Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Sword Of Destiny (2016) - Michelle Yeoh , Donnie Yen

It can't be easy to create a follow up to an influential and critically acclaimed film. So when it was announced that there would be a sequel to Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I decided to keep an open mind, until I have seen the movie for myself.

 Set eighteen years after the end of the first Crouching Tiger, Yu Shu Lien who is thankfully still played by Michelle Yeoh has emerged out of hiding to once again protect the sword, Green Destiny, this time from an evil warlord. Michelle Yeoh still plays the part well, but there seems to be too much of a homage to the first film, so it is a little hard not to draw comparisons when the film is openly inviting you to do so with every turn. I'm not sure if this is coming from the source material, which is the novel where it is based on, but the reminders are a bit irritating and does not work at all. Take for example the character of Snow Vase played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo , it is obvious that she is meant to draw parallels with Jen Yu who was played by Zhang Ziyi in the original movie. For her first scene she actually walked in wearing similar clothes to Jen Yu.

That could have been handled better , instead of making her a Zhang Ziyi stand-in, she should have been allowed to stand on her own, Even if (and I'm assuming here) that she was meant to remind Yu Shu Lien of Jen Yu in the novel, they should have done it in a more subtle way. Because frankly her character was all over the place, by trying to be Jen Yu she falls flat.

None of the other supporting character fared any better. So many of them died , but you wind up not caring for them. I know that there is a limited screen time , but maybe lessening the ensemble cast would have allowed them to be more than just one dimensional characters. Then there is the main villain , Hades Dai played by Jason Scott Lee was a walking caricature. We had no idea what drove him , what he cared about, he was just simply there to be bad.
Another thing that bothers me about this movie is that it doesn't feel like a Wuxia film . I grew up watching movies of that genre and this one is too westernized. The fight choreography was okay, but there is something about how they paced it, and framed it on the screen that feels off. When you watch Wuxia films today from Hongkong, China or Taiwan , fight scenes are shot like a dance , and every frame is a painting. I can see that they attempted to do this, but failed in the nuance. The fights were well done brawls , but they aren't the aesthetically beautiful scenes that Asian cinema is so good at.

The worst mistake though that they did, is the addition of magic. There is nothing wrong with a dash of mysticism, in this film. A seer who spouts prophecy is fine, but the other magic stuff was wrong it felt like, how aliens was added to Indiana Jones, it ruined the continuity and was just ridiculous. Also the CGI , special effects was too much in your face that it looked really fake , again it should have been more subtle.
This movie is sort of entertaining, but really at the core it is bad. If you have seen the first Crouching Tiger, this would be a massive disappointment.It is the sort film that you tend to watch when you are bored and have nothing better to do.

Watch Trailer Here

Directed by: Yeun Woo-Ping

Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien
Donnie Yen as Silent Wolf
Harry Shum Jr. as Wei-Fang
Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Snow Vase
Jason Scott Lee as Hades Dai

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pjinstillers (Painkillers) (2014) - Gjis Blom

Pjinstillers or Painkillers in English is a dutch film about young student and pianist Casper Van Riel who dreams of becoming a composer. At the beginning of the film, he was able to succeed in his audition to join a youth orchestra, but this is dampened by him finding out that his mother who raised him as a single parent has cancer. This causes him to search for the father he has never known, to examine his life, and do whatever he can to keep his beloved mother alive.

 The movie starts out kind of slow, it is to be expected in films of this genre , but it felt like some things were unnecessary. Like the sideline story line of the girl that Casper likes who is just using him. It may have been better if they simply focused on him dealing with his mother, the orchestra , where the true love interest lies , and his search for his father. It felt like simply piling up on Casper for the sake of adding more drama when there is enough in the movie in the first place, although the added dimension of the girl's racist father was amusing it really was not needed.

 As for the performance, many of the supporting characters were pretty mechanical, but the main characters did deliver, Gjis Blom who plays Casper and Susan Radder who plays Anouk, a fellow orchestra member did inject life into the film. Gijs was able to portray sad and stoic without being boring, and Susan was a burst of sunshine in the scenes she was in. Birgit Schuurman who plays Marit , the cancer stricken mother of Casper showed just the right amount of pain , weakness, strength and fun that showed the different facets of her character in a short period.

 The second half of the movie is where things start to get good. When all the fillers were removed , and the film focused on the main story line , and the pace started picking up. It is also where Gijs performance goes from good to excellent. Obviously it may be due to the fact that their is more emotion in this part of the story, but if handled incorrectly it could wind up too melodramatic, it didn't. The last part was more raw and real, except for the cliche bicycle ride and journey to Prague that felt forced and out of place.

 The vague ending seemed useless somehow, a clear resolution to that part of the story may have been better. As a whole the film is actually a mess, and is somehow confused in what it tries to be, is it a drama. a comedy, a teen romance? It tries to be all of that and not wholly succeeding. It can be enjoyable if you get through the first part , since the second half is a delight, just don't expect too much out of it.

 Watch Trailer Here

 Directed by Tessa Schram

Gijs Blom as Casper Van Riel
Birgit Schurman as Marit Van Riel
Susan Radder as Anouk
Massimo Pesik as Pim
Raymond Thiry as Robert Van Laren
Tijn Docter as Felix

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mana (2014)

This was a movie that I really wanted to see, not only did it struck close to home as it was shot and told the story of my home province . The characters , the family in the film , even their old house , reminded me so much of mine . Of course there have been plenty of movies that revolved around the same topic like the grand epic "Oro Plata Mata " (look it up it's a great movie from the 80's,in fact one of the stars of Mana; Cherie Gil is the lead actress in that movie) , still this one is on a different path as it adds a certain supernatural element to the old class-tale that has been retold plenty of times in the small and big screen.

Mana tells the story of an old aristocratic family in the island of Negros who have gathered around their sick Matriarch. The children who now lead separate adult lives are arguing about a mysterious inheritance . While most arguments of this nature tend to be about someone wanting the inheritance, the children are actually fighting because not one of them wants it. Things take a dark turn as various mysterious events unfold, slowly revealing how truly dark the past of this family is.

Despite being an independent production , this movie was able to gather some very big veteran movie stars to play in the ensemble cast, which includes Cherie Gil known for her iconic villain roles and for uttering one of the most famous movie quotes in south-east asian cinema , her brother Mark Gil , a long standing movie star , Jaime Fabregas, Ricky Davao , Epy Quizon a well know character actor and the son of the legendary Dolphy , and Tetchie Agbayani who not had a long career in asian cinema but also starred in a few hollywood films in the 80's . Top performers all , and did they deliver? Oh yes , above and beyond. The acting was superb , every small nuances and movement provided tensions and foreshadowed the dark events unfolding . It was fairly refreshing , usually people who gather in big old houses on horror films are a bunch of horny good-looking screen teenagers who lack any sort of amazing theatrical capability . The cinematography and production design is to be applauded as well and added well to the eerie atmosphere. And on a personal side-note it was fun to see again so many people I know on screen on this movie . Watch this if you can , even if you are not a fan of the genre , their is enough family drama and and back story to entertain without it going to the level of a soap opera, besides the high caliber actors are good enough reason as I have said. Watch Trailer

Directed by : Gabriel Fernandez

Fides Cuyugan-Asensio
Tetchie Agbayani
Ricky Davao
Jaime Fabregas
Cherie Gil
Mark Gil
Jeffrey Quizon

Monday, March 3, 2014

Philomena (2014)

Philomena tells the true story of a mother searching for the whereabouts of her son who was forcibly taken from her 50 years ago by a group of nuns who believed that she had sinned. Despite all this Philomena remains a devout Catholic and would not speak ill of the nuns and kept her secret until she opens it up with her daughter 50 years later . In a chance meeting her daughter meets journalist Martin Sixsmith who is undergoing his own career crisis and convinces him to help her mother find her son. This starts their journey and the course of the entire film.

This movie has a lot of plot twists, so much so that if you never knew it was based on a true story you may end up convinced that it is a work of fiction. In fact the movie plays at this concept , where Philomena ; the title character and mother would often talk to Martin Sixsmith about the novel she has read and how she didn't see that plot twist in the novel coming . Creating a foreshadowing of things that they would discover. As usual the great Judi Dench is phenomenal as Philomena , oh I so love the way that she portrayed the character , and embodied the spirit of the real Philomena . You see I have a soft spot for little old ladies , my , my grandfather had six sisters , only one of them married and those who didn't, doted on me. Aside from that I grew up in a big old house owned by the widow of my grandfathers' cousin who had no children of her own , so you see I had a lot of great aunts around me. And of course , the sweet old lady in this movie reminded me so much of them , particularly since Judi Dench resembled the last of them who passed away. Anyway personal feelings aside , this movie would most likely strike a chord with anyone. And it is not just a simple drama it has hints of intrigue and mystery as well as social commentary on the side . The moments are quiet , but I got excited with every thread unravelling . If it was a novel it'll be a page turner in which you really can't wait to find out what happens next. It is really a beautiful tale , wonderfully acted , and a great movie to simply enjoy . Like Judi Dench, Philomena is phenomenal.

Watch Trailer Here

Directed by Stephen Frears

Judi Dench as Philomena Lee
Sophie Kennedy Clark as Young Philomena
Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith
Barbara Jefford as Sister Hildegarde
Kate Fleetwood as Young Sister Hildegarde
Mare Winningham as Mary Hess
Michelle Fairley as Sally Mitchell
Sean Mahon as Michael Hess

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Direction : This is Us

All right I have a confession to make, online and to the world. I like One Direction, I'm not a fan of them musically , their songs are okay I guess , although I'm a big Ed Sheeran fan and he did write some of their songs which I have listened to and like. I like them as people and celebrities , I saw them in an interview once and they were really funny , after that I saw several more and they were really entertaining and I thought to myself that if this guys ever made a movie or a reality show I'd most probably would watch it . I grew up in the 90's , the golden age of boybands and I have listened to some of them and they are blandly generic. Synchronized dances and with one guy singing and the rest just glorified back up singers , it's not really my cup of tea or coffee.

I'll be making this review mostly for the non-fans, if you are a One Direction fan you'll most likely like anything they do besides it's not like you need to read a critique anyway. The Documentary itself is entertaining , the camera work was good and it presented an intimate look behind the scenes of famous celebrities. I'm fond of reading biographies , mostly of movie stars obviously I'm obsessed with old Hollywood, it is very interesting to see who they are in a private setting . Yes , the Documentary presented some of this , but I don't think they presented enough and they most probably skirted a lot of topics. A documentary is meant to present as much as possible an unbiased look at it's topic , presenting the good and the bad. This movie felt more like a promotional video , I don't know if that is what the fans want , maybe they are just catering to that base . Anyways for those of you who are not fans , it is actually quite interesting. But mostly it is because of the boys themselves , they come along as quite genuine and as I have said in an interview setting they are very entertaining and quite funny. They are even more so in this documentary . This isn't just for girls, this guys will remind you of your closest boyhood friends so much, that you will forget that you are watching celebrities behind the scenes. And just simply laugh at their high jinx. I mostly skipped the concert parts , as I have said I'm not really a fan of their music , but from what I have seen it was well shot. And as I have said it is did not present enough for the behind the scenes look , I'm not saying they should have gotten full paparazzi mode and remove all sense of privacy but I think there were other angles and other aspects of their life that would have made for a great story . They could have expounded on their family life, and the bands' relationship with the crew . So with than in mind it is a good watch even for non-fans . Is it an excellent documentary ? No it really is not up that standard it's good not that good , and half of it is just another concert movie. But I guess that part is good for fans who don't get to see them live, you can skip that like I did anyway.

Watch Trailer Here

Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Niall Horan
Zayn Malik
Liam Payne
Harry Styles
Louis Tomlinson

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hugo (2011)

To say that Hugo is "magical" would be an understatement. This movie has more magic in it than all the syfy movie fantasy specials combined, but then again that is not too much of a stretch. No Hugo is not a fantasy film , but if you want to know what magic I'm talking about you really have to see it . Hugo is actually historical fiction , about a an orphan boy who lives in a Paris train station. I don't really want to give out too much of the synopsis , since it might spoil the "magic" of which I'm talking about. I prefer that you let the movie enfold you as you get to watch the stunning visuals , and experience the twist and turns of it's beautiful storyline. Asa Butterfield who wowed audience in his performance in " The Boy in the Stripe Pyjamas " delivered a performance that could put veteran actors twice his age to shame. Him playing Hugo was an excellent casting choice although I still find it funny why Parisians are always portrayed speaking in a British accent . Anyways the rest of the ensemble , although overshadowed by this young man , seriously even Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley was upstaged by Asa . Still they all delivered a magnificent performance. All characters no matter how small the screen time were all fleshed out . Is it any wonder that this movie won all those Oscars? Or were nominated so much in the year it came out ? Watch it , no matter your age this film would bring wonder to your eyes...

Watch Trailer Here

Directed by : Martin Scorcese

Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès / Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave
Helen McCrory as Jeanne d'Alcy / Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Jude Law as Hugo's father
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Frances de la Tour as Madame Emile
Richard Griffiths as Monsieur Frick
Marco Aponte as a train engineer assistant
Kevin Eldon as policeman
Gulliver McGrath as young Tabard
Angus Barnett as a cinema manager
Ben Addis as Salvador Dalí
Emil Lager as Django Reinhardt
Robert Gill as James Joyce

Monday, February 10, 2014

Boy A (2007)

Many of us know Andrew Garfield as Spiderman. It is the role that made him a Movie Star but Boy A is the movie that made him a great actor and most probably brought him to the Spiderman gig.

The film is the story of a young ex-con incarcerated for killing a young girl , the story is told in flashback as he tries to live a normal life after leaving jail and for his own security assumes a new identity. This is a beautifully dark haunting tale told from a criminal's perspective . And it gripped me from start to finish, Andrew Garfield is perfect in his ability to project a young man coming to terms with the horror of what he did , and how to move on from it. You can actually see the pain from his eyes even at the most enjoyable moments of his new life . And really it gets you thinking , especially on how criminals are shown in the media and how we as a society treat them . Do we rehabilitate or do we punish ? Is someone who did something horrible in the past be beyond redemption? Do they not deserve a second chance? Of course each of us would have a different answer and our own opinion , but at the very least this movie gives us an insight and allows us to question our core beliefs . Which is what makes it a great movie and of course the performance of the cast led by Andrew Garfield . Well written, well acted and beautifully told this movie should not be passed up . Watch it when you get the chance.

Watch Trailer Here

Directed by John Crowley

Andrew Garfield as Eric Wilson / Jack Burridge
Peter Mullan as Terry
Siobhan Finneran as Kelly
Alfie Owen as Eric Wilson
Victoria Brazier as Teacher
Skye Bennett as Angela
Katie Lyons as Michelle
Taylor Doherty as Phillip Craig
Shaun Evans as Chris
Anthony Lewis as Steve