary. In fact, its comic side becomes a more appealing aspect of the presentation.

In this second installment, everything is contrived and way too predictable. The attempt to scare doesn’t really work.

This mainstream fare offers nothing new or interesting for the general audience. Even in its final moments, the story lacks a decent twist or a solid ending. The characters’ emotional parts are questionable, especially upon reaching the resolution time. Turn of events would most likely not affect the viewers’ mood and mindset in any way.

On the technical side, the cinematography generally lives up to the needs of this genre flick. Except for the smoke effect that makes some scenes look fake, the presentable visuals becomes the film’s “bit of saving grace.” Amidst the use of many horror stereotypes, at least, the production design adds a bit of horror atmosphere to the scenes.

This movie couldn’t stand on its own ground even with the typical horror elements utilized in the scenes, which include the white-painted scary faces and uncombed hair, the gory shots of blood and insects, the dark and shadowy lighting, and the generic horror sound design and music. The shock factor is almost nonexistent throughout.

Actors have no venue to showcase top-notch skills on the acting department. There ar inconsistencies in Dingdong Dantes’ character — the sense of mystery and fear his role needs is actually nowhere to be found. Most horror elements are poorly copied from contemporary Asian horror flicks such as “The Ring” and “The Grudge.”

There seems to be no much effort to develop the story. More work on the script could have tracked the film a bit more forward.

Scare and suspense are often lacking in this movie. The comedic aspects, as rendered by the likes of John Lapus and Chokoleit, almost always upstage the scare factor of this B-movie horror flick. With poor vision and execution, the comic relief part really surfaces more than the supposedly scary moments.

‘Bahay ni Lola 2’ Film Review: More comedy than horror
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 1    Average: 3/5]


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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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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Let the Love Begin movie review

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Story & Screenplay
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Average

“Let the Love Begin” is GMA Films’ comeback movie after a four-year hiatus. The film outfit’s last movie before it was the 2000 film “Death Row.” Prior to this, they produced a few other projects including “Jose Rizal,” “Sa Pusod ng Dagat,” and “Muro Ami” — all of which were given due credit by a number of award-giving bodies. But this time, GMA Films comes back with a light love story that is quite different from its usual roster of cinematic offerings.

“Let the Love Begin” hangs on such a simple premise that is pretty much scripted into contrivance throughout. The story spans a very long time frame and the way the scenes unfold on screen doesn’t employ much credibility. Except for the fresh faces, everything looks recycled. It’s the same old story, same elements, same formula. The movie presents generic dialogue with highlights including a dramatic scene with rain effect. The conflict involves parents who are against their children’s romantic engagements. Not to say that these would automatically render any movie worthless, but the fact that it doesn’t add any new flavor or statement to at least put a bit more flair to the storytelling, this overused love story really looks worn out — it is as if it merely relies on its bankable stars to get an audience. Perhaps…

The narrative traces the main characters’ lives from their high school years to their careers in the corporate world. Its straightforward love story features the usual poor boy meets rich girl tale. Eric (Richard Gutierrez), a brainy orphan raised by his grandmother (Gloria Romero), works as a janitor in a school where he attends night classes. Meanwhile, Pia (Angel Locsin) radiates an Elle-type of character in “Legally Blonde” less Elle’s intellect. Rich, spoiled, and more interested in gimmicks than studying, this “socialized kikay” is raised by her father (Tonton Gutierrez) and no information about her mother gets revealed in the narrative. Their romance turns out as predictable as it can get. Then, from nowhere comes the text shown on screen saying “after five years.” Time suddenly passes. No creative or thematic transitions whatsoever. This time, Eric, still nursing a wounded heart when Pia studied in the United States, is still a janitor and he is working in Pia’s company.

The movie’s second love story concerns Luigi (Mark Herras), a high-school playboy who ignores his tomboyish best friend Alex (Jennylyn Mercado). Again, time suddenly passes. No creative or thematic transition whatsoever. This time, after college, Alex blooms into an attractive young photographer and she wins the heart of the former womanizer Luigi.

This formulaic piece primarily shows a predictable series of events where slow-motion effects add that “pa-cute and pakilig factor” for the consumption of the main cast’s fans. In fact, the storytelling focuses too much on this that the script lapses and production flaws get worse as the story moves on.

The Tagaytay breather gives a light relief to the tiring and annoying elements in the movie. The “kilig factor” for the savior Eric and his beloved Pia fuel such a saccharine moment, particularly on the latter part of the narrative. To be fair to its being a clearly fan-made piece more than anything else, its mainstream ingredients are aptly engineered to make the fans swoon and scream, rooting for the love teams on screen as expected.

This fan movie is reminisent of the romantic offerings of the 1980s. It breathes life to its tired story by adding a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing commercial elements for the masses to consume.

Eveything in this picture from the story and dialogue to the camera shots and blocking work like a teenybopper TV show — only that, it’s expensively shot on 35mm film. Bit players move back and forth at the background in unrealistic ways. Blocking problems abound. There’s a man walking to his house, then he goes out, goes from one side of the frame to the opposite frame at every cue, and so on. A number of backgrounders including one inside the church look very conscious in every screen appearance. This goes to show that the production only prioritizes the main cast and those bit players serve as mere props on screen — which isn’t an ideal thing to do in a filmmaking endeavor. In terms of putting value to film language, all elements big or small in a scene should work hand in hand in setting up the frame — or at least avoid the annoyance of seeing backgrounders uselessly walking back and forth on the same shot.

Actors just provide lip service with their speaking lines. Tension-filled and dramatic scenes don’t even make the most sensitive viewer get a faster heartbeat.

This movie has nothing much to offer for the evolving taste of moviegoers. Nevertheless, in keeping with the tried-and-tested formula, this mainstream flick uses the chemistry between Gutierrez and Locsin in order to reach their targeted fans for a generic romantic ride.

‘Let the Love Begin’ Film Review: Taking the generic ride
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Dreamboy movie review, Star Cinema

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

“Dreamboy” is a commercial treat targeting those who want to get a pinch of love from a feel-good romantic tale. It talks about a game of chances in love. So much risks at stake. Yet, as the cliche goes, “Love conquers all.” It turns out that the story springs up from the fact that TV networks are going gaga over reality shows’ newfound potential for better TV ratings.

The film reveals a usual girl-meets-boy premise backed up with a slightly fresh flow of storytelling. The major plotpoints kick off with the romantic meet-ups between the clueless spectator Cyd (Bea Alonzo) and the ideal guys Phillip, Eboy, and Jaime (Piolo Pascual). The movie’s massive publicity and promotions make it a point not to dwell much with this romantic comedy flick’s narrative structure so as not to break the suspense for people watching it on the big screen.

“Dreamboy” plunges into the domain of the salesgirl Cyd, an ultimate fanatic of romance novels. She is in constant search for her “dreamboy,” her soulmate, as how her pocketbooks suggest. Soon, she meets Phillip, the son of the owner of the supermart where she works. In the next few days, their encounter leads to a whirlwind romance. But it turns out their fairytale readily needs to end as complications between their economic differences confront them.

While still mending a broken heart, Cyd meets the adventurous, athletic, and “kanto boy-type” Eboy. Cyd sees uncanny resemblance between Phillip and Eboy. Eboy’s rugged personality as a guy who says and acts what he wants without much thinking takes over a new space in Cyd’s heart. As they go through several thrilling adventures together, Cyd falls for the rough guy. But just when she is ready to submit to her feelings for him, she feels betrayed upon learning about her new man’s past escapades with other women.

While trying to get over both Phillip and Eboy, Jaime pops into Cyd’s birthday bash. Though she sees some similarities and a few doubts among the three guys, she keeps her thoughts to herself. As Cyd and Jaime spend more time with each other in Jaime’s rural hometown, their love starts blossoming in par with nature’s wonders. From here, the story gets clearer as it continues to unveil the reality TV show behind the poor victim Cyd. It turns out that Cyd’s search for her dreamboy is actually a molded scenario for a TV station’s reality search.

The script dwells in the emotions presented in life’s harsh realities. The story talks about the dream of finding true love and the sincerity that pushes it forward. It starts with a rather ordinary romantic storyline, dialogue, and treatment, but it ends in a not entirely predictable way. It shows the interesting facets of Cyd’s dreamy, romantic character coming to life as his dreamboy of the moment creates a colorful world for the two of them — each time.

This rom-com offering’s production design compliments its glossy cinematography, which is, as expected, in line with the traditionally glossy Star Cinema look. Pinks and yellows work as highlights in the many scenes’ bright and pastel combinations. Targeting the hopeless romantic audience, the dreamy, fairytale-esque moments set in picturesque locations promote a feel-good effect crafted for mass consumption.

However, the production design lacks consistency. The screen is always filled with saturated elements and fillers including paintings, “kikay things,” frames, cloths, and furniture. There is no much room for vacant spaces. Overtly done to make the set a seemingly designed structure in favor of the camera, the scenes exude a contrived and somewhat fake-looking sense of space. Worse, some shocking props shown inside the room of the girly and romance-stricken Cyd are just horrible. An establishing shot of Cyd’s room before showing her on frame reveals a cloth or a sort of painting of “Che Guevarra,” plus another clearly similar shot showing a print with the appalling combination of words like “I am a Hippie.” Generally, there is nothing wrong with such elements — except if they clearly don’t coincide with the character’s established personality. In the case of Cyd’s characterization, there is no sign of a hippie Cyd. In fact, there is no single suggestion of her being a punk or a non-conformist type of lady. It’s as if these elements are simply utilized as props either because the production people personally like them or they think the colors or shapes of these props can simply fill up the vacant spaces seen on frame — without any concern on reponsible storytelling.

Throughout, the movie remains mostly cut to cut from one scene to the next. Many shots promote mass appeal. Camerawork is typical for a motion picture meant to push the button for the audience’s love story-escapism mode. The tight shots typically utilize slow-motion effects to add that generic romantic flair.

With the wide demography and mass appeal of the current “teleserye” princess Bea Alonzo and the quintesseShe exudes the modern and “non-pakipot” type of female character.ntial heartthrob Piolo Pascual, they deliver a considerably fine charisma and rapport as a screen pair.

Though Cyd is a hopeless romantic, she is a smart girl and a fighter who knows how to play the game even while in the midst of emotional conflict. She exudes the modern and “non-pakipot” type of female character. She is not a shallow character capsulized with that traditional Maria Clara stance or passive Cinderella persona. She doesn’t yield to the fall upon learning that she is a victim of a reality TV show.

The characters Phillip, Eboy, and Jaime become effective stimuli to unveil the hibernating colors in Cyd’s character. The depth of these two major characters further develops as the story pushes forward.

The voiceovers are not very catchy at first. But as the tale progresses, they become justifiable. However, some plot mechanics raise questions left unanswered in a satisfying manner by the film’s end.

Sponsors, tie-ups, and x-deals are very much apparent in the movie. More often than not, the product shots of hair and grocery products, brands of clothes, among others get too much attention on screen. Not bad if subtly, strategically, and creatively done, but the production usually goes way overboard that the said elements already feel like serious storytelling distractions.

This motion-picture project can work like an experiment for its producer — whether such premise for a reality show could actually be done and how the masses would probably take it.

‘Dreamboy’ Film Review: Magic word — reality romance
Rianne's Score (Click post title for review)
Readers' Score (Click the stars to rate)
[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Blade Trinity movie review

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

“Blade Trinity” turns out as a generic end to the “Blade” trilogy. This third installment directed by David Goyer wrestles to its end as a flashy, suspense-free reel substituting quick-paced humor for some chills.

Wesley Snipes returns as the iconic vampire hunter literally exploding vamps all over. The story kicks off with vampire leaders digging up Dracula, the original vampire who spawned their race. The strategic attack led by the powerful Danica Talos (Parker Posey) and her fanged subordinates Asher (Callum Keith Rennie) and Grimwood (professional WWE wrestler Triple H) causes the short-time downfall of the Daywalker and his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). The main group reluctantly teams up with the two young Nightstalkers —  human vampire hunters led by Whistler’s striking daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) and the movie’s comic relief character Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds).

The generation gap issues between Blade and the two Nightstalkers, along with the complications between Blade and Whistler, attempt to provide some deeper characterizations in the story. The said attempt falls short though. The script is quite sloppy and the narrative flow relies pretty much on every special effects that can possibly fill the screen.

Hannibal’s wit and comic punchlines try to draw in as much diversion amidst the heavy scenes of vaporized vampires, bombings, car wrecks, and glass breaking. Abigail’s men’s magazine poses tied up in countless slow-motion shots are clearly eye-candy offerings for the male audience. Female viewers also have their own eye candies in this motion picture with Hannibal’s abs and Drake’s (Dominic Purcell) pecs in his engaging New Age costume as the new Dracula.

The ramped up techno soundtrack keeps the pump in the action scenes. Yet, the music video-style smashing in between the chasing scenes, wrestling scenes (mainly between Grimwood and Hannibal), swordfighting scenes (between Blade and Dracula) and the hangover for the “Lord of the Rings” Legolas-style archery scenes (with Abigail using her high-tech weapons) gives the movie some fast-paced, suspense flick appeal that can be entertaining enough for its target audience.

The cinematography and production design almost always live up to the genre of the soundtrack. The special effects, including those of the weirdly funny and awkward vampire dogs, are reminiscent of visuals in “Species” and “Aliens,” but in a not so better light.

Both the adrenaline-pump and scare factors are not very effective. Shapeless fight scenes chopped into so many cuts lack form and rhythm. Most scenes offer typically expected outcomes.

Even vamp and Goth enthusiasts who would typically fall for such tale should not expect anything deeper than the physicality of fangs, annoying eyes, and black and leather-clad bodies.

Although the casting is generally fine, the treatment remains problematic. The human side often fluctuates in the storytelling. Many scenes are too shallow to evoke significant emotions to the audience. The death of Whistler or the death of supporting characters like Abigail’s sister is no different from the death of any unidentified vampire. There is no striking victory for the audience to feel when the virus eats up all the vampires alive — except for the main character Blade. There are no high spirits for the feat. There is no much play of emotions — only the primary attempt to craft a glamorous music video-style flick.

Sound and musical score try to cover up the too choppy edits, just to maintain at least the same level of energy, hype, vim, and vigor as the previous movies.

This final installment to the vampire franchise oversees opportunities that could have provided better characterization and more effective storytelling to the material. In any case, it is still a watchable fare for those who simply want to feast their eyes on flashy visuals and hot vampire and human bodies.

‘Blade Trinity’ Film Review: The wrestle to the end
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