Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm writing this at the final hours of 2011. Let me greet you all a very happy and safe New Year!

I actually have a movie-related New Year's tradition which I've been practicing for a few years now. I make the last film I watch (or the first depending on how you see it) for the year be Jacques Tati's classic epic comedy Playtime. Why? Because it's one of my favorite films of all time and for good reason, it's a wonderful, warm, funny look at modernity and a celebration and triumph and joy of humanity. Such a wonderful, life-affirming message for the new year. Each time I see it I discover something new. These clips don't do justice to the visuals of the film so I highly recommend that you see it on the big screen or a good quality TV screen at least!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Great Scenes # 18: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

I featured a great movie monologue last week so here's another one. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, otherwise known as the Archers. It follows the life of an accomplished British military officer named Clive Wynne-Candy from World War I to World War II. This scene is an unforgettable and truly heartbreaking scene featuring an old friend of his, who happened to be a German officer during World War I who rejects Nazism. He is played by Anton Walbrook and probably features one of the top 5 greatest acting scenes ever captured on film. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (12/18/11 - 12/24/11)

Little Sister (Robert Jan Westdijk) **1/2 - This is an interesting little Dutch film made around 1995, and it definitely shows. It was one of those films with the characters filming themselves. Once you get past the already tired gimmick, there are some good stuff in there. It's about a guy who tries to reconnect with his estranged sister with whom he has shared a traumatic incident in childhood. The film goes to all sorts of directions, some of which could render one queasy. But the performances are pretty good and the way it handled its subject matter is tasteful. This film strongly reminds me of Chuck & Buck in a way. I wonder if the latter film took inspiration from the former film.

Calle Mayor (Juan Antonio Bardem) ***1/2 - It's always nice to discover hidden gems. This is one of them. It's a Spanish film about a spinster (only in her mid-30's but considered an old maid in this particular time and place) who is a target of a very cruel prank by a group of bored middle-aged men. They get a guy to court her and propose marriage to her. The guy tries to back out when she falls in love with him for real. American actress Betsy Blair plays the woman and her dialogue was dubbed into Spanish but still her great performance shone through. It's a wonderful little-known film.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas! (...a bonus listology)

First of all, I'd like to greet all my readers a very Merry Christmas (or whatever other holiday you celebrate). This is a bonus listology where I present my Top 5 favorite Christmas movies. No, I did not forget It's a Wonderful Life, even though that may be a perennial Christmas staple. To be honest, I find that film a tad overrated (maybe it's because it's been overhyped for me when I saw it). But I do have an alternative Christmas feel-good film as a worthy substitute, along with four others. Here they are:

 05. A Christmas Tale (2008, Arnaud Desplechin)

For arthouse film lovers and people who are a little less than enthused about the holidays than most people (or both), this is the film for you. It's about a dysfunctional family who gather together for the Christmas celebration as one of their members (Catherine Deneuve, wonderful as always) gets a cancer diagnosis and is looking for a bone marrow match. Make no mistake: This is no manipulative tear-jerker of a film. It does go into all sorts of unpredictable, at times even dark and sometimes rather funny directions. It's a wonderful little film that can be viewed any day of the year.

04. Scrooged (1988, Richard Donner)

Not all critics and film buffs agree with this one but this is a personal favorite of mine. It also reminds me that Bill Murray is such a wonderful actor. It's basically the retelling of the classic A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens story in the modern setting and this time Scrooge is a TV executive. It's not a perfect film but it's got plenty of good holiday cheer coupled with Bill Murray's brand of humor.

03. The Shop Around The Corner (1940, Ernst Lubitsch)

Bickering co-workers fall in love with people they correspond with via mail, not knowing they're actually writing to each other. This is a classic Hollywood romantic comedy from its Golden Age. It features a strong ensemble cast led by Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. Christmas does not actually figure into it until the third act but I still consider it a Christmas movie anyway. Beware the inferior 1998 remake, You've Got Mail.

02. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, Henry Selick)

There are lots of Christmas animated films from all sorts: Hand-drawn, stop-motion, CGI. But out of those which I've seen over the years, few have equaled but none have topped Henry Selick's and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. From Danny Elfman's great score to the astounding visuals which ingeniously blends dark, creepy images with holiday cheer with equal glee. 

01. The Bells of St. Mary's (1945, Leo McCarey)
Like The Shop Around The Corner, Christmas does not actually figure into this film in its entirety but it's one of the major plot arcs in it. Nevertheless, I say that's good enough for me to qualify it as a Christmas film. This is actually a sequel to the Best Picture Oscar winner Going My Way however, I consider this film superior in every respect. It's about a priest who helps out a group of nuns run a parochial school. It's a sweet, humane, heartfelt film. It's A Wonderful Life is often credited as the feel-good holiday movie of all time. However, I felt that more strongly in this film than in that film. If any of you are sick of It's a Wonderful Life, I strongly suggest this as an alternative. You won't regret it.

Well, that's it. Just five since it's a "bonus" one. And again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Great Scenes # 17: Network (1976)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

In many ways, Network is very much chillingly ahead of its time. No other scene illustrates this more than this scene where an executive, Arthur Jensen, brilliantly (if a bit over the top) played by Ned Beatty vents his rage on Howard Beale (Peter Finch). If you closely follow recent events from the financial disasters and the news of bought politicians in Washington, the words here are quite prophetic. This scene though relatively brief earned Ned  Beatty a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (12/11/11 - 12/17/11)

Oops. Sorry for the delay.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird) ***1/2 - When I heard that Brad Bird, one of my favorite animated feature directors who directed three winning animated features in a row, is going into live-action, I was thrilled and curious to see what he would bring to the table. When I found out his first foray into live-action would be the fourth Mission: Impossible movie, i was WAAAAHHHH?!?!? But my fears were unfounded because this is without a doubt the BEST Mission: Impossible movie to date. It took the good elements of the last one, built on it and Bird injected his humor (with the help of Simon Pegg) and gift for characterization. He creates a strong, solid escapist action adventure that at long last actually FEELS like an actual Mission: Impossible movie rather than a glossy vehicle for Tom Cruise to show how masculine and awesome he is at stunts.

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) **** - This is actually my third or fourth time watching this in as many years. It's still a visually sumptuous breathtaking and very intriguing sci-fi epic. Probably one of Ridley Scott's very best works.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Awards Season

It's that time of year again. The weather's getting cooler. People are all abuzz, getting up early in the morning to see if they've gotten what they wanted. Yes, it's movie awards season. It's both my second favorite and my least favorite time of the year. As a film lover, I've learned that awards, in general, mean next to nothing. But it's still fun to predict them. Every year around this time, guilds, awards groups and critics groups gather around to celebrate the year in film by handing out awards. All of it in anticipation for the biggest movie award of them all: The Oscars. Sometimes, there's a very clear front-runner. Other times, there's not. Thankfully, this year is the latter which makes for a crazy and surprising awards season. The Golden Globe nominations have just been announced so I'd like to take this opportunity to give a rundown on the front-runners and dark horses for the Oscar.


Sure Bets: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo.
Very Likely:  The Help, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, War Horse.
Dark Horses: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Tree of Life.

The rules for Best Picture has changed this year. The rules are way too complicated to explain but there could be anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees this year. There could 6, there could be 8. This is due to a new way of counting ballots.


Sure Bets: Michael Hazanavicius, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese.
Very Likely: Steven Spielberg.
Fighting For the Last Spot: Woody Allen, Bennett Miller, Terrence Malick.
Dark Horses: George Clooney, Stephen Daldry, Tate Taylor.


Sure Bets: George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Brad Pitt.
Fighting for the Last Spots: Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Gary Oldman.
Dark Horses: Demian Bechir, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Thomas Horn.


Sure Bets: Viola Davis, Meryl Streep.
Very Likely: Michelle Williams.
Fighting for the Last Spots: Glenn Close, Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron.
Dark Horses: Felicity Jones, Rooney Mara, Elizabeth Olsen.


Sure Bets: Christopher Plummer
Very Likely: Kenneth Branagh, Albert Brooks.
Fighting for the Last Spots: Jonah Hill, Ben Kingsley, Nick Nolte, Patton Oswalt, Max Von Sydow.
Dark Horses: Armie Hammer, Ezra Miller, Viggo Mortensen, Brad Pitt.


Sure Bets: Berenice Bejo, Octavia Spencer.
Very Likely: Jessica Chastain, Shaleine Woodley.
Fighting for the Last Spots: Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer, Vanessa Redgrave.
Dark Horses: Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Anjelica Huston.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Round-up (12/4/11 - 12/10/11)

Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith) *** - There have been a lot of films on the Santa Claus legend. Some are better than others. This is one of the better ones. I was genuinely surprised by this one. I wasn't expecting much since we've all been here before but there's enough charm, wit, humor and visual delights that it makes it all seem fresh, probably due to the fact that it infused a certain British sensibility to the proceedings. I like it better than The Santa Clause and Elf.

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman) **** - This is actually the second time I've seen this film so this is a rewatch since I own it on DVD. Yes, it's every bit as haunting and occasionally disturbing as when I first saw it but I also took note at how darkly humorous it is at times. It's a doom, gloom landmark film. It's not my favorite Bergman film but it's in the Top 5.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Great Scenes # 16: The Gold Rush (1925)

Directed by Charles Chaplin
Few film icons are more recognizable than Charlie Chaplin's the Little Tramp. The Gold Rush is one of the most famous films featuring the character. It contains many, many memorable scenes from the shoe eating scene to the fork and rolls dance. But my personal favorite scene is this one, a film which utilizes Chaplin's gift for physical comedy and at the same time adding a little bit of suspense.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (11/27/11 - 12/3/11)

The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg) *** - The pedigree behind this film seems like a can't-miss: Directed by the guy who made Raiders of the Lost Ark, produced by the guy who made The Lord of the Rings and written by the guys who made Doctor Who and Shaun of the Dead. By all accounts, it *should* mind-blowingly awesome. Unfortunately, it falls short of that. But that's not to say that it's a bad film. It's actually a very, very good escapist eye candy flick which felt like the film the fourth Indiana Jones movie SHOULD have been. I'm only vaguely familiar with the source material so I can't really say how faithful it is, but as a movie, I had a great time and I was entertained. It flirts with greatness (one particular action scene near the end was pretty spectacular) but overall, it's just a very good escapist B-movie. No more, no less. I saw it in 3D. Very good 3D but I didn't feel like I would've missed anything had I seen it in 2D though.

Satan Met a Lady (William Dieterle) ** - This was Hollywood's second attempt to adapt Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, just right before John Huston's version. The plot is the same except for the fact that instead of a falcon, it's a horn filled with jewels and it's all played for laughs. This attempt at blending film noir and comedy has some good lines here and there and features an interesting performance by a young Bette Davis but it's ultimately a failure. An interesting failure but still a failure.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Listology # 3: 10 Best LGBT Films

LGBT. For those who don't know, it stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered. They have been depicted one way or another since, well, the beginning of film, believe it or not. (Carl Theodore Dreyer's silent film Michael) either explicitly or implicitly. I've seen a good number of them over the years. Here's a list. I define an LGBT film where the CENTRAL lead character is an LGBT person or has an LGBT relationship or something that involves the LGBT community is in the front and center of it. (And by coincidence I'm posting this on World AIDS Day which makes this post kind of relevant).

 10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1976, Jim Sharman)

When a virginal heterosexual couple stumbles upon the castle of crossdressing pansexual Dr. Frankenfurter, all sorts of chaos ensue. This is a legendary cult film where people would attend midnight screenings, dress in costumes and throw things at the screen. It's simply a celebration of the freakish and the different. Tim Curry is simply iconic as Frankenfurter. This is one of the few things that would get a heterosexual male to crossdress.

 09. Lianna (1983, John Sayles)

This is one of writer-director John Sayles' more obscure films but it's also one of the earliest films that explicitly dealt with lesbianism head on in an honest, straightforward manner. It's about a housewife who realizes she's a lesbian and falls in love with her college professor.  It features excellent acting and neither sensationalizes nor judges the affair.

08. Angels in America (2003, Mike Nichols)

Some people may see this as cheating as this is an HBO miniseries but I don't care, it's my list. LOL. This is HBO's award-winning adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer and Tony-winning epic play on the AIDS crisis. Robert Altman tried to adapt it as a film years before but felt a 3-hour film wasn't sufficient to capture the essence and spirit of the very long play. I would've loved to have seen what Altman would've done with the material but what we got is pretty great, mostly due to the strong source material.

07. Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet)

Many people don't think of Dog Day Afternoon as an LGBT film. But the plot is that of a bisexual man who robs a bank in order to fund the sex change operation of his male lover. So I'm thinking it totally qualifies. Surprisingly enough, it's based on a true story. Al Pacino gives one of his many great performances during the 1970's in this one.

06. Suddenly Last Summer (1959, Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

This is a superb screen adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play about a troubled young woman being evaluated by a psychiatrist after witnessing the death of her cousin Sebastian. I was hesitant to put this film on the list because the plot point which qualifies it is actually the big secret. But no matter, this is still a great film (even though the LGBT character isn't exactly a role model) and features Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn giving some of their very best performances of their careers. It's very gutsy of Hollywood to have done this film in the late '50s. 

05. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)

Just like Dog Day Afternoon, most people don't really think of Mulholland Drive as an LGBT film per se despite the fact that one of its pivotal elements is a lesbian relationship. This is classic David Lynch. It's one of his most puzzling, beautiful and mad works in his filmography. Though it doesn't advance gay rights, it's still one hell of a film.

04. Brokeback Mountain (2005, Ang Lee)

Many people may be surprised this isnt' number 1. Well, I don't think it's the best but it's close. Ang Lee's film about a love affair between two cowboys spawned tons of controversy, jokes and parodies but I do believe one of its achievements is that it's really most people's first mainstream gay film and in its own way made the world a little less homophobic. On top of that, it features a memorable score and fantastic performances by the cast especially the late Heath Ledger.

03. Milk (2008, Gus Van Sant)

This is actually my favorite Gus Van Sant film and it's pretty much a straightforward biopic about the life of America's first openly gay elected public official, Harvey Milk. Despite it being fairly conventional (especially for a Gus Van Sant flick), the film is fascinating and absorbing. Sean Penn is great as Harvey Milk. I'm still torn between him and Mickey Rourke on the Best Actor Oscar that year.

 02. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell)

This film is based on the famous off-Broadway rock musical about the life of a glam rock singer who's an East German refugee and botched transsexual. Apart from the fantastic songs, you'd be surprised by how much you could relate to him/her despite his/her bizarre background. You're guaranteed to wanna purchase the soundtrack of this.

01. Bad Education (2004, Pedro Almodovar)

A movie director meets up with his childhood sweetheart/friend who has a bone to pick with the priest who molested him during his time in Catholic boarding school. Explaining further would be very convoluted and would give away the film's many twists and turns. Suffice to say that the best way to describe this film is it's a gay film noir. This is Almodovar at his very best.

RUNNERS-UP:  Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (2011, Jade Castro); Happy Together (1997, Wong Kar-Wai); My Own Private Idaho (1991, Gus Van Sant); Tropical Malady (2004, Apichatpong Weerasethkatul); Wild Reeds (1994, Andre Techine); The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005, Aureus Solito); Mysterious Skin (2004, Gregg Araki); For a Lost Soldier (1992, Roeland Kerboesch); Heavenly Creatures (1994, Peter Jackson); The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (11/20/11 - 11/26/11)

A Propos De Nice (Jean Vigo) ***1/2 - This film reminds me of Dziga Vertov's The Man With a Movie Camera in that it's simply a montage of images of the everyday and the mundane but shot and edited together to form something beautiful. Only instead of the Russian industrial complex, the setting this time around is a leisurely coastal town. Though I personally prefer the Vertov film, Vigo's film has more humor, playfulness and naughtiness to go with the beauty.

Taris (Jean Vigo) *** - I saw this in conjunction with A Propos De Nice. This is a film Jean Vigo was paid to do and it's basically an instructional/demo film with champion French swimmer Jean Taris. Despite that, it's quite fascinating because Vigo's playfulness, humor and adventurous spirit still shines through. Both films show the promise he would fulfill in his next (and sadly last) two films which are both his masterpieces.

Bellflower (Evan Glodell) ** - Two best friends decide to build themselves a badass car with a huge-ass flamethrower emulating the car from Mad Max as they deal with their personal demons. It's a messy mish-mash of a film that is more of a turn-off more than anything. The film's very dark third act felt out-of-place and very jarring and left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak. It feels like the filmmaker wanted to make three different films and he just did it all in the same script. It's promising for a first-time filmmaker but the script definitely needed a rewrite.

Two for the Road (Stanley Donen) ***1/2 - A romantic dramedy which follows a couple in the different stages of their relationship in a uniquely non-linear narrative, predominantly set in a stretch of road in the European countryside. Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn are both magnificent as the couple and it's their show all the way. The non-linear structure of the film allows us, the audience, to fully understand all the reasons why they fell in love, why they fell out of love, the ups, the downs and everything in between. Though it at times gets repetitive and their characters can be frustrating and irritating at times, the film still grips you because through Finney and Hepburn, you're along for the ride. I thought this would be a bit bleaker but I'm surprised at the amount of humor in it and how it ends in a hopeful note.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Great Scenes # 15: All That Jazz (1979)

Directed by Bob Fosse
No, I did not forget this regular feature of mine. What more appropriate way to restart than with probably one of the greatest song & dance numbers ever filmed, at least in my opinion. In this semi-autobiographical film, Roy Scheider plays Joe Gideon, a chain-smoking, pill-popping, womanizing hotshot theater and film director who is both staging his next big Broadway musical and editing his next film while trying to spend time with his ex-wife, daughter, girlfriend and various other women trying to compete for his attention. This is one of the highlights of the film where Joe Gideon presents a number to his producers/investors and this is what he came up with: An erotic, almost orgy like very racy yet beautiful dance sequence that both shows that Fosse is a master in making his stunning choreography look great on film through cinematography and editing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekly Round-up (11/13/11 - 11/19/11)

Kinatay (Brillante Mendoza) ***1/2 - A shocking, horrifying film about a young criminology student/rookie cop/new father/new husband who takes an extra job for much needed extra pay but gets more than what he bargained for as he joins a group of corrupt cops doing unspeakable things to a hooker. I can see how Mendoza won Best Director at Cannes. It's a tense film. It singlehandedly turned familiar sights and sounds around Manila into a surreal nightmare of sorts as it builds to its inevitable conclusion. A bit heavyhanded here and there but nevertheless quite compelling and appropriately shattering.

A Matter of Size (Sharon Maymon/Erez Tadmor) ** - A group of overweight Jewish men in a town in Israel find their confidence and self-worth through sumo wrestling. After the novelty of seeing a different side of Israel (like who knew there were Japanese people there, much less Japanese people who know Hebrew!), this film is pretty much feels like a Full Monty knock-off (replace stripping with sumo wrestling) and I'm not a huge Full Monty fan. There are some amusing moments here and there but all in all, it's mediocre stuff.

I Saw The Devil (Kim Jee-woon) ***1/2 - (See review below)

Red State (Kevin Smith) **1/2 - (See review below)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) *** - (See review below)

Nightfishing (Chan-wook Park/Chan-kyong Park) *** -  (See review below)

This Is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi/Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) *** - (See review below)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethkathul) ***1/2  - (See review below)

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (Joann Sfar) **1/2 -  (See review below)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cinemanila Film Festival Reviews # 5

(This is the final installment of the series as the festival ended today. In past years, some films have enjoyed special extended screenings at certain times but with the upcoming release of Breaking Dawn Part 1 this week, that is highly unlikely to happen this year)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethkathul) ***1/2 - A dying man gather together his loved ones including the ghost of his dead wife and his son who returns to him as a large ape with glowing red eyes as he recalls his different past lives. A strange, quirky film to be sure but oddly mesmerizing just like the second half of the only other film I've seen of "Joe's", Tropical Malady. It's not for everybody but a fascinating entry into the pantheon of world cinema. 

 Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (Joann Sfar) **1/2 - This is actually a biopic of French musician Serge Gainsbourg. I actually know next to nothing of him apart from the fact that he's some sort of musician and the dad of Charlotte Gainsbourg. It actually starts out very promisingly with quirky tidbits that seem to promise an unconventional, quirky and unique biopic but alas, such things don't happen often enough and it quickly falls into the conventions of a typical music biopic. But the performances are topnotch and it did hold my attention althroughout (extra points for finding an actress who really does look like a Brigitte Bardot).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cinemanila Film Festival Reviews # 4

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) *** - A group of men including police, prosecutor, a doctor and the murderers drive through the Turkish countryside in search of a dead body. This is Turkey's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category this year and I don't think it's gonna make it in (but then again, I said that about Milk of Sorrow). Not because it's not any good but its lumbering pace may be a trial for a lot of people to sit through. It was a little trying at times for me but the film's hypnotic and GORGEOUS photography of the exotic locale and the fascinating character bits of the ensemble made the film well worth it. 

Nightfishing (Chan-wook Park/Chan-kyong Park) *** - I'm not a fan of Old Boy but Chan-wook Park is an intriguing filmmaker whose films I'd wanna see more of. This is a film shot entirely on an iPhone 4 and it looks pretty darn good. But beyond the gimmick, the film tells the story of a fisherman who catches something and there's an intriguing twist. It's only half an hour long but it's a solid piece of work. 

This Is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi/Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) *** - A little background for those not in the know: Controversial Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was arrested, tried and sentenced to six years in prison and a ban on writing and directing films and travelling abroad for 20 years by the oppressive Iranian government. This documentary is sort of slyly giving the middle finger to the government as Panahi and Mirtahmasb document one day of Panahi's house arrest as he awaits for his appeal. Nothing particularly earth-shattering happens but it is an intriguing look into the private life and career of one of the world's most important filmmakers and the importance of artistic freedom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cinemanila Film Festival Reviews # 3

I Saw The Devil (Kim Jee-woon) ***1/2 - When a sadistic serial killer murders the fiance of a trained secret agent, the latter goes on a violent revenge plot. It's part-horror film, part-revenge action thriller and it works very, very well together. The film takes you for a largely unpredictable ride and shifts genres and tones with ease and without being jarring. The violence is shocking and cringe-inducing but mostly quite effective and justified. The actor from Old Boy plays the serial killer and quite effective too. I think I like this better than the other film.

Red State (Kevin Smith) **1/2 - There are lots of things to like about Smith's thinly veiled assault on Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. But there are also a lot of flaws. It's clear that Kevin Smith has a lot to say about the subject but none of it really deep and penetrating. One thing I do love about this film is Michael Parks' performance as the fire-and-brimstone preacher Abin Cooper. It's worth seeing the film just for his 15-minute sermon right in the middle of it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (11/6/11 - 11/12/11)

Tower Heist (Brett Ratner) **1/2 - Like any self-respecting cinephile, I'm not much of a fan of Brett Ratner but I will say this is probably Brett Ratner's best work to date. This is thanks to a very solid script from Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, two screenwriters who know how to make the heist formula work and the strong supporting cast. My biggest complaint is actually the lead Ben Stiller who's only barely competent in the lead role. He isn't horrible but a better actor could've made that role sing. Still, this is slickly made entertaining inoffensive Hollywood fluff.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (Rodman Flender) *** - Upfront, I will say that I am definitely Team CoCo all the way! I'm a fan of Conan O'Brien, one of the funniest late night comics around. This documentary is actually a behind-the-scenes look at his music/comedy tour he did in between late-night hosting jobs. It's pretty standard and your enjoyment of this truly depends on how much you love Conan O'Brien. It is however well-made and offers a fascinating look into Conan behind-the-scenes. It isn't always flattering, suprisingly but for me, it did nothing to tarnish his reputation in my eyes.

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn) **** - This is a near-perfect stylish neo-noir film that is quite reminiscent of thrillers from the 1970's when filmmakers actually took the time to build character and tell a story rather than trying to dazzle us with eye candy and stunts. There are some car chases here but they take a backseat to the tense story of a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a crime getaway car. The film's slow pace actually makes the sudden burst of shocking violence even more intense and effective. Ryan Gosling does what he does best and makes you feel for a man who barely speaks and doesn't even have a name. Albert Brooks is chilling as the villain. Why isn't he in more character roles like this? This is one of the best of the year.

Pina (Wim Wenders) **** - (See review below)

Nanga Parbat (Joseph Vilsmaer) **1/2 - (See review below)

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) **** - (See review below)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cinemanila Film Festival Reviews # 2

Nanga Parbat (Joseph Vilsmaer) **1/2 - This film is based on the true story Reinhold Messner and his brother Gunther's tragic ascent to the titular mountain. I didn't know much about the film going in and what follows is a fairly straightforward story about man vs. nature and trying to survive. It's not a bad film. It features some stunning cinematography and on-location work plus Gustavo Santaollala's score is superb. But I've seen it done better (Touching the Void, for example).

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) **** - Now THIS is a movie! Few things could make my cinephile heart pitter-patter more than a great samurai flick. And this is it. I'm not much of a fan of Takashi Miike based on just a few works I've seen of his but man, color me converted. The plot is pretty much straightforward: A group of samurai decide that they have to kill a psychotic lord aiming to bring back the age of war and does cruel, unspeakable things to his subjects. What follows is probably the best action movie of the year. Great performances by a fine ensemble. Intense action and visuals. What more could you ask for? This would've made Kurosawa proud!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cinemanila Film Festival Reviews # 1

(The following will be a series of posts reviewing films for the 2011 Cinemanila Film Festival that just opened today, 11-11-11. There will still be round-up's however). 

This is the opening film of the film festival. I was fortunate enough to win passes to see it for free at an invitation-only screening which also served as the opening ceremony for the festival. Here's my review:

Pina (Wim Wenders) **** - Hands down, this film is the strongest justification of the existence of 3D technology in film and this is coming from someone who really liked "Avatar". This film is about the late great dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch who I was only vaguely familiar with before I've heard of this film. But you need not be a longtime Pina Bausch fan or a fan of modern dance in general in order to be enthralled and captivated by this documentary which served as a loving tribute to the woman. This is definitely a film which simply *must* be seen in 3D if not a really great high-def video screen because I can't imagine watching some sequences in this film without the 3D without losing something really significant. Wenders utilizes in such a way that it enhances the dance sequences and made you feel like you were watching an actual dance live in front of you and get every sophisticated movement and you can even sense the movements of the background dancers. This is a definitely a must-see, a stunning piece of filmmaking.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Muppets SHOULD host the Oscars!

Following the Brett Ratner brouhaha and his resignation and exit, host Eddie Murphy soon followed. With the host spot vacant, I think the Muppets should host the Oscars. They will be very funny and biting yet also very classy and very wholesome. Quite a brilliant combo in an Oscar host.

Join the campaign:!/MuppetOscars

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (10/30/11 - 11/5/11)

Poetry (Lee Chang-dong) ***1/2 - An elderly woman takes a poetry class at around the same time she learns that her teenage grandson is involved in a shocking, tragic death of a young girl. This is a lovely film. It's dark and absolutely heartbreaking yet at same time oddly life-affirming as well. It's anchored by the simply outstanding performance of Yun Jeong-hie as the grandmother. This is my first taste of director Lee Chang-dong's work. I can't wait to see more.

Dracula (Tod Browning) **** - This is one of my chosen Halloween movies. This is my second or third time watching it. Yes, the effects are cheesy (you can see the strings on the phony bat!) and the scares are somewhat dated. But still, the film still has a spooky atmosphere and Bela Lugosi is still the best Dracula there is.

Repulsion (Roman Polanski) **** - This is my other Halloween film. My second time. Catherine Deneuve is a marvel as a beautiful young sexually repressed woman who slowly but surely goes batshit crazy while left alone in her London flat she shares with her sister. A magnificent piece of horror filmmaking.

The Thing (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.) **1/2 - I came in with low expectations. This is not a remake but rather a prequel to the original John Carpenter classic 1982 shocker sci-fi horror film. Although it's nowhere near as great as the original, for what it is, it is pretty darn entertaining. Despite the fact that it borrows way too much from the John Carpenter version, we know too much about and see too much of the Thing (one of the reasons why the 1982 version is great is that we never know what the Thing actually looks like) and of course the CGI, despite the fact they tried to minimize its usage. All in all, not bad, not great but it does make me wanna watch the original again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Great Scenes # 14: Blow-Up (1966)

Mime Tennis Finale
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Blow-Up is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. A fashion photographer (David Hemmings) captures an intriguing photo of what he believes may be a murder taking place. Then he goes into a strange journey which raises more questions than it answers. The film's intriguing tone is captured very beautifully by its final scene where the lead character watches a group of mimes "play" tennis. It's strange, somewhat surreal and probably one of the most brilliant, famous scenes shot by one of world cinema's masters, Michelangelo Antonioni.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011 Cinemanila International Film Festival

Back in 2002, I was fresh out of college and didn't have a job yet. My mom suggested that I go and find work in the Cinemanila Film Festival at the time was only five years old. After finding out that volunteers and participants get free access to all the movies, I jumped at the chance. I'm very glad I did. It contributed hugely to my cinephilia since I got exposed to a lot of films from all around the world. Every year, even after I have found steadier employment, I always look forward to Cinemanila because it means I get to see films that normally would not get wide commercial releases in my country. The past few years have found the festival gaining prominence since famous film people have graced the festival: Quentin Tarantino, Lou Diamond Phillips, Paul Schrader, Fernando Meirelles have visited and promoted their films in the festival. This year, Italian horror maestro Dario Argento will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award and one can only assume he'll be on hand to grace the proceedings.

Films scheduled to be screened this year include:  Pina, German director Wim Wenders' 3D dance documentary/cinematic tribute to the late dancer Pina Bausch; 13 Assassins, prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike's samurai epic and I Saw the Devil, a South Korean horror film, just to name a few. I will be seeing these films and more and will be reviewing them as I see them, in addition to my weekly round-ups. If you're in Manila in between November 11th and November 17th, you can catch these films and more at the Market! Market! Cinemas. I for one can't freakin' wait.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (10/23/11 - 10/29/11)

Z (Costa-Gavras) **** - Someone recommended that I blind-buy this during the Barnes & Noble Criterion DVD sale. I'm glad I did. It's an amazing film. It's intended to be a bold-faced indictment on the situation of the Greek government at that time but it's still very much relevant today. This film will thrill you, intrigue you and also has the power to get you mad, no matter what your politics are. Great performances by the cast, amazing editing and cinematography.

Itim (Mike de Leon) **** - The title literally means "black" but the English language title is "Rites of May". This is yet another great film from director Mike de Leon, who's already one of my favorite directors EVER. This one's about a magazine photographer who visits his invalid dad in his rural hometown and he connects with this young woman whose older sister disappeared and thought dead years before. It's actually a horror film of sorts, well, more like a drama with supernatural overtones. This is his first feature and already a master at pulling off great performances and taking time to build his story in a masterful way that pays off in the end (the big reveal of what really connects the photographer and the young woman).

Puss in Boots (Chris Miller) *** - It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the Shrek franchise but admittedly I do love the Puss in Boots character and is the best part of Shrek 2. His spin-off movie proves to be the best Shrek related thing I've ever seen so far (or at least among those I bothered seeing). It's not a masterpiece, far from it in fact, but it is very entertaining and the pandering snark which pretty much ruins the Shrek franchise as well as most of Dreamworks' early animated films is at a minimum.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Great Scenes # 13: Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven

The 13th Great Scene blogpost just in time for Halloween? What a wonderful coincidence! Yes, since it's Halloween weekend, thought I might do a horror movie this week. But which horror movie scene? There are so many. I finally settled on the opening of Scream, a film I saw in my mid-teens when it first came out. I used to be scared of horror films but slowly but surely I've come around and this movie sealed the deal. The opening scene was terrifying yet such a thrill ride and pretty much revived the slasher film genre.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Listology # 2: 10 Best Horror Films

It's the last week full week of October and that means Halloween is this coming weekend. Now is a good a time as any to present my 10 best horror films at least in my opinion. This should give you guys some idea of what to rent or watch this weekend.

10. The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan)

Before writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's ego inflated and started creating crap movie after crap movie, he created this horror classic which became a cultural phenomenon. It still holds up very well today. Bruce Willis plays a scarred child psychologist trying to help a young boy (played to perfection by Haley Joel Osment) who claims to "see dead people". The now famous twist ending shocked and amazed people at the time but it holds up well to repeat viewings and it's still quite spooky. It also makes me sad that an obvious talent like Shyamalan has fallen from grace. 

09. Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata)

The night after I saw this film, I slept with the lights open. It is quite terrifying. The film is from Japan and it's about a cursed videotape. It is said that anyone who watches it dies in a week unless he or she passes the videotape to someone else. The story behind the video that involves a creepy young girl named Sadako adds more to the mystique of the film. This was remade in the U.S. a few years later starring Naomi Watts and directed by Gore Verbinski and although it wasn't terrible or insulting, it still doesn't hold a candle to the original Japanese version which is a must-see. 

08. Eyes Without a Face (1960, Georges Franju)

A once brilliant doctor gets into a car accident that horribly disfigures his once beautiful daughter. So he and an assistant hunt down young girls to surgically remove their faces and graft them onto the face of his daughter in hopes of restoring her beauty. Don't let the fact that it's French, black & white and from the 1960's fool you. This is a not a film for the squeamish. This contains a rather graphic and gory surgery scene that can satisfy gorehounds. But it's just one scene. The film itself is a beautiful gothic tragic piece of film that is definitely a must-see for anybody.

07. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

Among all the teen slasher films of the 1970's and 1980's, this is by far my favorite. Leatherface scares me more than Freddy, Jason and the rest. The first original film is simply an astounding low-budget B-movie achievement and pretty much wrote all the cliches of these types of films. A group of young people lose their way and find themselves at the mercy of a chainsaw-wielding maniac and most of them meet horrible deaths. It's straightforward and simple. Lots of imitators, but seldom equaled and almost always fall short. This film surprisingly has very little actual on-screen gore which makes it even more effective, in my opinion.

06. Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento)

I featured this in one of my past The Great Scenes blogpost and for good reason. This is widely considered the masterpiece of the giallo subgenre of horror (Italian horror films known for their both their gore and beauty). It's about a young American ballet dancer who goes to a dance school in Europe with a horrific secret. The cinematography and art direction of this film is simply breathtaking that you almost can't take your eyes off of it despite the horrible violence going on. The film is further along helped by the great score of the group Goblin.

05. The Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero)

I have to say that of all the horror subgenres out there, the one that is my favorite has got to be the zombies. The zombie is the one movie monster that actually frightens me for some reason because this type of undead state is so horrifying to think about. Few horror directors have done zombie movies better than George Romero. Although I only listed the first one, Night of the Living Dead in this list but it's just for formality's sake, I'd like to think this also goes for Dawn of the Dead (1975) and Day of the Dead (1983). Hell, even Land of the Dead though not as great as his earlier works still has greatness in it. Suffice to say that yes, I am watching The Walking Dead now. 

04. Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau)

With all due respect to Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, I happen to consider Max Schreck as Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau's silent horror classic Nosferatu to be the best cinematic vampire in history. His startling and frightening appearance can still put a chill in one's spine even today. The film basically follows the Dracula story but since they couldn't actually do a direct adaptation of the novel due to copyright issues, they just changed the title and the names but it's still obviously Dracula

03. Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)

What else can I say? It's still a freakin' classic. This is probably the most universally loved adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic. Although it's not really technically scary (although the scene where the Monster first emerges still gives me the willies) and more tragic, it's still one of the greats because it's a story well-told. Boris Karloff though only grunts gives the Monster depth and pathos with just his eyes and his movements. It's followed by a sequel, Bride of Frankenstein that's just as great (some say even better). 

 02. Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)

This is one of those "grey area" films. Is it more horror or thriller? I would say it qualifies as horror. It is, in fact, one of the earliest slasher films. Everyone and their mom knows the story and of course is aware of its famous second act kills where the apparent protagonist meets her end in the shower. It's such a shocking, ballsy move for a film which pretty much cements its status as a classic and one of director Alfred Hitchcock's very best films.

01. The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)

I'm a Catholic (semi-lapsed but I still believe in God) so growing up, this movie terrified me more than the average other person because I grew up believing in the Devil. This film about a little girl possessed by a malevolent demon allegedly based on a true story has lots of shocking and truly scary and disturbing and gross-out moments but what makes it a classic and a masterpiece is that it's also one of the most insightful and moving films about religious faith ever made. It gives it that extra oomph which makes me come back again and again and again. 

RUNNERS-UP & HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dracula (1931, Tod Browning), Halloween (1978, John Carpenter), The Omen (1976, Richard Donner), Don't Look Now (1972, Nicolas Roeg), Rosemary's Baby (1967, Roman Polanski), Scream (1996, Wes Craven), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton), The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick), Onibaba (1964, Kaneto Shindo), The Birds (1963, Alfred Hitchcock), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962, Robert Aldrich).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Round-Up (10/16/11 - 10/22/11)

Chico y Rita (Fernando Trueba/Tono Errando/Javier Mariscal) ***1/2 - This is a Spanish-language animated film about an elderly Cuban jazz pianist reminicse about his love affair with a singer during that period after World War II and before the Cuban revolution. The plot is pretty much been-there-done-that but the heart and the intent behind it, a beautiful love letter to jazz and Latino music as well as the nostalgia behind it lifts it up to new heights. The handdrawn animation is also similarly gorgeous. A really great, near-perfect film.

Kisapmata (Mike de Leon) **** -When a young man and a young woman get married, the woman's super-overprotective father meddles in their relationship. But family secrets underneath are much more sinister than what it seems. Now, I know why it's considered a landmark in Filipino cinema. Vic Silayan is absolutely terrifying as the "overprotective" father. I love that he never plays him as a one-dimensional monster but a full human being which makes him even MORE frightening. The film is extremely well-shot and features some stunning direction which produces an aura of uncomfortable tension althroughout. It's definitely in the running in my Top 5 best Filipino films of all time.

Paranormal Activity 3 (Henry Joost/Ariel Schulman) **1/2 - I can't believe I actually went and saw this. But I kind of liked the first two since admittedly I'm a sucker for "true ghost stories"/documentaries and this series gives the feeling of one. Well, they managed to squeeze yet another pretty solid film out of the basic premise although it's showing signs of getting tired. Still, it does manage to have some decent scares. If you liked the first two films, there's no reason for you to not like this one.

Winnie The Pooh (Stephen J. Anderson/Don Hall) *** - I grew up watching the original Winnie the Pooh films repeatedly. The TV series and the subsequent films are nowhere up to par with the originals so this back-to-the-basics reboot, so to speak is something I was looking forward. The results are pretty darn close. The childlike whimsy and quirkiness that one comes to associate with these loveable characters are mostly there. The 2D animation is likewise also superb. It's a pity this didn't do well theatrically.

The Great Scenes # 12: Notorious (1946)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Director Alfred Hitchcock is often referred to as "The Master" for the simple reason that he is. He has made tons of great scenes, some very famous and iconic. I do absolutely love a lot of his films, my personal favorite would have to be Notorious. It's a very tense thriller but also one of the most romantic films ever made. It's about a government agent (Cary Grant) who falls in love with a recruit (Ingrid Bergman) tasked to seduce and marry a Nazi (Claude Rains). If you haven't seen this film, I strongly suggest avoiding playing the video above so you won't be spoiled. This is the climax of the film, the famous stairway sequence.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Listology #1: 10 Best Filipino Films

This is a first in a series of blogposts (much like my "great scenes" one) where I simply list down my different favorite types of films. I can't think of a better way to kick it off than tackle the cinema of my home country, the Philippines. Philippine cinema has always been a blind spot for even the most hardcore of film buffs (who are not Filipinos, at least). Unlike many other countries, events in our history has not treated the preservation of Filipino films very kindly. With a few exceptions, practically all of our films, even the ones considered to be classics, before the 1960's and the 1950's are lost. Plus the ones we do have are mostly in bad shape. A few directors have made some dents and waves internationally, most notably Lino Brocka, Eddie Romero, Gerry de Leon, Ishmael Bernal, Manuel Conde and Lamberto Avellana but they're nowhere near as famous as Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini or Francois Truffaut. 

More recently though, Philippine cinema has found its niche, in a way, in world cinema thanks to our new wave of sorts of independent filmmakers such as Aureus Solito, Raya Martin, Lav Diaz, Jeffrey Jeturian, Khavn de la Cruz and Brillante Mendoza, who won the Best Director prize at Cannes for his controversial film Kinatay

In an effort to raise more awareness and appreciation of Filipino cinema, here's a list of, in my opinions based on what I've seen so far, the 10 best Filipino films:

10. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005, Aureus Solito)

This is a sweet coming of age dramedy about a 12 year old gay boy, Maximo, who comes from a family of petty thieves who falls in love with a rookie policeman next door. It's more sweet and moving than in any way, shape or form racy or leery, this is probably the film that hearken the new wave of Filipino independent films that are currently making waves in film festivals around the world. It's also our biggest international hit. This film currently available on DVD on Amazon and Netflix. 

09. Kakabakaba Ka Ba? ("Does Your Heart Beat Faster?") (1980, Mike de Leon)

This is quite simply one of the most bizarre and most giddily original films I've ever seen. This is a musical/comedy film about four friends (two pairs of couples) who go on a really strange journey which I will not reveal here but it does culminate in the image you see above. It's probably the lightest film on this list, certainly one of the best Filipino comedies ever made. This is the first film on this list by one of my favorite directors ever, Filipino or otherwise, Mike de Leon.

08. Oro, Plata, Mata (1982, Peque Gallaga)

I once read an article claiming that Robert Duvall saw this film and remarked that he felt it was better than Apocalypse Now. I'm not sure about that though but this is a great film. Set during World War II in the Philippines, this tells the tale of an affluent Filipino family in the rural area and their harrowing experience during the war. This is a three-hour epic featuring scenes of both breathtaking beauty and absolutely disturbing violence. The DVD is already hard to come by, even locally. 

07. Scorpio Nights (1985, Peque Gallaga)

This comes from the same director of Oro Plata Mata, Peque Gallaga. It's a far more intimate film but it's no less harrowing, gripping and disturbing. It's about a young man who spies on the beautiful wife of a nightwatchman in the apartment underneath his room. His voyeurism eventually leads into an extremely torrid affair with the woman. The sex scenes are notorious for being one of the most explicit ever filmed in Philippine cinema. I would compare this to the Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses although it's just a smidgen less "real" than that. The ending is pretty f-ed up.

06. Maynila Sa Kuko Ng Liwanag ("Manila in the Claws of Brightness") (1975, Lino Brocka)

This is probably the most famous Filipino film. It's often cited as the best Filipino film ever made. I sort of disagree with that since there are at least five I like better. But it's still a great one. It's about a young man from the rural area of the country who goes to the big city in search of his childhood sweetheart whose name "Ligaya Paraiso" means Happiness Paradise. Owing a lot to Italian neo-realism, the film is a rather bleak look of the rural poor searching for prosperity in the city. 

05. Himala (1982, Ishmael Bernal) 

This film was recently voted as the "Best Asia-Pacific Film" of all time, according to a CNN poll. I may not agree with that and I attribute its success to mouse-click happy Filipinos who like to see anything Filipino as "best" at something. But it is still a great film. Plus I have to admit there is a bit of bias going on here because I happen to personally know the screenwriter of this film, Ricky Lee, who is a friend and mentor of mine. Well, what's this film about? The word himala means "miracle" and this is about a woman named Elsa (played by Nora Aunor who delivers one of her most iconic and famous roles in Filipino film history) who claims to have seen visions from God and starts healing people from miles around. It's one of the most intelligent films about religion and faith that's still compelling and relevant today as it ever was. The DVD may also be available in Netflix. 

04. Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos ("Three Godless Years") (1976, Mario O'Hara)

This is an excellent companion piece to Oro, Plata, Mata in that it also tackles World War II in the Philippines. This time, it's about a family in a rural village whose daughter (played again, by Nora Aunor) is raped and impregnated by a Japanese-Filipino soldier who is fighting for the Japanese side. He aims to make amends by courting her and eventually marrying her. Her family is branded and scorned as traitors by most of the village. My fellow Filipino film critic Noel Vera says *this* is the best Filipino movie ever made. I disagree with him slightly but it's still in the Top 5. 

03. Batch '81 (1982, Mike de Leon)

This is yet another Mike de Leon film. This time around, it revolves around a group of college guys who wish to join a college fraternity. But it involves a series of brutal, painful, humiliating and often extremely violent hazing rituals. Although it is at times funny, the violent sadism can pretty much rival the stuff in Quentin Tarantino films. (Man, lots of bleak films on this list!) 

02. Kisapmata ("In the Blink of an Eye") (1981, Mike de Leon)

Oh, man. I just saw this movie yesterday (it will be featured again in my "Weekly-Round-Up" series). It has jumped into my favorites of all time list fast. This is yet another superb masterpiece from director Mike de Leon. It concerns a young woman who gets married to her boyfriend but her "overprotective", authoritarian father lingers over them causing friction in their respective relationships but the "overprotectivness" of the father masks a deeper, darker secret. I would describe this film as a totally f-ed up version of Father of the Bride (I think some of you may already guess what it is). It features fantastic performance from Vic Silayan who plays the father. He is downright scary but all-too human which makes him even more terrifying. This film is actually available for viewing on Youtube but unfortunately it has no English subtitles.

01. Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang ("Weighed but Found Wanting") (1974, Lino Brocka) 

The number one film is actually quite close to the number two film. Anytime they can switch but for now, let's keep the order. This is probably my favorite and what I personally consider the best Filipino film. This one is about a young man from an upper-middle class family in a town. He befriends a mentally-ill woman and a horribly disfigured man (played by Mario O'Hara who directed Three Godless Years) who are the village outcasts. His involvement with these two characters would open his eyes to the buried secrets of his town and the utter cruelty and hypocrisy of the more "civilized" people in his town. Director Lino Brocka has made a lot of social commentary films but this one is his best and basically personifies all his unique strengths as a director. This one is also available on DVD but you have to really look for it.

I sincerely hope that you guys try and give Filipino films a chance. These are five great films to start with! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Round-up (10/9/11 - 10/15/11)

Bad Day to Go Fishing (Alvaro Brechner) ** - This is a strange little Uruguayan film about a con artist and a washed up body-builder/wrestler who go around small towns in South America for shows and fights. For a film about a wrestler, there's surprisingly very little wrestling. The film is well-made and the performances are good but the tone is all over the place resulting in a film that's kind of a headscratcher for me.

The Rebound (Bart Freundlich) *1/2 - This romantic-comedy, despite starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha, never really got a wide U.S. release. You can definitely see why. It's about a newly-divorced 40-year-old mom who has an affair with her 25-year-old babysitter. The film, despite the valiant efforts of its cast, fall mostly flat. Bartha and Zeta-Jones have zero chemistry and fails to be about anything about anyone.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Great Scenes # 11: Stalker (1979)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

This is the final scene from the cerebral science-fiction film Stalker but it's not really spoiler-y because you have to have seen the entire film to even have a smidgen of a chance to fully and completely understand the implications of this scene. (Hell, some people will still not get this scene even after seeing the entire film). As it is, it's a strange haunting scene which features very unsettling use of music and sound that depicts a little girl using telekinesis. The film itself is a masterful work but not for the most casual movie goers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Blog?

Cinema is not the only thing I'm interested in, believe it or not. It's my greatest passion, of course but it's not the only thing I'm excited about or the only thing I'm interested in writing about. I also enjoy television, music, books, theater (especially musical theater), stand-up comedy, a little bit of history, science, philosophy, travel, etc. So I've been seriously considering making another blog for anything and everything else I may want to write about: a TV show, a book I'm reading, my personal opinions on world issues, an amusing anecdote from my life, random rants about random things, etc.

So I'd like to ask if you guys would be interested in reading that and do you think a second blog is a good idea? Or do you not mind if I write about non-cinematic things on *this* blog? I'd like to hear from you on the comments below. Thanks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekly Round Up (10/2/11 - 10/8/11)

Warrior (Gavin O'Connor) ***1/2 - I've said it once and I'll say it again: I'm not a sports fan. That's why I'm always kind of wary when it comes to sports movies. Thankfully, this is one of the good ones. The sport this time around is mixed martial arts but apart from that, the plot is pretty generic and the script is deeply flawed. However, the outstanding performances of Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and ESPECIALLY Nick Nolte lifts up the flawed material and turns it into a truly compelling drama.

Bridesmaids (Paul Feig) *** - Like some Judd Apatow productions, this movie is a bit overlong for a comedy at a little over two hours. Though that is a flaw, the film still has a very healthy dose of laughs. The cast is good (give or take Rose Byrne) especially Melissa McCarthy. Kristen Wiig's character gets irritating every now and then but I guess that's intentional. This movie has been called the female Hangover. I disagree. I think it's somewhat better (though I consider it good, not great).

Friends with Benefits (Will Gluck) **1/2 - If this was better than No Strings Attached, I probably wouldn't wanna see No Strings Attached. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are both suitably charming and the supporting cast is pretty strong (especially Patricia Clarkson and Woody Harrelson) but the film itself, despite being pretty slickly made, is pretty meh in the plot department. It's kind of ironic that the characters make fun of rom-com tropes early in the movie, only to fall into it later on. It's an entertaining enough time-killer but nothing more than that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Great Scenes # 10: Rome, Open City (1945)

Pina's Death

Directed by Roberto Rossellini

Yes, this is spoiling the film a bit but it's more emotional and shocking if you see the context of this scene in the film. Rome, Open City was made at the tail end of World War II. It focuses on resistance fighters standing up against the Nazis. The Italian neorealist film, directed by Roberto Rossellini is one of the best films made on the subject. In this scene, Anna Magnani plays Pina, one of the said resistance fighters as she chases after her husband who was captured but is gunned down in front of her son and her priest. It's a brief scene but it's shocking and emotional all at once.