Saturday, December 29, 2012

Django Unchained

Spaghetti Western—or is a Spaghetti Southern more appropriate?—about slave-turned-bounty hunter Foxx and companion/mentor dentist-turned-bounty hunter Waltz making their flesh-for-cash living, ultimately ending up at the Candyland Plantation to rescue Django's estranged wife Washington. Very much a Tarantino film, delivering homages to the genre in the same manner as "KILL BILL: VOL. 2" and "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS"; however, this addition to Tarantino's impressive filmography as director/writer is possibly the least dialogue-driven, even more so than "KILL BILL: VOL. 1". To some who did not care for or are not familiar with "RESERVOIR DOGS" and "PULP FICTION", this may not be a disappointment. On the other hand, viewers/fans who are very much familiar with Tarantino's style of making full use of his actors' words, expressions and interactions—a style which has gained him much praise—might be slightly let down that "DJANGO UNCHAINED" is more about visuals and less about emotion. Well-acted, with plantation owner DiCaprio and his head slave Jackson offering the most memorable performances. Foxx is great, but delivers an interchangeable performance; and Waltz is more than charming, but his talents are put to very similar use as in "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS". Neither Foxx nor Waltz should be criticized as they obviously gave it their best; perhaps the problem is that the two lead roles are two-and-a-half-dimensional characters—not quite two-dimensionally dull and not quite three-dimensionally gripping… they are both caught in that invisible world between script and screen. The film's flaws are not quite apparent until the climatic sequence, a point of the film that changes from slick and stylish to complete sloppiness. Did they use red dye and varnish for the blood or what? But even from a critical standpoint, at least 75% of the film is terrific and most shortcomings are only skin deep.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Expendables 2

Follow-up to the 2010 action/adventure, this time with more stars and more action. Another sequel that fails to see that more isn't always merrier. Just like in the first, Stallone and Statham are the only ones with any purpose while the rest of the group is just there because they were once popular tough guys. Rourke's absence creates a void, though his character didn't do much in the first movie anyway—his uselessness is actually substituted with Chuck Norris' couple walk-on cameos that add nothing to the story; and Li annoyingly gets third billing again despite his character being drastically smaller than in the first film. It's nice to see Schwarzenegger and Willis' characters expanded though. Jean-Claude Van Damme joins the cast as the main antagonist; however, a guy like him should have been a way better bad guy than Eric Roberts was. The first film was refreshing because it didn't fall into the trap of corny lines, and the setting was original and interesting; unfortunately, this film does not have the same quality. The climax is especially lame. No sign of Giselle Itié; instead, we are introduced to Yu Nan, who briskly shoves herself into the movie like a token Bond girl. Must the women in these films be so… expendable (no pun intended)? Add yet another sequel to the inferior list.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Expendables

It's funny when the trailers, posters and other movie-advertisements make a film look cornier than it actually is. Stallone's 2012 action/adventure—though not perfect, but very entertaining—falls into this category. A tight-knit group of mercenaries go to Vilena to stop an evil ex-CIA officer (Roberts) who is using a powerful general (Zayas) as a puppet to dictate the small helpless island. The setting, design, style and tone of the film are all superb; and while the action is above-par, it gets a bit cartoonish and fails to be mind-blowing. While the acting and choice of casting is exceptional, the characters are either cliché, hypocritical or both—Zayas seems to be the only actor amongst the large ensemble that brings to life a character convincingly conflicted and three-dimensional. The amount of characters is completely unnecessary, with most of them lacking any purpose—even Mickey Rourke can't seem to earn his keep despite having a terrific monologue mid-film. While the pros outweigh the cons, there are a couple of unacceptable missteps in this blockbuster homage. Have fun watching, because that's all it really offers… and that's not a bad thing…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Week with Marilyn

An interesting and delightful film adaptation of two Colin Clark (played terrifically shyly by Redmayne) books taking place during the making of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. The spotlight is no doubt saved for Marilyn Monroe, played convincingly—not just physically—by Williams. However, despite the story's involvement of someone as iconic as Monroe, the interest tends to focus more on those around her, such as Ormond, Portal, Wanamaker, Scott and especially Branagh as Sir Laurence Oliverier, the latter of which steals the show—only Marilyn should steal the show, but not in this reenactment. Still, a terrific film with so much greatness going for it: set designs, scenery, pacing, etc. Take a look at the actors' facial expressions and the pausing between lines; acting at its best.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Scott directs this implicit prequel to his terrifying 1979 sci-fi noir classic ALIEN about a crew's exploration on a distant planet that might have the answers to the origin of mankind and the meaning of life. Great subtle nods to the other films in the franchise, especially ALIEN; however, the touches of horror turn into sci-fi/action nonsense by film's end, with very little (if any) neo-noir elements that made ALIEN such a fantastic film. Admirable that CGI was used as little as possible outside of establishing-shots and Streitenfeld's score is one of the best that the industry has offered in the last few years. PROMETHEUS is nicely packed with ambiguity and symbolism to keep itself fresh even after multiple viewings; however, when a film has this incredibly graceful method of storytelling, why make the protagonist someone seeking answers instead of asking questions? It's a contradiction of how the audience is intended to feel and therefore distances us from our main character. Star Rapace looks weak and plays the main character equally timid to her physical appearance, with no emotional strength whatsoever; and Marshall-Green's casting as her partner and love-interest is so mismatched and unnecessary. Did they really need 45-year-old Pearce to play a 103-year-old man? UGH! There are plenty of talented elderly actors who could have handled this simple role. At least Elba, Fassbender and Theron are pleasant and portray interesting characters to make up for the terrible casting of Marshall-Green, Pearce and Rapace. Lots of pros, but lots of cons—a decent film should at least have a couple more pros than it does cons, but PROMETHEUS' pros and cons are pretty equal.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gardens of the Night

Drama about San Diego streetwalkers Jacobs and Ross and how they came to be through years of sexual abuse. Brave, disturbing and insightful, yet strangely ceases to be thought-provoking—it pretty much is what it is. Tom Arnold is standout in possibly the best role of his career, not to mention Perrineau pulling the audience into Hell with just one unforgettably disturbing scene. Suffers from the FULL METAL JACKET-effect, where the first act easily tops the second act—and something is askew when the child actors (Simpkins and Smith) are easily stronger than the adult actors playing the same characters (Jacobs and Ross). The romantic undertones between the two leads are interesting, but nonetheless questionable as it distracts and interrupts more important conflicts at hand.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Charismatic computer-animated musical comedy about two Spix's Macaws on the run in Rio de Janeiro from three bird smugglers and their crusty evil Macaw (voiced viciously perfect by Jemaine Clement). One of the macaws is a flightless domestic, trying to find his owner Mann who's equally lost in the large Brazilian city; while the other is a wild bird trying to escape to freedom. Along the way, they come across many colorful (no pun intended) characters played by, Foxx, Lopez and Morgan. What makes this film such a delight is the accuracy at recreating the wonderful avian creatures for the big screen. The comedy can be a bit too slapstick at times, and the musical numbers have the misfortune of being completely out of place; but the film not only has an appeal for parents and children alike, but also any bird lover.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Low-budget British thriller about millionaire daughter Alice Creed (Arterton) who's taken hostage by two men, one seemingly the mastermind of the kidnapping (Marsan), the other one—the Irish one—timid and mysterious (Compston); but Alice is not going to make their scheme easy. Smooth-running for a film with only three characters and the use of the cello on Marc Canham's score is phenomenal. But there are plenty of cons to go with those pros. The plot and conflict aren't anything new; there are a couple of sections in the film where character's common sense should play a factor, but doesn't; and the climax is pretty much a back-and-forth showdown to assist the story of reaching over 90 minutes, unmasking its lack of substance

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Red Riding Hood

Beautifully filmed take on Little Red Riding Hood with the identity of the wolf being the central conflict of this whodunit. However, the hipster approach at a story supposedly taking place in the 1300 is more than frustrating, and the acting and soundtrack doesn't help the film. Also suffers how unlikable every single character is; a story should grab the audience either by an interesting story or charismatic characters--good films do both, bad films do neither… this film is unfortunately the latter. The worst part about this movie is knowing how easy it could've been to make it a halfway decent film, but stupidly steered off track to follow in TWILIGHT's footsteps--it achieved it in quality, but not in quantity.