Archives for January 2012

Midnight in Paris (Quick Review)

Midnight in Paris PosterRating: ★★★★☆

“Midnight in Paris” is a charming little movie that takes us through the most substantial days in the life of Gil (Owen Wilson), an American in Paris. If you are suddenly reminded of the 1951 Gene Kelly musical, then I commend you. The heroes of both movies are struggling artists who hunger for an inspiration the size of a city. That the capital of France is universally regarded as a stimulant of our mind’s creativity offers no mystery. Elegant by day and dashing by night, Paris is a city of history and architecture, of fashion and romance, of music and dancing, of wine and art. Gracefully photographed by director Woody Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji, the movie might just prevent arguments between newlyweds who can’t agree on their honeymoon destination.

Gil is an established screenwriter who dreams of writing a novel. He believes that his stay in Paris will provide the atmosphere he needs. Joy and excitement is seen in Gil as he wanders through the city streets. But he is alone in his admiration. His fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), is unsupportive and unfaithful; her eyes drawn by the intellect of another man. Her parents, who are skeptical and obnoxious, are not helping. Straying away from the discouragement, he finds a place of stillness and insight. Every midnight, in the same, empty street, Gil is picked up by the same, classy car, which transports him to 1920’s France. This change in era makes it possible for Gil to become acquainted with some great men of literature, like Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot. That is one awesome car ride. In my country, all unusual cars that pick you up around midnight will probably keep you there until your family comes up with the ransom money.

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Midnight in ParisFor obvious reasons, Gil gets hooked in this midnight routine, and he slowly convinces himself that he is a man in the right place at the wrong time. Or maybe he’s just simply with the wrong people. The movie understands the dissatisfaction that some people feel and the alternate lives they create as a distraction. The theme is similar to Allen’s previous film, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stanger”, but “Midnight in Paris” is written more thoughtfully. It has a more endearing hero, and it has a more interesting premise. And it has a nicer view, too.

Tangled

Rating: ★★★★★Tangled Poster

Walt Disney Animation Studios has regained its touch and reclaimed its glory. After a decade of churning out animated flicks that only served as a shadow to the works of Dreamworks, they have finally created something that deserves a place in my heart. Yeah, I agree how the latter part of my previous sentence was covered with cheese. But that’s how the movie made me feel – Cheesy. I developed affection for its characters, and I felt the loss in its tragedy. Also, I released a couple of blushes towards its romance. As the loveless chap that I am, I’m usually unaffected by mushy moments in movies, but not this time. “Tangled” is just too darn adorable.

Let me share with you a quick story. My childhood was blessed beyond grace, for it was nurtured by a loving, gentle woman: my mother. As amazing as she is, we abide by the truth that nobody’s perfect, and my dear mother had poor discernment when it came to animated movies. She was numb to the genre; identifying animated characters as nothing more than plastic objects. So you could tell that I was filled with delight when she informed me that she had enjoyed “Tangled”. The makers back at Disney must have done something incredibly right. I mean, even I had a special fondness for the movie, where most of it is directed at its young princess. If Rapunzel ever gets thrown into the real world, like Amy Adam’s Giselle in “Enchanted”, I’ll be the guy to catch her. And now this movie review has extra cheese.

Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in TangledDisney’s update on her classic story has some minor alterations and a few additions, but it faithfully retains the essential components. Her hair is as long as we imagined it and the tower is just as imprisoning as we can remember. Stolen as an infant from her royal parents, Rapunzel is a lost princess who’s unaware of her own identity. Because her stepmother slash kidnapper, Mother Gothel, has never allowed Rapunzel to leave her tower, she lives her life in endless curiosity. “Tangled” starts a few days before Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, where she encounters Flynn Rider, a wanted bandit in search of a refuge. When the uninvited Flynn sets foot inside the tower, Rapunzel knocks him out with a frying pan. Their relationship can only get better from that point on.

This is the most I’ve fallen in love with a Disney princess, probably because Rapunzel so greatly reminds me of the girl I secretly like. At the very instant where Rapunzel steps down from her prison, she reveals an enthusiastic sense of wonder that has become so uncommon in today’s people. Her perception is undamaged by the cynicism of this world; she sees things with fresh and eager eyes. And talk about her eyes. Yes, her blonde, magical hair is both an instrument of healing and an emblem of beauty, but it’s her green, puffy eyes that got to me. I would very much like to shake the hands of her inspired animators. Did you know that my mother fell for the boyish charms of Flynn Rider?

Lantern Scene in TangledI think the appeal of the characters has something to do with the mesmerizing artistry committed to the movie’s look. The animation is flamboyant and flawless. The strokes of sunlight and artificial light, when in contact with the broad usage and mixture of colors, add a bright dimension that 3-D cannot match. Along with the alluring appearance of “Tangled” is a narrative of surprising dramatic depth. These two strengths reached its highest point in a wonderfully illuminating sequence involving paper lanterns that symbolizes both hope and heartbreak. During this sequence, my heart melted when I saw her green, puffy eyes gleam with awe and happiness, but enough of my cheese.

I’m disappointed at myself for having neglected this magical movie for an unhealthy stretch of time. Sure, I can make a legitimate excuse by stating the fact that I am physically incapable of watching every movie ever released, but excuses won’t get me far. I must try harder. I have a few friends who keep bugging me to watch movies like “The Shining”, “Almost Famous”, “Spirited Away”, etc. They promised me that these are all excellent movies. I’m sure they’re right, and I better get started.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes 2 PosterRating: ★½☆☆☆

It was in 1887 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first began to author Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective that would later be regarded as a treasure by the literary scholars of then and now. A hundred and twenty-two years pass by, and the concept of the Holmes character has been reduced to a business strategy, thanks to Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” of 2009. The detective has been given a modern makeover, and now shares many attributes similar to your average ass-kicker. Pity.

Nonetheless, my rule to view each film with an open mind allowed me to enjoy Ritchie’s adaptation as an action film with an unabashed marketing advantage. I was humble enough to admit my admiration for the 2009 movie, rewarding it with a positive rating. It was possessed with great energy and crazy humor, much of which was contributed by an ecstatic Robert Downey Jr. But this incoherent and sloppy sequel is a jab to the senses, doubling the madness while forsaking the few charms that occupied the original. Vapidly designed as nothing more than an overcooked version of its successful predecessor, “A Game of Shadows” is an annoying attempt at a second run at the box office.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes 2Good ‘ol Sherlock is just one of countless other victims that has fallen under the greedy hands of 21st century Hollywood. Production studios have this obsession of scavenging for iconic brand names and turning it into a blockbuster movie. Heck, they couldn’t care less about staying true to the source material. All they’re aiming for is the darn title. Warner Brothers, for example, borrows the beloved name of Mr. Holmes, uses it as their film’s title, and overshadows most of Sir Arthur’s content with an exhausting assault of special effects. With strategies like this, those studios have a guaranteed hit. A most recent example of this formula will be released later this year: “Battleship”.  And so we have arrived to that sad time where Hollywood has started adapting board games. The story? Aliens… yes, aliens… have arrived to blow up our planet, or something, and it’s up to a few naval ships to save the day. Hey, either I missed an update on the board game, or Hollywood has done it again.

Back to “A Game of Shadows”. Late 19th century London is being devastated by numerous bombings. The purposes are unclear and the perpetrator is unknown. Holmes suspects the crimes to be the work of Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), an intelligent conspirator with connections to weapon-making companies. Holmes investigates, and the plot thickens. And then it thickens some more. And then it does some more thickening until it becomes thicker than, say, Madonna’s make-up. That’s a lot of plot. Conversations between characters are mostly recitations of joyless exposition, which are only broken up by Ritchie’s stylishly senseless special effects. Ritchie has a talent for fun, snappy dialogue, but the plot leaves very little room for any of it.

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock HolmesToo bad. There is a quick stretch in the movie, inside a speeding train, that had achieved a balance, where Holmes is caught in a battle between an army of bullets and an outburst from a newly married Dr. Watson (Jude Law). Things become livelier, and funnier, when Holmes has to simultaneously deal with his professional and personal life, and Watson’s wife could have been a great addition to the adventure. My hope for her participation diminished right about the time where she gets thrown out of the train halfway into the sequence. She survives the fall, causing several injuries to the plot.

I wish the “A Game of Shadows” had sidetracked more from the plot to Sherlock’s dealings with Watson’s marriage, much like how first movie sidetracked to his flirtatious encounters with the gritty Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). But no luck. (Spoiler Alert!) The film’s predecessor benefited much from Ms. Adler’s presence, and this sequel thanks her by killing her in the first half hour? (End Spoiler) What a waste. Why not just throw her off a train, so they could bring her back for the inevitable Sherlock Holmes 3?

Final Destination 5

Final Destination 5 PosterRating: ★½☆☆☆

It’s fascinating to notice that the “Final Destination” movies don’t really contain a bloodthirsty villain. They all start out with a teenager’s premonition of an ill-timed freak accident that’ll potentially kill dozens of innocent people. None of the soon-to-be victims probably deserve to die that way, but things like that happen in reality. The premonition offers a last-minute escape, and a small group of fortunate individuals make it to safety. They have cheated Death itself. That’s where Death steps in. He, or she, or it, reclaims what destiny owes him by setting up new, improvised accidents that should be enough to kill the survivors. Death is just catching up with his job.

It is an original and exciting premise that sparked attention when it was first introduced back in 2000. Eleven years and four sequels later, and we’ve just about lost its point. Maybe there isn’t a point to begin with. The “Final Destination” movies exist exclusively to perform fatal experiments on the human body. Within its head is a sadistically curious brain that asks questions like: “What would happen to a perfectly healthy male Caucasian if he gets in the way of barbed wire that’s flying towards him at 70 miles per hour?” “And what would an 18-year-old’s face look like after it is repeatedly shot by a nail gun at point black range?” Where do the film’s writers get their inspiration? The deleted scenes of “Jackass”? The diary of Chuck Norris? Where?

Final Destination 5- Death by Gymnastics“Final Destination 5” remains faithful to its tradition by formulating a new set of life-ending scenarios. Against their will and schedule, a fresh batch of hopeless teenagers is drafted into the recycled story. The novelty of the idea is long gone, but at this point in the franchise, it’s just a matter of how creative the deaths are, and how good they are paced and set up. Compared to the superior first two installments, Part 5 is too redundant and anticlimactic – you get the feeling that there’s something wrong with a movie that starts with a spectacular bridge collapse and climaxes with a brawl in a kitchen – yet it inevitably improves upon the two horrendous sequels that came before it. The movie has one clever and suspenseful death, and the Signature Disaster Sequence at the beginning is the most terrifying disaster yet, but that’s about it.

Our group of survivors shrinks in number as they are “coincidenced” to death. As these booby traps align themselves into position, I would imagine Death calculatingly loosening all the screws and spilling all the liquids and knocking down all the remotes he can find. Things must be pretty boring in Hell for him to go through all this unnecessary effort. No offense to him but, I believe he may be losing his touch. Except for the incredibly gripping gymnasium scene, the death scenes are mostly composed of the same kinds of slipping, puncturing, and crushing we’ve endlessly witnessed in the first four films.

Final Destination 5 (Bridge Collapse Sequence)The problem with horror franchises that overstay their welcome is that they eventually stop being shocking. It happened to Freddy, Jason, and Michael. And now it’s happening to Death, too. A possible remedy for this self-inflicted curse would be to add in a little irony and humor. The only positive thing about the dreadful “House of Wax” remake was the prolonged and savored murder of the Paris Hilton character. For the next “Final Destination”, instead of casting a group of unknown teenage actors, why not send an invitation to Sarah Palin, M. Night Shyamalan, and the main cast of “Twilight”?

No joke. Think of the publicity. The faces on the poster would be the entire advertising campaign… like The Expendables! Imagine how the cast would greatly encourage the writers to come up with more exciting and gruesome deaths. Some of you might accuse me of meanness. Not true. There’s been a shortage of fun horror movies recently, and I’m trying to help here. Look how much popularity C.S.I. received after it decided to unload a firing squad on Justin Bieber.