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Spellbound-018

OFFERING A mix of horror and comedy, Spellbound (2011) is a lighthearted romantic comedy, who doesn’t offer much conflict but is surprisingly entertaining.

To be upfront, what sets this film from other films is that it effectively handles horror and comedy. As you may observe, that rarely happens in movies. In logic, as the film puts it, if a heroine, in a horror movie, falls in love, the scary factor loses its effect, because it would be overcome by romance. Without qualifying the situation, how can a person be scared if there’s a person beside her willing to protect her?

That’s why even if there is a couple in a horror film, say in the case of “Shutter”, “Scream” or “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, the romance is usually suspended to make way for the horror. It’s either you gain the element of one genre but you lose the other. In “Spellbound”, you get to keep both. At one point, we get to smile as drunk Yuri rips off Jo-gu’s tailor made shirt. Then the mood shifts, as we see a long-haired abnormally white-skinned tone woman coming out from a frame, matching with a cool breeze wind.    (more…)

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Thor, Iron Man and Captain America wonder what to do next

THE BOX office patrollers confirmed it: “The Avengers” broke the biggest opening weekend, garnering more or less $210 million, and about $700 million worldwide. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hit the $1 billion mark on the next few days.

Of course, the film is more than just statistics. “The Avengers” is as good as an action sci-fi film you can get, offering CGI bonanza, gun-toting enemies, explosive weapons and devices, mashed up with our childhood superheroes, and not to mention the skinny trying-hard villain. You surely won’t miss the fun

Earth’s threat

Borrowed from the “Captain America: The First Avenger,” an energy cube, so called as Tesseract, exists that is capable of housing unlimited source of power and, in the bad hands, also capable for a weapon of mass destruction. Based from “Thor,” Loki, a human-looking alien, is out to get it to destroy the earth and redeem his honor as a rightful king. The earth organizes a highly-skilled team to prevent them, also known as The Avengers.

As epic as this heroic film is, one question might come to your mind: Do I need to watch the previous “solo” films to understand “The Avengers”? It’s not essential but I would recommend it. So you get the mockeries and puns of Ironman when he is talking to out-of-time Captain America, and know why Thor keeps on hoping Loki would have a change of heart, and not reduce it as a homosexual affair. Rest assured, you’ll still adore the film without watching its predecessors. But I have these feeling that after you watch “The Avengers”, you’ll want more. So you probably end up watching the previous “solo” films anyway.

Apart from the clear-cut threat of saving the mother Earth, a threat also exists in the Avengers themselves. They later learn that they have different motives in securing the cube, following the old adage: “Together we stand, divided we fall.” Next to the Manhattan chaos, this is the part I liked the most, since this is the part where we get intimate with them before the breath-taking fight scenes, even though it bar the film for a while for further plot development.

Hawkeye, Captain America and Black Widow are about to enter the fight

Not overrated

You might remember the time when your friend kept raving about a certain film for a week, but when you finally saw it, it was nothing short of a shameless contribution to film making. There are films that get more attention that what they’re worth, but not this one. “Avengers” have cleverly put up a cinematic experience that satisfied its fan base, fairly almost all children and adults alike, and that is hard to come by.  That’s possibly because of not just offering a hard-skinned action but also embedding the screenplay’s wit with each Avenger’s personality, especially with Iron Man.
(Unfortunately, my mother went out of the cinema for a urinal break but didn’t come back. She just couldn’t take chaos. My mother is the tear-jerky type and certainly you can’t expect any in this film. Not to mention, a moviegoer sleeping while the film as its climax.  “Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well” Let’s just not talk about genre stratification but the film per se.”)

The Avengers

Iron Man is not really famous for being a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” nor we like him because of “big man in a suit of armour.” I guess a handful of us identify him as a cynical character who annoys several in the scene, and amuses everyone else outside it. That’s what actually keeps us on the first half, since Thor at this time, together with Hulk, Hawkeye, are somehow underplayed. Captain America still has the spot light – come on we have to give him credit for being “The First Avenger”, and Black Widow tries to keep up being an all-around assistant, (e.g. fetching Hulk, touring Captain America), and for being ravishly beautiful and sexy.

The choice of having multiple character leads is detrimental because it may take some time to sympathize with them or attempting to do so may fall short, giving the other lead more screen time than the others, that’s where “The Avengers” is on the edge. Since the backstories of several of the Avengers have been set-up, there’s less time for nostalgic moments and more for blowing heads off.

More surprisingly, each of them get their own respective moment fighting with the horde of Earth’s conquerors. By this time, Hulk gets more of the attention. He is just too unpredictable. Two of the memorable scenes come from Hulk, and even though he had previously allotted two solo films, people seem to clamor for another.

Hulk calling for battle

The only thing I noticed about the casting is one of the agent of Avengers, played by Cobie Smulders, the famous child-hater Robin from “How I Met Your Mother.” She is an entertaining actor, but in this film her character is reduced to a figurine, a display, a walkie talkie. She could have more of use like Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, who happens to have a one-on-one with Loki.

Since we have multiple characters, I am obliged to name them all, in .gif format, followed by brief description of their powers. They are presented, according from the Vulture, in order of their screen time: (1) Captain America: 37 minutes, 42 seconds, (2) Iron Man: 37 minutes, 1 second, (3) Black Widow: 33 minutes, 35 seconds,(4) Bruce Banner/The Hulk: 28 minutes, 3 seconds(5) Thor: 25 minutes, 52 seconds, and (6) Hawkeye: 12 minutes, 44 seconds.

Chris Evans as Captain America

Captain America has a a superhuman ability after the lab experiment. He can punch, jump, kick and what-not like no other human. But still, he is human. Primary weapon is his shield which was made from a specialized metal that is (1) Bullet proof (2) Boomerang quality (3) Stainless steel, among others.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Iron Man has a suit of armor that have following features: (1) Fly (2) Guns and Missiles (3) Fly as fast as missiles (4) Almost impenetrable and, the most underrated, (5) Music player, among others

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

Black Widow is a professional assassin that specialized in the ff: (1) Martial Arts (2) Stealth weapons (3) Sexy in latex suit.

Mark Ruffalo as Hulk

Hulk has anger management issues that when provoked he obtains the ff: (1) ginarmous green six-pack-abs body (2) formidable strength (3) Jump as high as a skyscraper, and  (4) Looks cute when he is angry.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Thor has the mjolnir, a star-made hammer. With it he can do the ff: (1) call thunder (2) fly at top speed.

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye

Hawkeye is also a professional assassin, that has an incredible marksmanship. . . yea that’s about it.

I guess it would be unfair to leave out Loki. No, he is not an Avenger. He is our skinny trying-hard villian!  But yes he has powers. I’ll leave his powers for you to ponder.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

For the future

The success of “The Avengers” is also helped by the crescendo of the solo hero films. Who wouldn’t want to see these fantastic heroes in action, all in one event, and at the same time? I know I do.

Marvel and Disney have officially announced release dates of the following sequels: Iron Man 3 on May 3rd 2013, Thor 2 on November 15th 2013, Captain America 2 on April 4th 2014. This is also expected that Joss Whedon, the director, will get more recognizable films to direct. Until then, all we have to do is mark our calendars.
Last thoughts

I know there has been some inconsistencies with the film like why Thor’s troops, who swore to protect the Earth, among others, doesn’t come in action, or why the Avengers need Black Widow, or why Hulk can control himself all of sudden. The film also contains a rudimentary plot and not as intricate as “The Dark Knight.” I’m proud to say that these things didn’t really bothered me.  It doesn’t really necessary to seek for answers, when enjoying the questions are enough.

P.S. I know there were many, but what was you’re favorite Avenger scene? (Spoiler) Mine was when Thor says, “He’s adopted”, among others.  That was just hilarious.

IMdB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOrNdBpGMv8

Rating: ★★★★★

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Hugo watching "Safety Last"

Hugo watching “Safety Last”

WHEN YOU are rooting for a character – you want them to succeed, you don’t want them to die, you’d give up everything just to see them happy – then the film has made an impression to you. Just as “Hugo” did for me.

Emptying the pockets

“Hugo” tells the story of Hugo unearthing the mystery of a worn out robot after the wake of his father. On the process, he befriends Isabelle, a girl who fancies book adventures and is hoping to get into one on this quest. Together they not only discover the hidden message but also renews a man drained from his past.

Before you get all jiggly, the “adventure” I’m talking about is not where they cross vast ocean, ride a flying beast, slay monsters, or travel into the new world, which seemed implied by the misleading posters and trailers. This is not Narnia-and-Alice-in-the-Wonderland like, but it does contain the charm and stunning CGI from the two. The adventure here is about a boy learning his purpose, an event that mostly happens in the train station, and I don’t say that as a caveat.

Hugo and Isabelle anticipate what the robot is going to write

An enchanted castle

By far, this is the first modern film I saw that cleverly enhanced the depth of the 2D medium by using dramatic lightning. In every scene there is always a touch of light and shadow, bringing you to the Romanticism period, it’s just “too good to be true”.  Not to mention, the playful use of smokes.  The film has “panache,” and you get the feel of it at the very start of the film where the camera tours around the train station.

I know this isn’t much but I had fun watching the scenes where it cut from an over-the-shoulder shot to a neutral shot. The other day I was reading a cinematography book. Seeing the shots in practice awakes my senses, its’ like the film saying “Look at this!” There are also some spectacular over the head shots and extreme below angle shots. Obviously, it’s more of an aesthetic intention than functional, but it gives the film a different look, telling you this isn’t your ordinary family film.

Surely enough, it isn’t.

Kind to old movies

When I was watching “Hugo”, it reminds me of “Super 8”. Both films are about films. “Hugo” teaches about film history, and “Super 8” celebrates the art of film making. Although unlike “Super 8”, “Hugo” doesn’t fall apart in the third act. You lose interest in “Super 8” after you find out what the hullabaloo is about. But, I’m happy to admit that these two films have a great job building up the climax. They spare you the thrill. Wanting you to want more.

Later in the film, Hugo and Isabelle go to a library, to further their research. They pull out a film book, and, as on that scene, a brief recap of the film history, where an actual footage of the old films are used. You’d also get the idea that the film pays homage to these classics. For instance, in the scene of the “Safety Last” (1923), where a man is about to fall, only hanging on the clock’s hand, is replicated on one of the climactic scene of “Hugo”, where Hugo is being chased by the train inspector.

Apparently, there’s still more. As I read on the internet, the ideas of some of the plot points of “Hugo” are “common” in early cinema. If you want to know more about “Hugo”, read a comprehensive analysis from davidbordwell’s site. It’s lengthy but rewarding.

Hugo mimicking “Safety Last”

Last thoughts

People also say that the story of the film does not deserve a 3D feature, because it’s too shallow. Yes, it’s too shallow. But for me, one of things that I consider that a film is magical is that it transforms people’s small little concerns like it’s the world’s. This is basically what the film does. Maybe you don’t care of a child fixing a robot, but for that child and the owner of a robot, it means a lot, it means their life. And at the end of the day, provided that their characters are played out well, that is only what matters.

P.S. I’m just wondering, since this is set in Paris, why doesn’t the characters talk in French?

His “best” smile

IMdB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0970179/

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR-kP-olcpM (not recommended)

Rating: ★★★★★

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The fallen angel's smile

In the story, Japan experiences serious economic downturn, which is evident by “the 15% unemployment” and “800,000 students boycotted school and juvenile crime rates soared”. Japan’s government is forced to pass the Battle Royale Act, whereby a set of students are dropped in an island with one goal: to kill each other until only one is alive.

Character and emotional depth

One reason why watch Asian films, particularly in Japan, Korea and India, is that it digs an abyssal emotional depth that their western counterpart can’t match. Like most Asian films, “Battle Royale” still have purity and innocence, even though it ironically celebrates violence.

But if there is a slight modification for improvement it would be to build more relationships of the characters at the start of the film. Show the lovers. Show the best friends. That way when you see a friend killed, or a friend running after you, waving pistol in air, it would be more gripping and heart-breaking. Besides, it wouldn’t be hard to set up that drill since the chosen participants are a high school class and not some random street kids plucked from the pavement.

Will this film make you cry? No, but it’s really sad. A boy arrives in an abandon warehouse, where a girl hides. The boy calls out her name but the girl panics and she shoots him. The boy is dying only to find out that he comes to confess his long silent love. It’s sweet. But sad. There’s even a group of girls getting killed for a misguided argument. You can really see how insanity corrupts even the most kind and cute person.

“Battle Royale” is based on a 1999 Japanese novel penned by Koushun Takami. Apart from film, it also has a manga version. On the film release of “Battle Royale”, it has been controversial on its idea of killing and has been banned on several countries. Nonetheless, it’s still considered as one of the  best film made in the decade. More information about their wiki page.

Nanahara retrieving a photo after seeing his best friend killed

Did it achieve its goal?

The Battle Royale Act was approved to warn and discipline the youngsters of their misdeeds. Unfortunately, this is the part where the film fails to show. At the start of the film, we see the winner of the recent batch of Battle Royale. The winner looks horrid and twisted. But if cut to the outside world, we don’t really see much violence in what the film is trying to show, only a teacher getting stabbed for fun and a father on a suicide but all of you will agree that isn’t enough. “A Clockword Orange” scenes would have been good sample for a teenage outrage.

You would think that this ridiculous violent act of forcing teenagers to kill other teenagers to at least make some impact to the outside world, but you never really see so. The film lacks visual elements to support its narrative ones. This makes me think that the whole Battle Royale is just put up to provide a cunning entertainment with no grounds. Although that is not what the film is trying to achieve, but it has certainly implied so.

Kitano, the proctor of the program, perceived as the ultimate villain

Battle Royale and its influence

After seeing films like “Inglorious Basterds” and “Kick Ass”, both films who are indebted to “Battle Royale”, it’s sad to admit that the former is more visually superior than the later, and has better narrative. After watching Battle Royale, although it’s already gory, I thought it was still conservative in showing flesh and blood, comparing it to the other films. Just as “Hunger Games” will be more popular than “Battle Royale”. To reiterate the old adage: “It’s sad but true”.

Addendum: Battle Royale and The Hunger Games

The hit movie blockbuster “The Hunger Games” (blog review) has been gravely compared to Battle Royale. Most Battle Royale fans say that “the Hunger Games” is no good, not new and just a ripped off of the former because of the following recurrent subjects: evil and corrupt government, and teenage killing. I won’t deny the similarities but I won’t also say that Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale.

Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games Trilogy, haven’t heard of “Battle Royale” until finishing her first book, and suffice to say she has a different sources of her inspiration. Besides, the idea of kids/teenagers killing each other for survival is not an eye opener.   We first heard it from a 1954 novel written by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies”, (blog review) at least as far as history can record. But that also can’t guarantee that it is the first story to tackle about cute little kids running around with spears. Who knows what stories have been told by our ancestors?  Not to mention “Battle Royale” has been rumored to pluck inspiration from “Lord of the Flies”. So originality is out of the context.

Original or copied, as long as the film looks fresh and/or entertaining, we couldn’t care less. Don’t you think?

IMdB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0p1t-dC7Ko&feature=related

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Jim McAllister sees one of his student after several years

Jim Macalister is a dedicated and renowned high school teacher, and couldn’t “imagine doing anything else”. Teaching is his life.  He is voted Teacher of the Year 3 times, as he humbly boasts as a “school record.” Due to several travesty leading to another and another, he will not be getting his fourth. On the bright side, the reason is also a school record.

Qualities
What’s different about this film is it compliments several main characters in the film. We get a first point of view narration from each of them, and these add up to the humor: “Dear God, thank you for all your blessings. You’ve given me so many things, like good health, nice parents, nice truck and what I’m told is a large penis.”  There’s also some ironical comedy, for instance, on one scene, a student says, “. . . do you think Tracy would be okay”? The teacher replies, “Don’t worry about Tracy. She’ll be fine.” Then we cut into Tracy crying in her room.

The film does produce good comedies, and even includes some obscenity, but it doesn’t undermine the message it’s trying give. And I must say, I liked how they revealed it. It’s not spoon-fed like the typical comedic drama flicks.

Tracy Flick

Paul Metzler

Tammy Metzler

The Election

Of course, the one that ruins Mr. Macalister is the school election. As days moved to the election, his life is getting out of hand, both his school and personal life. It all starts when Mr. Macalister encouraged Paul to run for Presidency against Tracy, the supposed to be “default” President since she is running unopposed beforehand. Then there is a conflict of interest when suddenly Paul’s sister, Tammy, runs for Presidency, with a platform of dismantling the student government, an idea that students praised so they wouldn’t be able to sit on “stupid assemblies” again.

Instead of one, there are three candidates: Tracy, the overachiever and the ambitious, Paul, the popular sports guy, and Tammy, the “real” high school student, a student that doesn’t really cares. Contrary to what you would expect, the candidates are not the one to ruin Mr. Macalister. It’s himself.

Ferris and Marlena (Spam paragraph)

Matthew Broderick plays Mr. Macalister and Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy. Looking back now, Broderick has grown older, though I can’t think of him as man without thinking of that carefree teenager on “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off”, a film that continuously breaks the fourth wall. Witherspoon then in this film looks so young, and it’s hard to believe that I watched her play Marlena on “Water for Elephants.”  Without a doubt, they have played their greatest performances in this film.

I just had to mention to their names. That’s what happens when you are emotionally attached.

Tracy driving really fast after doing something mischievous

Message

The message of the film are – I’m about to spoil it – multiple. What do you expect? We have multiple characters. The characters in the film are flawed, and at the end of the film, they remain flawed. These should make the moral easier to spot, but this is a different case. The multiple points of views have contrasting closure, giving you a hard time getting a universal moral. In the end, I ended up more having more than I expected.

Basically the film tells us that peace comes from forgiveness, success is not a measure of happiness, and high school love is too early for eternity, among others. But wait until you see how the film presents it.

 

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The Movie Poster

ONCE A poor farm girl in love with a poor farm boy, Buttercup is going to be the next queen of the kingdom, the last thing she could have done hadn’t she heard that her lover is dead from his sail. Little did she know that there is a plot to kidnap her, as part of a feud between the neighbouring kingdom. Least did she know that there is a masked swordsman out to save her life.

A comedy for a lifetime

If you’re just out for a bad day, or things haven’t turned out as you expect them to, this film will break the ice. It’s really funny, well-written tale. They all have this witty dialogue that will keep ringing in your head. (“Inconceivable!”) And as if this isn’t enough, the film has still a lot to offer. You get fencing, a tour in the Dark Black Forest which houses R.O.U.S’s (Rodents of Unusual Size), a six-finger man and what-not.

Although it’s a bit aged, released in 1981, it still makes good laugh. Partly because the film is set-up from medieval times and of its universal appeal. But mostly because of the dialogue. (Thanks to William Goldman!) In fact it’s really old that visual effects have not properly evolved. On a fencing scene, a man is continuously hit by his opponent, but the blood doesn’t come out until the next cut. I don’t know if it’s intentional or a fall short of technology but it contributes on how amusing the film is.

Special mention to characters

Apart from the hilarious lead characters, the extra characters shine as well. One is the Albino, who serves for the villain and is currently living in the Darkest Pit. He is really weird, and his looks are somewhat maniacal , uncombed hairs, masked freckles. He is supposed to be scary but I perceived him as comical. Now, why is that? Another is the clergyman, who speaks gibberish, and mocks the soon-to-be-wed couples. I would love to see their characters again someday.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last thoughts

Today a lot of comedy films have been released, with their high-tech technology backed with sophisticated shots, so why would you spend a time on “Princess Bride”? One word: script. This film has reminded, again and again, that no matter how the elements of the filmed played out, story is king. Always has been, and always will be.

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Annie with Alvy at the park, mocking people who pass by

“ANNIE HALL” is not a film entirely about Annie. The film is about Alvy Singer, a man in his forties and after failing two marriages, he is already up for one.

What’s so great about Alvy Singer?

Not so much. He is not entirely handsome but, yes, you might find him attractive. He has a self-centered personality, and a bit talkative about psychoanalysis, which I find doubtful since he keeps talking about this theories that somehow just pulled random out of his sleeves. (All I know about psychoanalysis is that it came from Freud and all about Freud is that sex is an essential part of life.) He is not tall. He doesn’t have a great personality but, I won’t deny it, he is funny.  He is also too rational. One more thing, he is played by Woody Allen.

Annie Hall, on the other hand, is a beautiful, submissive woman and, like Allen, has humor. Allen meets her while playing tennis, and from then on they keep striking on wits. (more…)

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